Victoria Pendleton’s book gives a stark insight into sport at the highest level. Admittedly, at this stage it must be said that only exerts thereof have been read. But there was still enough of an insight therein to illustrate at darker side of some of what goes on.
Often has it been said in the past that Athletics and Cycling must rank as the most gruelling sports going from an individual perspective. Maybe the latter even more so than the former. Some of what Pendleton went through to become the celebrated Olympic champion she recently retired as was certainly not for the faint hearted. Physical discomfort was only one part of it though.
Scepticism regarding cycling is now as fashionable as the latest technological gizmo. Not without reason in some cases either. Lance Armstrong recently, after all, exited stage before he sunk even more into the mire surrounding him. Losing his seven Tour De France titles along the way. That the American wasn’t whiter-than-white has been sport’s worst kept secret for a long time.
You wonder, though, does eliminating Armstrong from the picture clear the scene altogether. A few thoughts abound here. All obviously wasn’t as it seemed with him. Yet, it’s unquestionable that there was natural talent there too. Then there’s the other point – was Armstrong the only one dabbling with the dark and dicey? That seems highly unlikely.
For all that, however, to tar the entire cycling community with the same brush is absurd and unfair. One need only delve into Pendleton’s story – or the heroics of the likes of Sir Chris Hoy or Bradley Wiggins to see the other side. Perhaps, though, to do so would be to give the impression that gruelling brutality is required to be successful. Thus leaving one to wonder where’s the sport in it.
At the highest level, the demand for and dedication required for success are extraordinary. Maybe more so on the bike than in any other sports. In such cases, though, boundaries are constantly being pushed. Living on the edge becomes the only way. Talent and expectation must be managed with perspective though. By competitors themselves and those around them. Part of Pendleton’s story and – more to the point – Armstrong’s antics show how very wrong it can go when things are pushed too far.
The important thing, though, is that all of cycling isn’t on the dark side. Very close to home, there’s ample evidence of the good that can come from it. In Dunboyne we’ve been fortunate to have people like the late Paul Healion, his nephew Aaron Buggle and the Cassidy men represent the area in cycling. The tradition goes back even further than that, too.
As was commented on some months ago, cycling got a whole lot bigger in the area with the advent of Inspiration Cycling Club. Said club has been a gift to the area from Cathal Walsh and the many other great people involved.
Already, club members are beginning to make an impact on the broader scale too. Most recently in the guise of Ryan Fitzpatrick who recently got among the medals at the National Championships while Alan Lyne (U-16) and Patryk Gosczyek (U-14) got among the medals at the county championships while many other members finished high up in the placings as well.
How Lyne’s cycling career began encapsulates everything about the club: ‘I was in the Gaeltacht in Donegal last year where I got to know Sean Leonard who I’d never met before. He eventually persuaded me to come down to the club’. Young Leonard is quite a character himself. Last year in the midst of a race he broke his arm but his main priority was to get cycling legend Sean Kelly to sign his bike!
Inspiration Cycling Club is young and ambitious, and that spirit is embodied by the likes of Lyne. He continues ‘The county championship was my last outing for the season but I am already looking forward to next year when I hope to do the Junior Tour of Ireland’. The young rider was due to receive his Junior Cert results the day after this interview was done and all the signs are we’ll be reading Alan Lyne’s good results on papers for years to come!
He certainly knows what he wants – ‘Down the road I’d love to join the An Post Sean Kelly team and ride in the An Post Ras, but that’s just an ambition’. Without the aforementioned quality you’ll get nowhere. Lyne has that in abundance and the talent to match, the cycling honours seem certain to keep rolling in!