There's a reason Sean Kelly is known to pro-cycling fans as 'King Kelly'. As one of the greatest cyclists of the 1980s, during an era that contained Stephen Roche, Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon, Sean Kelly spent an unprecedented five years as the number one cyclist in the World according to UCI points rankings. Take those points over his entire career, and he's second only to Eddy Merckx.
Born in County Waterford, Sean won the first bike race he ever took part in, an eight mile handicap in County Tipperary. He retained his three minute handicap lead, and had increased it by the finish line, giving an early insight into the 'Hard man' of cycling that he would go on to become. At the age of 18, Kelly won three stages of the Tour of Ireland and a stage of the Tour of Britain. After a short stint a VC Metz in France (where he won the junior Giro di Lombardia, and 17 of the 24 other races he took part in), Kelly was head hunted by Belgian professional team Flandria who sent a ragtag team of non-English speakers to Carrick-on-Suir to locate the Irishman who was believed to live somewhere in the vicinity. After a flight, several taxi journeys, and an unannounced visit to his parents house, they finally flagged the young Sean down as he drove a tractor back towards the family farm. As an aside, that entire situation would make a great movie.
After spending the late 1970's winning sprints and accumulating top ten finishes against many of the greats, Kelly was made team leader of Flandria and encouraged to lose weight and work on his all round ability. The emergence of fellow countryman Stephen Roche onto the neo-pro scene spurred him on to realise his potential, and Sean won the 1982 Paris-Nice (the first of seven victories there) and the overall points classification in the Tour de France that year (the first of his four green jerseys).
Victory at the Tour of Flanders may have remained infamously elusive but Sean Kelly won practically everything else in the 1980's and early 90's. Five stages of the Tour de France, the overall at the 1988 Vuelta a Espana (not to mention 16 stages throughout his career), Paris-Roubaix twice, Milan-San Remo twice, Liege-Bastogne-Liege twice, Lombardy three times, the list goes on...
For nearly the last two decades he has been the voice of the Grand Tours during Eurosport's coverage where he has proven that his passion and knowledge of the sport didn't end when he hung up his bike in 1994.
Suffice to say, Sean Kelly is the quintessential Irish cyclist. A farmer's son who took to the bike to navigate his rural homeland, with the grit, determination, and ability to suffer that put him on a par with the greatest in Europe, and the rest of the world, had to offer. We're proud to welcome him to our LeBlanq Ireland event!
Be the first to hear about new experiences and receive exclusive content from our chefs and riders.