I have had a number of people asking ‘ what happened next ? ‘ after a recent post about a cycling version of Sylvester Stallone’s most famous character so here is what I think might have been the next instalment ;
Both cyclists are lying on massage tables in the Na Piarsaigh GAA club hall in Blackpool on the outskirts of Cork city . They both have the sunken eyeball , emaciated face look of athletes with nothing more left to give . The normally chirpy Appolo Fox lays exhausted but exhilarated as he contemplates another year as National Champion . The blond ponytail massaging the latest Sports-balm recovery oil into his weary legs is working all of the lactic acid out and soon he will be fit to drive home in the BMW m5 estate .
In another part of the hall a sixteen stone pot bellied veteran of fourteen Ras’s during the fifties and sixties is working even more deep heat into Rocky Powers’ aching legs . The shy bespectacled Mary Ann stands to one side packing the sweaty gear into a Dunnes Stores bag . They will soon be packed up into the chaos of the back of a fifteen year old Izuzu Trooper . Then a bumpy two hours should see them back in Carrick in time for Fair city , Mary Ann’s favourite .
This had been one of the hardest fought National Title championships in years , between the toughest cyclists in the country and Apollo felt compelled to acknowledge Rocky’s effort before leaving the hall . The fact that Rocky had come from nowhere at the start of the season to be so strong on the day earned him respect in Apollo’s eyes .
Mary Ann saw him first and stood back . Apollo gave her a bright smile before addressing the challenger . ‘ Hey Rocky , I have to admit , that was the toughest race I’ve had in years . You ever think of joining a big club like ours? ‘
‘Aaawww thanks Apollo , but I’m happy with Carrick and I’ve got Micky Ryan training me . You know he ‘s pretty good .’
‘No problem Rock , but if you ever want to come to Athlone for a training camp just give me a shout and I’ll sort it out . You can even stay in my place ‘
‘Aaawww thanks Apollo and sure if you ever want to come to Carrick , you can stay in The Carraig’ .
They both said their goodbyes but a new friendship had been formed out of the mutual respect they had for each others ability to endure pain . A real cyclists gauge of character .
Throughout that winter Rocky , Mary Ann and their dog Butt-kiss did go to Athlone for training camps and Apollo came to Carrick with his two blondes, masseur and mechanic . Micky Ryan didn’t think much of all of the razzmatazz around Apollo but he did admire his determination on the bike . Although he was concerned that he might lead Rocky astray , showing him SRM power-metres and such like .
Rocky , however was unimpressed with the new modern technology and was happy to do the circuit training in the Forrester’s hall every Tuesday and Thursday night along with Ballymac each Saturday and Sunday . There was one piece of modern technology which Micky did allow Rocky to use . It was a special hanky which had a few drops of olbas oil on it . This would help to clear the lungs on a cold winters day and allow Rocky to push harder .
The new year came and rumours were rife as to who was going well on the winter training spins throughout thew country . A guy called ‘Clubber Colcannon’ was supposed to be burying everyone on the spins in Kerry whilst a Polish immigrant riding with Bray Wheelers called ‘Ivan Dragonlynch’ was supposed to be training like a machine .
The Kerry winter training spins were always notoriously hard with the Connor and Healy passes included every weekend . Normally the group of ten to twelve would stay together and share the pace-making , but not this year with Clubber rearing to go . Every time the group now came to any sort of a climb , Clubber would attack and taunt his training partners with statements like – ‘ Come on , come on , is that all you’ve got , I’m Clubber and I’m gonna drop all you guys ‘ which did sound unusual in his thick Kerry accent . Then he would proceed to drop them all and when he eased up over the top of a climb he would half-wheel them down the other side .
In Bray Ivan Dragonlynch was working shift in the Dell computer factory . This meant that his training was done at unusual hours . To overcome this difficulty he set up a complete cycling gym in his rented house just off the upper dargle road . With a super-computer which he had assembled himself at work connected up to a Tacx i-magic home trainer his training regime was super efficient . His girlfriend Bridget , was very interested in his progress as she thought that if he were to become successful that citizenship would surely follow . She would help him chart his progress each evening and was ruthless in admonishing him if she felt that he was not pushing himself hard enough . Each Sunday The Bray Wheelers would take in the climb of Glenmalure on their spin and each Sunday Ivan would power away , sitting in the saddle with absolutely no upper body movement .
