Cycling spin-off from Covid-19 clampdown

There has been an explosion in cycling numbers during Covid-19 restrictions with an increase of over quarter-of-a-million people exercising on two wheels.

Research conducted by Sport Ireland has revealed that an estimated 510,000 people within the Republic of Ireland are enjoying cycling as a form of exercise, participating at least once per week.

That represents an increase of approximately 260,000 people compared to the same time last year.

The CEO of Cycling Ireland, Matt McKerrow, welcomed the figures.

“I think everyone in the cycling community has anecdotally noticed more people cycling in and around their towns and suburbs recently, but it is great to see the research with numbers quantifying the levels of increased participation,” he said.

“Cycling Ireland is committed to its role in providing participation opportunities for the physical and mental health of all across the island of Ireland and playing its part in the country’s road to recovery from Covid-19.”

A part of the reason for a rise in the figures is the amount of essesntial workers who have been commuting by bike which has been made a lot easier with a reduction in motor traffic.

Many local authorities around the country have introduced temporary cycle lanes during the lockdown although calls to make more of them a permanent fixture are growing louder.

Meanwhile, Cycling Ireland say they have seen huge demand for programmes developed to support members of the cycling community.

These include a free 7-week online training programme delivered as part of the #BikeLikeMe campaign, aimed at increasing female participation.

Cycling Ireland’s virtual Zwift league has had the highest participation rate of any sports event for the past 10 weeks and a new ‘teach your child to cycle’ resource has proved to be very popular.

Every second counts

image (11)

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

89 tour

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



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!)


Colombian superfood



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

tramore cycling club june 1900 ME

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

sean kelly and greg lemond

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.

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.