Back in the late eighties a bike race was a good indicator of what the latest trend in haircuts was . Former National champion and current surgeon in St James’ hospital Dublin , Julian Dalby was the first to sport the dyed blond look complete with a diamond pattern shaved into the back of his head . Both Declan Lonergan and Declan Byrne had pony-tails and Ray had a mullet . Fitzy had the middle parting with the overhang to the ears look down to a tee , whilst ‘Mellow’ had the longest hair in the bunch .
Then at the Ras or even the Junior tour the likes of Paul Jennings , Richard Wooles and the rest of the Welsh team who were identified by their middle initial as they were all called Anthony Jones , arrived to sign on with hair gel and brylcream which launched another new trend .
These were the glory days of Kelly and Roche and the average age of license holders must have been in or about nineteen to twenty years of age . The smell of hair gel mixed with deep heat was instantly recognisable as the sign of a packed dressing room or back of a van before a race . Cycling was hugely popular amongst teenagers as they all wanted to be superstars like Kelly and Roche .
Fast forward to today however and the haircuts have changed greatly . The most common sight at a race nowadays is a sensible number two or three all over . Or over the remnants of what used to be . A few juniors like Sam and Philip Lavery are keeping the hair gel tradition in force but they are well outnumbered by the number two brigade . The eighties teenagers have grown up , had families , established themselves in their chosen career and are now back on the bike in force . They are keeping up the numbers at races each Sunday .
Nowadays the average age of cyclists in Ireland seems to be well up in the high thirties , which is a concern for the future of the sport . Whilst juniors like Sam give great hope for the future the sheer lack of numbers at underage and junior races seems to reflect the result of the Wii playstation generation . In 1988 we rode the junior tour in a bunch of almost two hundred , with most riders being Irish , last year there were fifty six competitors only seventeen of whom were Irish .
The IVCA is the Association which caters for Veterans over forty and seems to be ten times better organised than Cycling Ireland . They must surely be looking forward to the glut of new members heading their way over the next ten years . But where will this leave the general racing side of the sport ? The leisure side is going from strength to strength with events like ‘The Sean Kelly tour ‘ anticipating over two thousand entrants in only it’s second year . But race fields are just managing to hold their own , mainly due to the over thirty brigade .
For now we’ll just have to wait and see what happens and in the meantime I’m off to the new Egyptian Barber down town to get my hair cut , a number two back and sides , four on top and a bit of hair gel to keep me young !