Meanwhile back in Carrick , Micky had come up with the perfect solution to Rocky’s lack of speed .He could plough along in the eleven all day long but a sudden acceleration always saw him one to two bike lengths off the back . A friend of Mickey’s , Leslie Grant had a moped which , even though he only had a provisional licence he could drive on the Pilltown by-pass . Twice a week they would head up and down the bypass with Micky on the back of the moped yelling at Rocky every two minutes to try to sprint past at over thirty five mph .
In late January it snowed in Carrick for two solid weeks but Micky still made Rocky go out and do his efforts behind the Bulmers Lorry’s up and down the by-pass . What the lorry drivers thought of a lunatic on a bike trying to sprint past them in the snow God only knows but Rocky felt himself getting stronger so he persisted .
The new race year began with the Lacey cup in Tralee . Rocky lined up next to Apollo in the scratch group and they wished each other luck . All of the front groups were reeled in before Castlemaine when shortly afterwards Rocky attacked and opened up a ten second lead which he held to the finish . Season opener , round one to Rocky . However standing at the finish was Clubber Colcannon who had missed the start . He was hurling abuse at Rocky saying that he would not have won it if Clubber was in the race and that no one could beat Mr. C . Rocky just shrugged it off and ignored him although Apollo was watching the encounter with a little concern . He later told Rocky that he would want to keep an eye on that guy .
The next race of note was Paddy’s Day in Carrick where Rocky really wanted to make an impression on the local crowd . Mary Ann’s mother would also be there so this gave him even more motivation . The flag dropped at the summit of Sir John’s hill and the race was underway and Clubber Colcannon was first to attack . He was reeled in and attacked again . After five consecutive attacks a group of seven got across to him and this was the break . By the end of lap one they had a three minute lead on the chasing bunch . The next lap was just a consolidation of the lead until Clubber attacked again as they headed out on their final lap . Rocky managed to get across to him and for ten miles they worked well together to open a one minute lead . Ten to go and Clubber tells Rocky that he can’t climb for shit . Rocky ignores him . A mile later and Clubber tells him that if he keeps his haircut the same that it will eventually come back into fashion . Next he says that Rocky should work Sundays in the meat factory as he’s wasting his time racing . Then he attacks . Rocky is slightly distracted which is just what Clubber wants and finds it hard to close the gap but eventually he manages it . Now Clubber asks which is Buttkiss and which is Mary Ann . Rocky now has two choices , either he jumps of his bike taking Clubber with him and escorts him into the middle of next week or he puts everything he has into one massive attack . He thinks of Mary Ann and her mother standing on the cold finish line and makes his decision .
Three clicks and he is in the eleven . A surge of adrenaline fuelled by temper propels him as if he was in the small ring and a twenty bike length gap has opened before Clubber has a chance to change gear . Rocky has a minute advantage as he reaches the finishing line and once again his victory salute has the now familiar soundtrack of a shout to Mary Ann . Mary Ann and her mother are well impressed . It will be a special Shepherds pie for Rocky’s tea tonight.
The season continues and Rocky has to miss a month due to tendinitis in his left knee . The Shay Elliott race is on in Bray and Apollo and Ivan are the favourites . The final run in to the finish after a very tough race is true to form and the two favourites are together with an unassailable lead of two an a half minutes . Rocky is in the car behind and is concerned for his friend Apollo who looks under pressure . Instead of just attacking Ivan Dragonlynch switches Apollo into the ditch where he breaks a collarbone . Rocky is furious and at the finish he tells the Polish rider that he will see him at the National Champs and he will sort him out there .
The day of the National Championships finally arrives and Rocky has trained like never before to be fit for the day . Ivan Dragonlynch has also been training harder than ever getting a VO2 test every fortnight in Trinity . Rocky’s VO2 test was a fourteen minute ascent of Tickincor in the rain .
Once again the two favourites reach the final section together . A rolly circuit around Navan . The Pole attacks and attacks and tells Rocky the he will loose but Rocky keeps fighting back . The Bray team car pulls up alongside and he tells Bridget that Rocky cannot be human , the way he keeps coming back . Rocky senses weakness and goes for it . One attack in thirteen , the next in a twelve . By the time he gets it into the eleven the pole is gone and Rocky solo’s to the greatest national title victory of all time . A huge crowd gather around to congratulate the Champion and he calls out for Mary Ann. She runs across from the KFC drive through and gives him a kiss in front of everyone , her shyness diminished .
The following day Rocky gets a call from someone in Tipp FM asking if he would like to do a few advertisements . He See’s a chance to make some money and agrees . The first add is for a new anti-perspirant by Pinewood healthcare . But Rocky keeps saying that it makes him smeeel mainly and an infuriated producer suggests that he go back to the meat factory , which he does .