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Every second counts

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Not until Jacques Anquetil had retired from the saddle did he and his great rival Raymond Poulidor make up; and only then because Poulidor came to ask his nemesis for a signed hat for his son.

“Raymond, all your life you’ve been making yourself a nuisance to me and now your son obviously plans to do the same,” Anquetil laughed, fetching a cap and autographing it.

Jacques died, aged 53, the year Stephen Roche won the Tour de France; an achievement Anquetil annexed five times. Poulidor, the great nearly man of French bike racing, who was nicknamed “The Eternal Second”, has just passed away at 83. Content for once to finish after his old adversary.

High points

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Sean Kelly digs deep during a mountain stage of the 1989 Tour de France, in which he claimed his fourth and final green points jersey, which was a record at the time. 

Riding for PDM-Concorde, he finished 9th overall in GC and, at 33, was the second-oldest man left in the race by the time it reached the Alps. The Carrick man’s flying form also saw him win the “Maillot Rouge” for the intermediate sprints classification that year; the last time the red jersey was awarded. Greg LeMond ultimately pipped Laurent Fignon by eight seconds on the last day in Paris.

By the by, Rob Van de Merwe, the Dutchman behind the wheel of Kelly & co’s state-of-the-art £75,000 black Mercedes team “comfort coach”, which was the envy of the pro peloton, doubled as the Bee Gees tour bus driver in Europe that summer.

Pre-pedal power

ON THIS DAY…

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12 June 1817: The earliest form of bicycle, the “dandy horse” – a bit like a modern kids balance bike – is unveiled by Karl von Drais in Germany. It was propelled by the rider’s feet, not pedals, and he called it a Laufmaschine, or “running machine”. (Imagine in those shoes, below!)

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Colombian superfood

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PICS FROM THE PAST
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A muddy Ricardo Ovalle (aka the Lone Ranger) being fed, not pills, nor gels, but a bocadillo during the Vuelta a Colombia in 1965. For generations, mountain-conquering Colombian cyclists (including ’80s great “Lucho” Herrera) packed bocadillos in their jersey pockets for a natural, tasty – and legal! – energy boost. The team assistant is sporting a custom-made vest with bottle pockets.
Photographer: Horacio Gil

Bicycle racing on the Backstrand, 1900

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Announcement of the new local cycling & athletic club’s inaugural sports in June 1900, held at the “neatly-constructed” cycling track at Tramore Racecourse on the Backstrand.

Despite a wet day, some 750 patrons went through the turnstiles and onto the grandstand, with the Railway management company arranging special services and fares to convey spectators. Starting at 6 o’clock, the programme was got through “with capital despatch,” reported the Munster Express.

The one-mile open handicap bicycle race was won “by a wheel” by J. Condon, with Paul Haas second and T.G. Wilson third. Others who competed in this race were J.J. Condon, L. Mangan, J. Hearne, W. Trissilian, E. Naughton, J. Collins, W. Spinks. Haas had revenge over Condon in the 3-miles open handicap.

The half-mile flat handicap was won by E.W. Clyne, who finished a foot ahead of R.F. Butler, with J.B. Nolan a yard behind him. S.J. Collins, T. Harris and P.J. Breen also contested that one.

The only event that fell through was the 3-miles bicycle race, confined to members of the RIC, who may have been occupied elsewhere. The return train left for Waterford at 10pm sharp.

‘Classic’ capture

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The late Jimmy Magee interviewing one of his all-time sporting heroes, Sean Kelly, during the Nissan International Classic in early October 1986.

The Curraghduff, County Waterford man went on to win the race by a mere 3 seconds after a five-day, 520-mile “spin” around the “super”-smooth roads of Ireland.

Surviving two heavy falls in Cork and Clonmel en route to overall victory, Kelly’s speciality as a sprinter enabled him to collect enough time bonuses on the final stage to just pip Canada’s Steve Bauer.

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Newspaper advert for the 1986 Nissan Classic

An estimated 400,000 people watched the second annual event (advertised above), which again featured a host of big names from the professional peloton.

“If I could export that kind of support I’m sure I would do better [on the continent],” said the world’s then-No.1 cyclist, who collected a £9,295 Nissan Sunny car from the sponsors.

Looking on (just over Jimmy’s shoulder) is 3-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, who’d claimed his first yellow jersey that July, becoming the first non-European to top the podium in Paris.

The following spring the American was almost killed in a hunting accident, while Kelly went on to claim a third successive Nissan title in the autumn.

These days both former riders are regular contributors on Eurosport, though the Memory Man’s mic is now sadly silent.

The glory days of “The Nissan” are among the many themes covered in Barry Ryan’s brilliantly researched book, The Ascent.