Much of my relaxation time each day , which usually isn’t a whole lot , is often spent in the company of ‘Dave’ . Now Dave is not my neighbour , or a good friend . It’s not Dave Harmon or David Duffield . Dave doesn’t even ride a bike . Dave is actually channel 111 on Sky digital . The home of the ‘Top Gear ‘ re-run .
After years of watching ‘Jezza’ , ‘The hamster ‘ and ‘Captain Slow’ , last Monday afternoon I found myself sitting in the driving seat of a Mercedes SL 55 AMG for one hour of advanced driving instruction and some nappa leather body wrapping during the rocket like accelerations .
The venue was Mercedes Benz world at Brooklands just outside of London . For £150 you get to drive an AMG more power-full than most Ferrari’s , Lamborghini’s or Aston Martins . Over 500 bhp under my right foot felt a good deal more exciting than the Dura ace spd-sl which I’d been pressing for three hours the day before .
On the plane home I began to wonder what a ‘Top Gear ‘ type programme on bikes would be like , and here’s what I came up with ;
The three hosts walk out into the stage in a converted Hay shed . Kelly , Harmon(d) and Duffield welcome the studio audience whilst standing next to a Specialized Roubaix , a Pinarello Prince and a black Mercian with a brooks saddle and downtube shifters .
Kelly goes first :
Hello and welcome to Top Gears . On tonight’s show I relive the glory days by road testing a Specialized Roubaix over the pave in the forest of Arrenberg , whilst Harmond takes Pinarello’s latest top of the range offering and his hair gel for a spin over the Wicklow gap and Duffers does a few laps of Sundrive road on a restored 1969 Mercian . Our test rider ‘The Stag’ will also take the Pinarello out around our car park for a power lap standing start 1k time trial . There’s also a race between the three of us with me on a bike and the other two using public transport to get from Dublin to Carrick .We’ll also have our ‘Star on a reasonably priced bike ‘ guest , taking out the Giant SCR 4.0 . So on with the show !
A wide camera angle shows a bleak cobble-stoned road within a grey forest . It zooms in on a puddle of muddied water with a constant drip of drizzly rain . This image is quickly replaced by another showing a small bunch of riders following a number of Peugeot lead cars and BMW motorbikes . It zooms in on a face covered in 10mm of caked on mud . Only the pink eyes and mouth make it recognisable as a human face . The camera zooms out just as a rider attacks and Phil Liggett shouts : Plankaert attacks again and Kelly reacts immediately . All of the belgians are trying their best to rid themselves of the Irishman who they fear if it comes down to a sprint finish , but he is just too strong . De-wolf counters on this the toughest section of road in all of cycling and once more Kelly is first to react . The Irishman is making the pave look like smooth tarmac . What a fantastic display by the worlds number one bike rider .
Next shot shows Kelly crossing the finish line in Roubaix , both arms aloft five bike lengths ahead of his nearest challenger .
The camera goes back to a cobblestone and rises up to show an approaching lone rider in the deserted forest . The man in An post green on a red, white and black Specialized stops in the deserted forest as he approaches the camera and says :
‘ It’s a few years now since I’ve ridden over these cobbles but they still look the same . This was always the deciding point in the race when I rode and you always had to be up at the front of the bunch fighting off those big Belgians on the approach . At the time I used to have a carbon and aluminium bike but neither were a patch on whats out there today . This Specialized just seems to soak up the cobbles . We used to go through here on a 52 x 14 , slogging away trying to keep the momentum going but today I can get over them comfortably in a 53 x 17 on this machine using a higher cadence . Even the Gel bar tape is a huge improvement on the Benotto plastic tape we used to have before . Out of ten I give it a nine , a really super bike .
Now it’s over to Harmond :
With a backdrop of Glendelough Harmond is pulled in at a viewing car park .
