Thursday 25 July 2013

David Walsh is wrong about the Irish fans.

Some of you may have read the allegations by David Walsh in last weeks Sunday Times that Irish fans at Irish Corner 10 were involved in abusing Sky riders and team personnel.

This is completely untrue!

The following is the statement issued by myself and my fellow Irish Corner 10 originator in response to Mr Walsh.


As Irish fans who enjoyed a wonderful day at Irish Corner at Alpe D'Huez, we wish to refute the implication by David Walsh that Irish fans jeered or abused Chris Froome, or indeed any Sky rider, or that Irish fans were in any way responsible for the banner referred to. Had Mr Walsh bothered to either come to the corner, or check with any of us before tarring two whole nations worth of fans wth one brush, he might have produced a more balanced and accurate picture of events.

While corner 10 was to a large extent populated by Irish fans, clearly the road up Alpe D'Huez is open to any fan, of any nationality. As well as the hundreds of Irish fans there were people there from all corners of the globe. We personally spoke to fans from Belgium, France, UK, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Switzerland, USA and many more countries.

The vast majority of those fans, of all nationalities, were impeccably behaved and, as you'd expect, offered equal encouragement to all of the riders (although we did shout just a bit louder for Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche). It was clear from the smiles on many riders faces, including those from Sky, that they very much appreciated the encouragement they were getting. One of our abiding memories is the huge grin on the face of Peter Kennaugh as he rode past to huge cheers.

However, unfortunately for us, one camper van, which was parked at the corner for several days, contained a group of four French fans who it turned out were intent on targeting Sky. On the day before the race they made and erected several banners, none of which we understood, above the range of Irish flags we had put up. When we came to the corner on the day of the race we saw that they had then placed a banner, reading (in French) "Froome Dopé" very high on the wall at the corner. While we were very unhappy with this banner we could do nothing about it as it was too high for us to remove and we had no wish to provoke an incident. 

As the day progressed it became clear that these guys were intent on making an anti-doping stand and were targeting Sky in particular. They filled a child's swimming pool with water and had large syringes with which they were spraying the water on passing cyclists. However, when the first Sky car arrived they then produced a bucket and attempted to throw a full bucket of water through the window of the Sky car. Every Irish fan within earshot of me were horrified by this and looked to the three Gendarmes stationed on the corner to do something. They didn't.

A short time later, another Sky car got the same treatment, despite many Irish fans trying to warn them to close their windows. Again the Gendarmes did nothing. In fact we saw at least one of them smiling. 

As the race passed for the second time it seems the four French guys had another plan. They climbed into their van and, pictures clearly show, donned surgical gowns and masks. The assumption is they intended to run alongside Froome in these clothes. However, for some reason I couldn't see, they were unable to get out of their van on time and Froome passed unimpeded.

When they did emerge they were very angry and aggressive and targeted a young British fan whose van was parked beside theirs. They proceeded to attack him physically, also knocking off a rider, at which point the Gendarmes finally acted. The separated the French guys from the British guy, moving him across the road. One of the French guys, clearly out of control, then ran across and started attacking him again, punching several other fans in his rage. The police again separated them and moved the British fan further away so they could speak to him.

A short time later, all four of the French guys ran across the road again and proceeded to tear down a pro-Froome banner erected by the British fan and his family. The whole crowd boo-ed this. The French guys responded by making aggressive gestures at the crowd in general, willing someone to fight them. No-one did!

Things cooled down after that and the three Gendarmes kept the peace until the race was over. Later in the evening the four French guys were arrested and taken from the mountain by Police. Their van was still there the next morning.

It cannot be stressed enough that no Irish fan played any part in either the throwing of water, or anything else, at the Sky cars or in the melee that broke out, despite provocation by the enraged French guys. Instead the whole Irish crowd turned back to the race to await the arrival of Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche, the reasons we were there in the first place.

The following morning, at the start of stage 19 in Bourg D'Oisan, we and several other Irish fans, went out of our way to speak to Sky representatives, including David Brailsford. We clarified with him what had happened and stressed that Irish fans were in no way involved but were instead cheering the Sky riders as much as, if not more than, any other rider. This has been characterised as an "apology" by Mr Walsh. It is clear that no apology was needed from Irish fans but, if it's possible to apologise for the behaviour of complete strangers we would willingly offer that to Team Sky.

The hundreds, indeed thousands, of genuine, well behaved, Irish (and indeed Dutch) fans who enjoyed a great day out on Alpe D'Huez do not deserve to be branded hooligans by someone who wasn't there. 

If you'd like to see for yourself the great atmosphere at Irish Corner 10, have a look at our Facebook page or on this site

Ronan Fox
Stephen O'Shea


Wednesday 3 July 2013

Not bad for a small country

I know it's a pretty nerdy thing to do but, while watching yesterdays stage, I thought someone ought to compile a list of Ireland's Tour De France achievements. So I did!

And a pretty impressive list it is too.

10 starters, 9 finishers, 1 Overall win, 3 Yellow jersey wearers, 4 Points wins, 4 Stage winners, 10 stage wins.

