Much to Kelly’s annoyance, Vanderaerden went on to win a moving solo victory in a rain-soaked Tour of Flanders and added Gent-Wevelgem three days later, prompting observers, at least in Belgium, to wonder if the coat of the king of the classics had ever passed to the child-man of Limburg with the frizzy blonde perm sticking out from under his leather helmet. Unusually for a horseman who won so often, Kelly ruffled a few feathers and made some precious enemies during his career, but Vanderaerden was a notable exception. Officially, their mutual antipathy had its genesis in a clash during a sprint to Paris-Nice in Vanderaerden’s first professional season in 1983, but in truth, Kelly and an elite cadre of Belgian riders had watched the youngster. with patrician disdain before he entered the professional peloton.
“The root was that Vanderaerden was untouchable as a junior and as an amateur in Belgium. It was the best thing since the sliced pan from Belgium. When he came to the pro, I remember some of the older guys saying to me, “We can’t let him win all the races. We’re going to make it difficult for him, ”Kelly said.
“When I was going up there was De Vlaeminck, Moser, Jan Raas and a few other guys, and it was difficult to be part of that group. It’s an elite club and when you’re there at that door they don’t make it easy for you. So now we weren’t going to make it easy for Vanderaerden. I remember his first races in the south of France they tried to make it difficult for him on all the climbs because they knew he was not that good there. From the start, I think I had it all in the head of the former Belgians, and then it continued because he was a good sprinter. He settled down quite quickly in the sprints. The fights started there, and then they spread into the classics.
At the start of Vanderaerden, Kelly used to deploy Jock Boyer as a sweeper to prevent the Belgian from hanging onto his rear wheel in the sprints. The Hiberno-Belgian vendetta reached its peak in the massive sprint of stage 6 of the 1985 Tour in Reims. Kelly was glued to Vanderaerden’s rear wheel as the peloton rolled towards the finish, but when he tried to pass his rival veered to block the road. Kelly’s response was to raise an arm to push Vanderaerden, and the Belgian responded by grabbing his jersey. Somehow the two remained standing, and Vanderaerden even won the stage, as Kelly crossed the line in 4th, hand waving in protest. The governance of cycling may have been lax in other areas in the 1980s, but then and now the racing jury had a bad opinion of mixed martial arts on the bike. Vanderaerden and Kelly were quickly relegated to the last places on the stage and the victory went to Frenchman Francis Castaing.
Within 24 hours, Kelly’s initial anger dissipated into a distinctly pragmatic view. “Our contracts are based on the publicity we receive,” he said. “A finish like this and a disqualification generates more publicity than winning a race. ”
Vanderaerden had spent part of opening week in the green jersey and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it seemed to coincide with Kelly’s renewed interest in the competition. By the time the race reached the mountains, he had ripped the garment from Vanderaerden’s back, but chasing points daily was hardly conducive to mounting a concerted global challenge, and he began to spit over three minutes down the road. ‘Avoriaz. , losing all hope of victory on the Tour. Under normal circumstances this could have precipitated a steady drop in the standings, but when Kelly looked at the scoresheet over dinner that night he was still 4th overall, and although he was now six minutes from the Hinault’s yellow jersey, he was only nine years old. seconds of a place on the podium.
Although the rider in 3rd place was an S. Roche (Irl), Kelly rejects the idea that his good performance in the mountains which followed during this Tour of 1985 owed nothing at all to an intimate rivalry with his compatriot. . “I don’t think it really made us two Irish. It was that we were in that category where we would finish 3rd or 4th, ”says Kelly. “We were at this level.
Kelly won the sprint for 3rd place behind Colombian duo Fabio Parra and Luis Herrera on the next day’s mountain stage in Lans-en-Vercors, then produced one of the best climbing demonstrations of his career on the demanding stage of Luz-Ardiden in the Pyrenees. . In the meantime, Roche has gained some time on the rugged Saint-Étienne stage, and while the race for the overall victory remains a staunch internal feud between Hinault and his La Vie teammate Claire LeMond, the likelihood is growing. Irishman standing on third The podium stage in Paris saw Tour coverage gradually spread across all major Irish newspapers as the race entered week three.
