There was no shortcut and no speed boat up the river Suir just record breaking speed and nail-biting excitement the day Carrick on Suir’s Sean Kelly treated Tipperary and world cycling fans to what is still regarded as one of the best time trials in the history of the sport.
It was 1985 and ‘King Kelly’ was already a cycling legend, clocking up wins in some of the world’s most famous and gruelling races. He was World No. 1 - the first ever when a ranking system was brought in, and he held on to that top spot for five years.
But it was that day in September 1985 that must be included as one of the top sporting moments in Tipperary history. A 13-mile time trial from the square named in his honour in Carrick on Suir to the finish line in Clonmel. He won.
Kelly set a world record fastest average time trial speed 52.173 Kph ( 32.418 Mph ) that day, that wasn’t beaten internationally for another five years and it took a jump in racing technology. Even on the day Kelly’s main rival in the time trial, Stephen Roche, had a more advanced bike set up. And Kelly finished the time trial 49 seconds quicker than Roche, who took second place.
But it wasn’t just a fast road race. It was the first ‘Nissan Classic’ and it came at a time when Kelly (and Roche) were among the top cyclist in the world. They brought the glamour of world class competition to Tipperary and it wasn’t just a ‘friendly visit’ it was committed, dedicated, professional cycling, fighting it out for glory on the roads of Tipperary with thousands of people lining the streets and cheering on the local lad. And they were not disappointed.