‘ I’m here in the Wicklow mountains test riding Pinarellos latest offering , The Prince . It has been revived and re-invented and some say that this is the best bike ever made . So lets give it a try .
He sprints off out of the saddle and between breaths explains that ‘the acceleration of this machine truly is phenomenal . It really does have to be experienced to appreciate just how responsive it is . Did you know ? , that Pinarello are over 54 years in the business of making bikes and that the technique has been passed form father to son . And another quite interesting fact is that they also now offer a my-way system of choosing the colour scheme for your bike which is fully user interactive on their website www.pinarello.com. I remember one day during the winter when I was out for a spin with V.C. London on Thames that one of the guys was actually riding one which he had chosen the colour scheme for and it looked quite smart . Back to the bike and what more can I say , It really is quite fantastic and probably one of the best bikes ever made !
And on to Duffers :
Standing next to a railing on a very slightly banked tarmac corner Duffers greets the camera :
Yes , well hello and welcome the , ahh Sundrive road race track . This track was built back towards the end of the last century and has recently undergone a substantial improvement . I’m here today to try out a renovated Mercian made from Reynolds 501 tubing which was a fantastic race machine back in the late sixties when I used to manage the T.I Raleigh team . To help with the test I’ve added a wicker basket to the handlebars into which I’ve placed some rather delicious Cashel Blue cheese and a nice bottle of Merlot . The cow who produced the milk for the cheese grew up on a farm just outside of Killusty and was milked by hand every day for six months . Her milk was then turned into this most delicious of cheeses which I really do recommend everyone should try .Cashel is also famous for the very well known castle which is known as ‘ The rock of Cashel ‘ . The wine is a nice fragrant Merlot which goes beautifully with the cheese and really has to be savoured . Oh yes , I almost forgot , the bike rides well and looks nice .
Next up comes the race , Kelly on the Specialized versus the other two on public transport .
The three are standing outside of Huston Station in Dublin ,
Kelly says ‘ I’m looking at roughly six hours or so with the wind how long do ye think it’ll take ye to get to Carrick ?
Duffers says ‘ Well Sean , I’ve been studying the timetables and we should manage it in just under five which should give us just enough time for a glass of Sauvinogn Blanc in Tony Kehoes before you arrive .
Kelly looks at them with a raised eyebrow and says ‘ we’ll see ‘ and off he goes .
The other two run into the train station and Harmond picks up the tickets which have already been pre-booked . They’re hoping to catch the 11.10 to Limerick junction and approach a man in an orange vest with a blue cap to enquire .
He informs them that the 11.10 for Limerick junction will be leaving from platform one at 12.25 sharp . They ask why the delay and are told that this is the normal time for the 11.10 to Limerick junction to depart , although it is usually from platform three .
Meanwhile Kelly has already reached Naas and has the head down . He’s really going for it .
At 1.45 the train for Limerick junction departs Houston Station without comment from any official regarding the delay . Duffers has had two hot dogs covered in Parmesan cheese and black pepper so seems quite content , whilst Harmond looks concerned about the age of the train when he notices ‘ M.Collins woz ere 1916 ‘ on the seat back infront of him .
Harmond raises Duffers from his slumber as they approach Ballybrophy where they have to change trains . They are told that the next train is due in 10 mins so are happy to stretch their legs whilst they wait .
Kelly is fast approaching Castlecomer and is actually passing a few cars on the winding road . He is really going for it and when Jimmy McGee pulls up alongside with ‘The heat is on’ blaring from his cassette player Kelly raises it another notch .
Back in Ballybrophy it has begun to rain and Duffers and Harmond have been huddled together under one of Duffers’ hats for the past hour and a half whilst they await their next train . Eventually it trundles along and they look none too impressed as they board the first of two carriages . Next stop Limerick Junction !
Kelly passes through Kilkenny , and the other two finally seem to be making a race of it . They managed to just catch the former Dart train which has been renamed the Limerick- Rosslare express in Limerick junction and are Carrick bound .