The full list is:

1956Shay ElliottIle de Franceretired stage 5
1958Shay ElliottInternational48th overall @ 2h 23' 16"
1959Shay ElliottInternationaleliminated stage 14 (outside the time limit after nursing Brian Robinson to the finish)
1961Shay ElliottGreat Britain47th overall @ 1h 51' 05"
Ian MooreGreat Britainretired stage 3
1963Shay ElliottVC XII°-St Raphaël-Gitane-Dunlopwinner stage 3, Yellow Jersey for four stages61st overall @ 1h 54' 50"
1964Shay ElliottSt Raphaël-Gitane-Campagnoloretired stage 14
1978Sean KellyVeldo-Lano-Flandriawinner stage 634th overall @ 1h 10' 18"
1979Sean KellySplendor-Euro Soap38th overall @ 1h 54' 36"
1980Sean KellySplendor-Admiral-TV Eksprewinner stages 19 and 2129th overall @ 58' 54"
1981Sean KellyWickes-Splendor-Europ Decorwinner stage 1548th overall @ 1h 28' 24"
1982Sean KellySem-France Loire-Campagnolowinner stage 12, Green Jersey winner15th overall @ 27' 17"
1983Sean KellySem-Mavic-ReydelYellow Jersey for one stage, Green Jersey winner7th overall @ 12' 09"
Stephen RochePeugeot-Shell-MichelinWhite Jersey for one stage13th overall @ 21' 30"
1984Sean KellySkil-Reydel-SemGreen Jersey for one day5th overall @ 16' 35"
Stephen RocheLa Redoute25th overall @ 56' 36"
1985Sean KellySkil-Sem-Kas-MikoGreen Jersey winner4th overall @ 06' 26"
Stephen RocheLa Redoutewinner stage 18/13rd overall @ 04' 29"
Martin EarleyFagor60th overall @ 1h 20' 36"
1986Martin EarleyFagor46th overall @ 1h 30' 30"
Stephen RocheCarrera Jeans48th overall @ 1h 32' 30"
Paul KimmageRMO-Meral-Mavic131st overall @ 2h 44' 06"
1987Stephen RocheCarrera Jeanswinner stage 101st overall
Sean KellyKas-Miko-Mavicretired stage 12
Martin EarleyFagor65th overall @ 2h 14' 22"
Paul KimmageRMO-Meral-Mavicretired stage 21
1988Sean KellyKas-Canal 10-Mavic46th overall @ 1h 02' 54"
Martin EarleyKas-Canal 10-Mavicretired stage 17
1989Sean KellyPDMGreen Jersey winner9th overall @ 18' 25"
Martin EarleyPDMwinner stage 844th overall @ 1h 26' 45"
Stephen RocheFagorretired stage 10
Paul KimmageFagorretired stage 12
1990Sean KellyPDM30th overall @ 38' 42"
Martin EarleyPDMretired stage 11
Stephen RocheHistor-Sigma44th overall @ 1h 00' 07"
1991Sean KellyPDM-Concorderetired after stage 10
Martin EarleyPDM-Concorderetired after stage 10
Stephen RocheTonton Tapis-Coronaeliminated after stage 1
Lawrence RocheTonton Tapis-Corona153rd overall @ 2h 59' 25"
1992Sean KellyFestina43rd overall @ 1h 21' 37"
Martin EarleyPDM-Concorde80th overall @ 2h 21' 25"
Stephen RocheCarrera Jeans-Tassoniwinner stage 169th overall @ 20' 23"
1993Stephen RocheCarrera Jeans-Tassoni13th overall @ 29' 53"
2004Mark ScanlonAg2r-Prevoyance89th overall @ 2h 27' 49"
2009Nicolas RocheAg2r-La Mondiale23rd overall @ 38' 20"
2010Nicolas RocheAg2r-La Mondiale14th overall @ 16' 20"
2011Nicolas RocheAg2r-La Mondiale26th overall @ 46' 23"
2012Nicolas RocheAg2r-La Mondiale12th overall @ 19' 33"
Daniel MartinGarmin-Sharp35th overall @ 1h 25' 23"

Tuesday 2 July 2013

"It's a big thing" - Shay Elliott takes Yellow 1963

The 25th of June 1963 was a momentous day for Irish cycling. That was the day that an Irish rider first slipped on the coveted Maillot Jaune of the Tour De France becoming, for the four following stages, the most important man in the cycling world

That Irish rider was, of course, the great Shay Elliott.

As it happens, there was an ITN reporter in the velodrome at Roubaix that day, reporting for a non-cycling, English audience on this exotic, foreign event "The Round France Bicycle Race". Although the tone is more than slightly patronizing at what the reporter seems to think a display of crass commercialism for the unwashed, French masses, this film is a gem for Irish fans as it shows that historic moment when Shay takes the stage and the jersey, even if they do play "God Save the Queen" as his anthem.

It would be twenty years before another Irish man, Sean Kelly, pulled that garment on again so Shay really was a trailblazer.