It is often said that a picture paints a thousand words. There are literally millions of pictures of cycling taken around the world and posted online each day. Many of these can be good, some are great and then there a small few that are exceptional.
What does it take for a picture to be exceptional ?
It must transport you to a location.
It must transport you to a time.
You must be able to hear the sounds, feel the air and experience the emotions of the moment.
Everyone will have their own version of what should be an exceptional picture but for me this is one.
When I look at this picture I see the Worlds number one cyclist in the main square of his home town. His name is on a plaque on the wall but in this picture it’s also painted in white emulsion on the road. Thousands of his fellow townsfolk and many who have travelled from further afield are all there for just one reason. To see him in the flesh and to cheer him on.
I see a crisp Irish Autumn morning with a slight chill in the air. The only one in shorts or short sleeves is the cyclist and you just know that he will create his own micro climate of heat as he physically works harder than any other man in the land on that day.
Looking at the blurry faces I see ordinary people. Not overly wealthy, not poverty stricken. Just ordinary people who go about their normal lives each and every day until something extraordinary happens.
The day that this picture was taken was an extraordinary day. One of their own, a normal, humble, farmers son who possessed an extraordinary determination to succeed in his chosen field was back amongst them doing what he did best.
They had seen him suffer in anguish and pain, and then savour the joy of victory with exceptional regularity on newspapers and small clips on TV.
In France, Belgium, Italy, Holland and Spain he was used to crowds straining the barriers to cheer him on but this was different. These were his friends and neighbours. People that he had grown up with and who he knew to see. People who knew his family and who began their own cycling careers alongside him.
The bike beneath him is state of the art for its time. A black Mavic Comete disc wheel holds the promise of propelling him faster along with the powerful legs that have been shaped by hundreds of thousands of brutal Kilometers of racing and training.
What must it have felt like to tighten those toe straps at the top of that start ramp and glance around at the scene for the man of the moment. The hairs on the back of his neck must have been tingling and his heart must have been pounding as he displayed a cool calm exterior.
The mans name is Kelly, Sean Kelly and for those present that day he was more of a superhero than James Bond could ever be.
I wasn’t in Carrick that day but wish that I was. My location was further along that road and you can read more about that experience here in a post simply entitled ‘Hero‘