Yesterday in Dungarvan County Waterford , for only the second time ever The Sean Kelly Tour took place . There were over two thousand cyclists who took part in the event and without exception everyone had a fantastic day . Ray and I had both vans there doing back up service and were pretty flat out all day long fixing punctures , chains , gears , buckles , adjusting saddle heights and supplying some embrocation for cramped muscles .
The atmosphere was fantastic as even those running into mechanical trouble were still smiling and enjoying the day . There was none of the panic and stress that most racing cyclists will display when receiving a wheel change let alone having a new tyre or tube fitted .
A number of times during the day some of the riders who had run into mechanical difficulties commented on how good an event it is and one guy asked me why I thought it was the best run event of its’ kind in the country ( no offence Wicklow or Kerry ) , whilst being just two years in existence . I had to think about the answer and the best that I could come up was a threefold reply ;
1 – The people behind the event .
An event of this magnitude does not just appear on the day . Many months of planning and organisation go into getting the show on the road . The coming together of The Waterford county Council , Waterford Sports Partnership , Waterford Community forum and the eight local cycling clubs has proved to be a remarkable display of cooperation . The fact that all of these people can gel together and all sing from the same hymn sheet is hugely important . Having a single goal of making it a fantastic event for all to enjoy has been adopted by all and each organisation does its utmost to make that happen . When Johnny Brunnock and Gerry Geary drove the full 160k route the night before checking that all was in order and when Rosarie Keely was getting registration organised at 5 am and packing it up at 7.30 pm their main aim was to make the event as enjoyable as possible for every cyclist there .
2 – Sean Kelly himself .
The fact that over half of the riders taking part had their interest in cycling sparked by Kelly’s exploits at the top of World cycling gives many a sentimental reason to take part . The fact that it is an opportunity to ride alongside the fourth greatest cyclist of all time gives others a reason to be there . The lesser known fact that he has a huge input into how the event is run is less recognised but even more important . Kelly attends most of the committee meetings and his knowledge and recommendations are invaluable . When the last riders crossed the line yesterday evening it was Kelly who was standing under the banner to congratulate them . That is what makes him such a hero to those who can never hope to emulate what he has achieved .
3 – The people taking part .
Not once during the whole course of the day did I hear a single moan . Whilst there were a few groans on Seskin and Mahon Falls , every single person taking part was there to have a great day out . The camaraderie and banter between all the different levels of cyclists was fantastic . Whether you were on a ten grand pinarello or a two hundred euro hybrid everyone was chatting away together as they rode along .
Everyone had their own goal for the day in what they wanted to achieve and were all satisfied as they crossed the line . First man to finish the 160k in just over five hours was Jim Fitzpatrick from Kilkenny . Jim only started cycling two years ago and last years event was the first time he had ever ridden in a bunch . Another Kilkenny man and friend of Jim’s , Tom who is visually impaired along with co-pilot Martina also completed the 160 k event in just under 10 hours . But having to ride a tandem up all of those hills sitting in the saddle and forging along for that amount of time surely deserves a huge vote of admiration . Very few elite cyclists would ever contemplate 10 hours on the bike . That makes them hero’s in my eyes .