“I think there was maybe a little bit of undisputed competition there. Not on my behalf because I was in front anyway, but I think that made Sean keep going. I think I can say that, ”says Roche. “It was like, ‘If this guy from Dublin can do it, so can I. And that pushed me too, he wasn’t the only one to take advantage of it. It helped us both.
“I couldn’t be seen at the start line in that kind of one-piece suit”
The highlight came on the final day in the Pyrenees, which saw the peloton tackle a shared stage, with a short 52 kilometer stage to the summit of Col d’Aubisque in the morning. Since the unveiling of the Tour route the previous winter, La Redoute manager Raphael Géminiani had repeatedly told Roche that he was going to win this unprecedented stage, and, as the Dubliner had discovered in the lounge of the club least glamorous night in Cannes after the Critérium International. , The Big Gun was not to turn. He had ordered a special one-piece suit for Roche just for this stage, as if to emphasize that it was not so much a mountain stage as a time trial.
This is something he made up himself, with a silk top and a lycra bottom. I didn’t even want to go with that initially, so I put a jersey on it, ”says Roche, for once eager to keep a low profile. “I threw the jersey near the bottom of the climb, but I couldn’t be seen at the start line in that kind of one-piece suit. ”
Roche followed Herrera’s movement on the first slopes of the Col du Soulor and then continued alone before the short fall on the Aubisque itself. The day before, Roche had highlighted his form by attacking on the Col du Tourmalet with LeMond, but the movement lost momentum when the American was ordered to give in rather than jeopardize the yellow jersey of Hinault.
Now, freed from the company or the intramural conflicts of other teams, Roche had the freedom of the mountainside by tapping on its own metronomic rhythm. He was also helped by the group’s politics behind. Hinault, suffering from bronchitis, was struggling to hold the wheels and LeMond, now consigned to the role of loyal teammate, tempered his pace accordingly and Roche’s advantage exceeded 50 seconds. Stage victory was guaranteed.
Throughout this time, Kelly maintained a surveillance brief in the yellow jersey groupand, like Roche, he was enjoying one of his best days in the high mountains and the white heat of July. When the pursuers broke in the final two kilometers and Hinault was dislodged, Kelly felt emboldened enough to perform a rare acceleration to the top of the mountain.
Barely a minute after Roche crossed the line with his arms in the air, Kelly rose from the saddle to sprint home and complete an Irish double. “If I hadn’t gone on the Aubisque, I don’t think Sean would have taken off behind me and left Hinault behind,” said Roche. “If I hadn’t left when I did, Sean would have waited for the sprint. Sean was buying time here and there, and he wasn’t chasing me, but I think that spurred him on and motivated him a bit.
Four days later, Roche and Kelly drove on the Champs-Élysées respectively 3rd and 4th overall, while Martin Earley survived his first Tour, relieved simply to join Paris by their side. “The Tour was a big jump, and at the end of it you just died,” he says.
Kelly endured the frustration of another 2nd place under the Arc de Triomphe – his fifth in the race – but such consistency allowed him to capture a record-equaling third green jersey. More importantly, he had also finished the Tour just over six minutes behind yellow, by far his most competitive outing.
At 29, Kelly still had room for improvement and there were other encouraging signs. At La Vie Claire, a clearly weakened Hinault was beginning to back down to retirement, while LeMond’s inability to win on his own team hardly suggested that the American, despite all his gifts, was an unbeatable foe. . Roche, Kelly’s youngest of four years and supported by his first flawless descent on the Tour, reached Paris with equally promising prospects. “I never thought of winning this Tour, really. “The podium was the goal,” says Roche. “But it helped seal my ambition to be able to win it later.