On this the night before the 2016 Paris Roubaix, cycling fans throughout the World are restless with anticipation of the battle that lies ahead so here is a short post to help you get through the next 12 hours before coverage begins at 9.30am in the morning.
One day we were looking through photos for the seankellycycling.com website when the photo below came up on the computer screen.
Looking at the photo, I asked the obvious question, ‘Did you fall off right after that photo was taken?’
There was a brief pause whilst I awaited the reply. There will always be a reply, but it may not always be the length of a short story. This one was very short indeed.
Sean turned slightly and looked directly at me. The answer was given. It was ‘No’
The way that particular ‘No’ was verbalised was a story in itself.
Even though the bike is sideways in the picture, the calm confident concentrated look on the face of it’s pilot should have been enough to answer the question. The same calm confident concentrated face now just inches away had answered the question before a word was even spoken.
Then we began to speak about how that sort of bike control came about, was it something that Sean was born with? The answer to this question revealed a lot.
As a youth living on a farm on the outskirts of Carrick on Suir there was always an inclination to try to find challenging forms of entertainment to pass the time when the working day was over. One of the most popular pass times that Sean and his brother had, long before any racing bike graced the farmyard out in Curraghduff, was a form of time trial aboard a rusty black high nelly with no brakes and more importantly, no tyres or tubes.
Steel rims clattered up along the narrow boreen that led to the main road. Once that was reached the rider, who was fully stretched aboard a bike inches if not a foot or two too big, had to turn and race back down the same way before entering the concrete and stone yard where a steel milk Churn provided another obstacle that had to be navigated in a 180 degree turning circle. Each effort was timed and the fastest was the winner.
With this as a reference point, it’s now easy to see why Sean didn’t see a bike sliding away from him on the greasy cobbles of Paris Roubaix as a reason to expect that he would fall off. After all, wasn’t he on a top of the range Vitus road bike, with good brakes that even had rubber tubulars glued to the alloy rims.
Sean won Paris Roubaix twice during his career, I wonder how tomorrows winner will have honed his art of bike control.