Saturday 25 October 2014

Tuesday 15 July 2014

The Arenberg Trench

Watching Stage 5 of this years Tour brought me back to when we went over to see the similar stage in 2010. It seems like another age now as we watched pre-admission Lance chasing after the leaders following a puncture, or Sylvain Chavanel on his Yellow and Green bike reflecting his leadership in both coloured jersey classifications, or the champions jersey train of the World Champion, Cadel Evans, and the British Champion , Geraint Thomas, sandwiching the Norwegian Champion Thor Hushovd as he rode to victory on the stage.

For me, one of the highlights of that trip was the chance to see, in person, the famed Arenberg Trench. This stretch of cobbles has earned an almost mythical reputation as the key sorting-out point of the Paris-Roubaix classic. It is here, usually in the rain and mud of a northern French April, that the race comes alive. While the winner is seldom decided in the Arenberg Trench, most of the losers definitely are.

Alternatively known as the Trouée d'Arenberg, the Tranchée d'Arenberg or the Trouée de Wallers Arenberg, the "road" in question is located in the heart of the coal mining region of the Nord-Pas-De-Calais. In fact it was ex-miner, World Road Race Champion and team-mate of Shay Elliott, Jean Stablinski, who introduced the organisers to the road after becoming the first man to ride it in 1968.

At 2.4km, it's not only a long stretch of pavé by Paris-Roubaix standards, but it's also very, very rough! In fact, as someone who comes from a city with some remaining cobbled streets and having ridden the cobbles of Flanders, I'd be reluctant to call the stones of the Arenberg Trench cobbles at all. You could be forgiven for thinking they're just a flattened pile of stones left after some long-forgotten construction project.

But, as well as the roughness, the surprising thing for me was the gradient. I had always assumed that the "Trench" part of the name came from the fact that the road cuts through the forest, giving the feeling of riding along a trench. In  fact, the name comes from the road having the profile of a trench, dropping from either end to a low point almost exactly half way along. Riders thunder downhill into the trench but the difficulty comes in the second half where they have to try to maintain their momentum for the climb back out.

We didn't get to ride it in 2010, but we did walk the full length. My sore hips were bad enough after that. I can't imaging what I'd be like after racing through.

I took some video on my phone which hopefully will give you some idea of just how rough the stones are on this iconic stretch of cycling history.

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Sunday 27 April 2014

Guinness was Good for Cycling

Back in the mid-80's one of the biggest backers of cycle sport in Ireland was the country's best known company, Guinness. The hard work of a few smart operators in the Irish cycling scene cultivated contacts in the company, and its advertising agencies, converting their interest in the sport into hard cash to back clubs and races.

Dublin's Emerald CRC, the home of many of the top riders in the country at the time, was sponsored for many years by the Guinness-owned brands Carlsberg and Fosters.

But the Guinness brand itself also backed several races enthusiastically. And when the Guinness marketing department got behind a race great things could happen. I did a college placement in the company in 1987 and spent several days that summer postering the city's pubs with ads for upcoming Guinness backed races. But, as well advertising in the pubs Guinness could also generate TV coverage.

These two videos are testament to both their clout and their willingness to back the sport as a whole, rather than one narrow branch of it.

The first video is of one round of the 1986 Guinness Cyclo-Cross series, held on a frosty day in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Irelands cycling scene was relatively small in those days and there was no such thing as specialists so this race features many of the top road men of the day, particularly Joe Barr, Julian Dalby, John Sheehan and Raphael Kimmage.

The second video is coverage of the Guiness 2 day Cycle Race, also in 1986. This race featured two stages. The first was 78 miles from Cork to Limerick followed the next day by a long, flat 117 mile slog from Limerick to Dublin.

The race features some of the biggest names in Irish and UK cycling at the time including Ian Chivers, Joe Barr, Aidan Harrison, Gary Thompson, Laurence Roche, Jamie McGahan, Ger Madden, John McQuaid, Oliver McQuaid, Terry McManus, Doug Dailey, Andy Wilkinson, Anthony O'Gorman with many more familiar faces, both riders and officials, making an appearance.

Thursday 20 March 2014

1982 Carlsberg Tour of Ireland

This is a great video of the 1982 Carlsberg Tour of Ireland. It features several sadly missed faces from the Irish cycling scene as well as some of the best riders of the era, including Martin Earley, Alan McCormack, Billy Kerr, Lenny Kirk, Jamie McGahan, Stephen Delaney, Brendan Madden, Mark Bell and the Raleigh Olympic Squad (including Gary Thomson, Davy Gardiner, Paul Kimmage, John McQuaid and Seamus Downey) and many more you'll recognise.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Calor Kosangas Coast to Coast 1983

This is a highlights package of the 1983 Coast to Coast. Stage 1 was from Lucan to Birr, stage 2 from Birr to Galway and stage 3 the marathon ride from Galway back to Dublin. The quality's not great but it features some very well known faces of Irish (and Scottish) cycling of the era.

Sunday 19 January 2014

From the archives:1950's Road Racing in Ireland

Here's another set of pictures from Dad's photo archive.

This is a mixed set showing various aspects of the Irish road racing scene in the 1950's.

As before we've made every effort to put names to faces and places. If you can fill in any blanks and/or spot any mistakes please let us know.

Clicking on a photo will open the set in a gallery.

Dun Laoghaire Grand Prix 1955.
The riders parade to the start.

