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For those of you who like me are unabashed fans of the hardest man in cycling, there's some great Kelly stories and anecdotes here at Worldwide Cycles blog. Check it out. Two of my favorites.
"Figures have become all important, Vo2 max, threshold , 10 second wattage now mean much more than the old ‘my legs feel good today’ and performances have improved as training time has become more efficient .... These tests are not a new phenomenon . Back in the late eighties teams had begun testing their riders and analyzing the figures....
Sean Kelly was at the height of his career and winning more of the biggest races than any of his contemporaries. He was the greatest cyclist in the World at the time and during one test session the coaches were perplexed. They asked, "How he could be winning so much when his figures did not correspond to such results?"
Kelly sat back and said...
‘that machine measures power , heart rate , Vo2 max and all that, but what it doesn’t measure is how much pain you can suffer'... "
The other story is one where Kelly reflects on the role his farm upbringing in Carrick on Suir played in learning to suffer...
"...he recounted working days that began at 7 am and finished at 8 pm, no matter what the weather was like. On one not so unusual day a particularly feisty bullock had to be moved. Two ropes were attached and two brothers were warned by their father that no matter what they were not to let go of the ropes. The Bullock was released from a shed and immediately reared up on its hind legs and bucked and jumped all the way across the farmyard. One brother released the rope. The other brother did not and was dragged ruthlessly across the yard, but never let go of the rope. Eventually his Father managed to calm the animal and when the son regained the energy to stand up the jacket and jumper were torn from his shoulder, as was much of his skin. He continued on working."
"A few years later the same young man was riding the cobbled classics of Belgium and Northern France. When the races would get hard, so so hard for twenty minutes at a time and many of the best in the World were falling by the wayside, the farmers son from just outside a small town in Ireland would think of the day he was dragged across the yard by the bullock and from deep down within he would find the tenacity and courage to endure pain well beyond the limits of ordinary men and he would survive."
"Whilst those around him suffered he managed to hide his own pain. Why should he show it ? There would be no sympathy for a bit of pain endured whilst riding around the countryside on a bicycle when he should be hard at work at home on the farm."
"The finish line would come into sight and the victor would be the one from a group of the hardest of the hard men who would want it the most. With the option of returning to the bullock on the farm being pretty much the only other choice he had, the young Irishman usually came out on top."
"Books, magazines and Internet articles on sporting success often refer to the fact that the mind usually gives up before the body during prolonged periods of intensity within competition.
The hardships of life are very often the cornerstones of success later on. Interval training strengthens the body but perhaps it’s the really crappy day at work or the time spent forcing yourself to do the things that you are afraid of that give the mental toughness needed to really succeed, no matter what level you are at."