Kelly is dropping down Glenbower at over 100 kph as the train passes through Cahir . It’s going to be close .
Just as Kelly is approaching the railway bridge at the bottom of Sir Johns the train passes overhead . The finish is Tony Kehoes pub in Sean Kelly square . Kelly is out of the saddle sprinting up O’Mahoney avenue . Tony Ryan is standing at his gate under the two palm trees shouting words of encouragement . The poochers are out in force at the corner as Kelly flashes by the old ESB offices . He can now see the square which was named in his honour . He sprints into the square and raises both arms aloft , yet another victory .
Whilst all of this is happening Duffers and Harmond have been waiting for the train to slow as they prepare to disembark and leg it up to Kelly square . However the train keeps on moving at the same pace . What they did not realise was that this is an express train only stopping at Clonmel and Waterford so the race is lost , and now so are they .
Back in the studio there are giggles from the cheap seats but the show continues on .
Next up , The Stag test .
Some say he was born in a cave up in Mahon Falls with an Enervit gel in his hand , we only know that he is called ‘The Stag ‘ and always wears a full face Giro Helmet .
The Stag sprints away from the start line in the car park and around the first corner in a 53 x 13 . He looks quick . Next up comes the chicane . He flicks the Pinarello left and right without losing any forward momentum . Then on over the speed bump and the yellow box and down into the hairpin bend . He navigates very smoothly around the bend without losing too much momentum and is quickly back on the pedals and out of the saddle sprinting up along the home straight . He crosses the line in a 53 x 11 at full tilt to conclude what was a very quick lap . But just how quick was it ? The previous lead time was a 1.06.16 on a cervelo r3 . The Stag did the power lap of 1 k from a standing start on the Pinarello Prince in a time of one ………….zero………….six…………point………….zero four !! a new lap record !
And finally we have our ‘Star on a reasonably priced bike’ section .
Tonight we are joined by one of Ireland’s top female television personalities – Grainne Seoige .
Kelly conducts the interview ;
‘ Welcoime to the show Grainne . Tell us a bit about your cycling history ‘
‘Thanks for having me Sean . Well myself and my sister Sile used to cycle to school once a year on sports day . But it was a long way , over half a mile so we didn’t bother for the rest of the year ‘
‘And do you know any cyclists Grainne?’
‘Well there’s Padhraic Quinn from Connemara who we often bump into . He does a bit of commentating himself on our favourite channel TG4 . ‘
‘Are you sure that it’s your favourite channel Grainne , seeing that RTE are paying you a few hundred grand a year ?’
‘Oops yea, forgot about that one . TG4 is actually my second favourite channel after all .’
‘Well getting back to the cycling , and how did your lap on our reasonably priced bike go?’
‘It went well , I think , Sean . The Stag gave me plenty of pointers and was very thorough in setting up my saddle position with me on the bike ‘
‘What was that Sean ?’
‘Oh , I was just saying , lets take a look at your lap then ‘
And she’ s off , sprinting away from the line in a 39 x 18 , moving her head and shoulders left to right and keeping the rest of her body and the bike perfectly still . Not exactly ideal . On through the first corner with a stiletto heel just clipping the ground . Here comes the chicane and , ohh she almost lost it there but somehow managed to hang on . Over the speed bump and her short dress gets even shorter . The Stag is now lying down beside the track , why I do not know . Around the hairpin bend and here comes the sprint up to the line , yes here it comes , any minute now , oh well I guess you could call that one a sprint , if you speed up the tape when you watch it back .
‘So Grainne , how do you think you did then ?’
‘Hopefully above that Anne Doyle anyway .’
‘That you did . Ann Doyle did it in 3.58.19 and probably has still yet to finish . Your time was three minutes ……………fifty…………………two point nine . You were faster than Ann Doyle . Grainne Seoige everyone .
And on that note , Thank you very much for reading , and good night !