There was a great bike buzz around Clonmel and Carrick this weekend as the CISM World Military cycling championships took place .
Friday saw a re-enactment of the famous Nissan Time Trial from Carrick to Clonmel . Back in 1985 the great Sean Kelly was at the height of his powers and this tt gave the Irish public the opportunity to see first hand the great man in action . He did not disappoint when he posted a record time of just 24.09 minutes for the 13 miles. The ‘Nissan’ which was a showcase for the talents of Kelly and compatriot Stephen Roche spawned a generation of Irish cyclists , many of whom are still racing today .
In ’85 when TT Bars or Aero helmets had not been invented Kelly with just a rear disc wheel on a normal bike roared along the course like a man possessed . The time gaps on the GC sheet which are usually just a second or two were a good example of Kelly’s dominance over the worlds best riders at that time .
Stage Result : Friday 27/09/1985
1st S.Kelly 24.09
2nd S.Roche @49 seconds
3rd A.Van Der Poel @ 1.01
4th T.Doyle @1.24
5th L.Peeters @1.31
6th J.McLoughlin @1.41
7th N.Dean @2.03
8th P.Sherwen @2.09
9th P.Sanders @2.19
10th T.VanVliet @2.21
17th M.Elliot @2.40
36th A.O’Gorman @3.32
43rd N.Martin @3.57 (Dan Martins Father)
65th I.Chivers @5.15
68th R.Kimmage @5.45
72nd S.Spratt @6.10
74th J.McQuaid @6.22
The question hanging in the air on Friday morning was ‘ Would Kelly’s time be beaten?’
Given the passage of time , the improvement in the road surface , tt bars , aero bikes and helmets and the fact that this was a World Championship , it looked as though it may have been in jeopardy . When I walked out my front door and could smell the fine saw dust from the Medite factory on the Carrick side of Clonmel I knew that the riders would have a tailwind and feared for Kelly’s time.
Sean Kelly , however , was no ordinary cyclist . He is the fourth greatest of all time and it would take more than a good cyclist on great equipment to beat his time .
It was touch and go as the riders blasted up along the closed main road . The crowd on Parnell street in Clonmel were leaning over the barriers as 24-year-old Grega Bole from Slovenia came into view still under Kelly’s time . The rider who has already signed a pro contract with Lampre looked determined to beat Kelly’s time and gain a rainbow jersey in the process . Try as he may , however , his absolute best , whilst being good enough to make him a World Champion was still not enough to dethrone the King of Carrick . Kellys time still stands , just , by seven seconds .
With Soldiers , Marines , Navy seals and Air force pilots all taking part the town felt pretty safe all weekend . Some of the riders were in our shop and over at O’Gormans coffee shop admiring the cycling memorabilia . The American team were happy with the facilities at Fort Kilworth where all teams shared their military accommodation . I’m sure that desolate spot on top of a hill outside Mitchelstown bore little resemblance to Fort Worth Texas but these boys are used to roughing it . One of them had been a bike courier in San Francisco for ten years before joining the army and raced with John Brady and Declan Lonergan .
Sunday really was a sunny day and each of the 96 riders had a chance to develop their tan lines as they competed for the honour of being CISM World road race champion . A few local celebrities were seen leaning over the barriers to catch a glimpse of the action ;
whilst others enjoyed an ice cream form O’Gormans as they waited for the riders to pass the finish line for each of the nine laps of a very spectator friendly circuit .
The sunshine gave an extra zing to the legs of the riders and it wasn’t until 2 laps to go that the splits started to occur . Heading out onto the final lap Slovenian Bole attacked and opened a 13 second gap and given his time trialing credentials looked set for success , but the German team had other ideas . With 3k to go it all came back together and as the riders sprinted for the final bend the fifth placed rider clipped a cobble and hit the deck . He brought 6 more riders down with him as the 4 in front distanced themselves from the rest with just 300 metres to go . With 3 Germans in the slightly fragmented head of the field it was theirs for the taking . With the precision of a life and death military operation they mounted their final assault on the finish line . One , two and three they crossed the line to take a clean sweep of all places on the podium .
Today it’s all over and credit is due to the effort put in by the organisers and volunteers who put on a great weekends racing . All Military personnel are on their way back to their respective countries and perhaps further afield after that . Should one of them find himself on the front line in Afghanistan or Iraq in a few weeks time I wonder will their visit to Carrick and Clonmel feel like a lifetime away !