Front Row: RJ (Dick) Walsh, Paddy Ellis, Sonny Cullen,
Sean Fox, Sean O'Neill(all Eagle CRC)

Second Row: Davy Byrne, Jack Coleman (both Irish Road Club),
Harry Reynolds, Tony James, Bob Maitland (all Solihull RC, Birmingham)

Third Row: Willie Black, Con Enright (both Co. Dublin RC),
Ron Cunningham (Irish Road Club)

Others in pic: Vinny Byrne (Dublin Wheelers), John Lackey, Phil Molloy,
Fred Brew (all Tailteann RC), Bob McNamara (Irish Road Club), Peter Dowling,
Tony Allen, Brendan Hore (all Antlers CC), Mick Manley, Paddy McInerney (Dublin Wheelers), Keith McCarney (Australia)

Climbing the Long Hill during the Tour De Wicklow c.1957.
L-to-R: Sonny Cullen (Eagle CRC), Gerry Kinsella (Dublin Wheelers),
Ron Cunningham (Irish Road Club), John Lackey (Tailteann RC),
Jim Kennedy (Eagle CRC), Mick Manley (Dublin Wheelers),
Sean Fox (Eagle CRC).

Eagle CRC team, Coast-To-Coast 1950's,
L-to-R: JJ McCormack, Tony Allen (in blue), Christy Lynch,
Jim Kennedy, Sonny Cullen, Gerry Kinsella

JJ McCormack, Jim Kennedy, Sonny Cullen (all Eagle CRC)
ready to go at the National RR Championship,
Markethill, Co. Armagh

Jim Johnson (Maryland Wheelers, back to camera),
Dick Comerford (Irish Road Club)
and Peter Crinnion (Bray Wheelers)
before the National RR Championships, Markethill, Co. Armagh.

Matt Scallon (Orwell Wheelers) and Peter Crinnion (Bray Wheelers), 1958

Matt Scallon (Orwell Wh), John Lackey (Tailteann RC),
Sonny Cullen (Eagle CRC), Jim Kennedy (Eagle CRC), 1958

John Lackey (Tailteann RC) wins a sprint, 1958

Peter Crinnion (Bray Wheelers) 1958

Phil Molloy (Tailteann RC) leads Peter Crinnion (Bray Wheelers)
and Jim Kennedy (Eagle CRC). 1958

Dick Comerford (Irish Road Club) on his Vincent 1000
in a race cavalcade through Wicklow, 1958

Phoenix Park, 1958.
L-to-R: Gerry Kinsella (Eagle CRC), Tony Allen (Eagle CRC), Bill Morrissey,
Fred Brew (Tailteann RC), Sean Fox (obscured), Brendan Hore,
Jim Kennedy  (Eagle CRC, back to camera), John Moore (Antlers CC - in helmet)

A Park gallop, Phoenix Park, 1958

John Moore (Antlers CC) in the cavalcade, Phoenix Park, 1958

Jim Kennedy (Eagle CRC) in front of Steve Lawless (Emerald CC), 1958

Tony Allen  (Eagle CRC), 1958

John Lackey (Tailteann RC) leading Sonny Cullen (Eagle CRC) and
Denis Whelan (Obelisk Wheelers), climbing (we think) Slane Hill, 1958
Peter Dowling (Antlers CC), JJ McCormack (Eagle CRC),
Brendan Duncan (Irish Road Club), 1958
Sonny Cullen (Eagle CRC), Phil Molloy (Tailteann RC), 1958

The first Antlers CC race.line up get ready to go in Skerries.
From left: Reg Walker, Peter Jones, Tony Allen, Sean Fox, Peter Dowling,
unknown , Brendan Hore and Paddy Hollingsworth.
It's possible future National Champion, Dowling went on to win but
that can't be confirmed.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

From the archive: Santry Stadium Track Meet, 1958

Here's another set of pictures from Dad's photo archive.

This set were all taken at a track meeting held in the brand new Santry Stadium (now the Morton Stadium), Dublin in 1958.

Although now only used for athletics and soccer, at that time the stadium contained a concrete velodrome encircling the running track. Although it was very long for a cycling track at 515 yards, Santry was host to regular track meets.

Probably the most famous occasion was the grand opening in 1959, when some of the world's biggest cycling names were enticed to race at the venue. They included local boy Shay Elliott, Brian Robinson of Britain, André Darrigade, Albert Bouvet and Roger Hassenforder of France and the biggest name of them all, the Campionissimo, Fausto Coppi of Italy. Despite an explosion damaging the track on the morning of the meet  (widely assumed to have been planted by the IRA as a response to the presence of Robinson) the Dublin crowd was treated to two great nights of entertainment.

The meeting pictured in this set was a more local affair. Dad was a member of Eagle CRC so the photos do tend to concentrate on his club-mates but hopefully they give a good flavour of the atmosphere of the event and the era.

Clicking on a photo will open the set in a gallery.

Tony Allen (Eagle CRC), Santry Stadium, 1958

Jim Kennedy (Eagle CRC), Santry Stadium, 1958

JJ McCormack (Eagle CRC) togs out. Santry Stadium 1958

Tony Allen (Eagle CRC) leads at Santry Stadium, 1958

JJ McCormack (Eagle CRC) puts the pressure on, Santry Stadium, 1958

Eagle CRC duo, Tony Allen and Gerry Kinsella sprint for the line,
Santry Stadium, 1958

Saturday 4 January 2014

1989 National Road Race Championships Video

This broadcast of the 1989 National Road Race Championships, which took place in Roundwood, Co. Wicklow, features some real legends of Irish cycling and an exciting race.


1st Paul Slane (Newry CC)
2nd Mick Walsh (Fosters, Dublin)
3rd Anthony O'Gorman (Bianconi Wheelers, Clonmel)