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40th Anniversary Interviews - Robbie Kenny

posted 16 May 2016, 14:04 by Kevin Monaghan
(By Shay O'Toole - Sun. 15th May 2016)   
This week the fourth instalment in the 40th Anniversary Interview series features another stalwart of the club. In the following piece Robbie Kenny tells us his “Wheelers” story.

PRO:     How long have you been a member of Lakeside Wheelers? 

I joined when I was 14 and thankfully I'm still closer to 40 than 50 so do the math. I had a few years of some time out where it became too hard to combine football and cycling. I chose football due to the strict discipline required to stay in on a Saturday night to race on Sunday.

PRO:     What attracted you to cycling? 

My Father was cycling at the time and the Kelly/Roche/Earley/Kimmage era was about to go into the big ring. I also thought it was quite colourful and thrilling. I can distinctly remember RTE showing the Giro d'Italia live in 1987 when Roche and Visentini were at war. It was intriguing.

PRO:     What are your memories from the early days when you were a teenager?

 Well, some of the above plus going racing on Sundays. We loaded up the bus some Saturday evenings using our toe straps to secure bikes and wheels, #oldskool.  Then, on the way to the races I remember Damien Hogan eating yoghurt and fruit while the rest of us snacked on King crisps and Opal Fruits. I remember my first race was in Sligo in the Under 16 category. It was a cold, wet day. My father forgot his winter leggings so as his race was longer, I gave him mine. Anyway, I got away in the break of 7 riders but cramped in the sprint going for the win and ended up getting 7th, all due to my generosity!!! Unless you are as the Italians say, "Il Campione" you don't get to sprint for too many wins. Training was brilliant, no heart rate monitors, no deep section wheels, no power meters and no intervals, we just went out and rode around.

PRO:     You were one of the original drivers of the LSW version of Sprocket Rocket programme...
              What was that about?
In the 1990's the cycling scene waned and the Lakeside Wheelers youth section faded away. Approx. eight years ago there was a resurgence in cycling and a lot of members had children of a relevant age so the committee decided to reinvigorate the underage element of the club. The very first night we held a spin from Ladestown Lake and 15 kids turned up. It grew every night after that. The following year, to facilitate the numbers and for safety reasons we moved to Belevedere Gardens. So, after a few years of "pedalling our own bikes" we felt we needed more structure and Cycling Ireland had just launched the “Sprocket Rocket” programme so we piggybacked on to that. Cycling Ireland trained up club members to enable us to teach kids the very basic and not so basic skills of cycling with some fun thrown in. I think 250 kids signed on that 1st year! We later found out that this was the biggest turnout for a Sprocket Rocket session in Ireland. Lakeside Wheelers became the template for every other club in the country and has since gone from strength to strength each year.

     What bike do you ride...why? 
My road bike is a Colnago CxZero. Well, initially I bought a Colnago CxOne but wrote that off in crash so my Cx Zero is what they call a crash replacement frame whereby the manufacturers give you a frame at cost price, so that's why I’m riding that at the moment. Colnago are an Italian company steeped in cycling history, and like all things Italian, are pretty cool. However, my dream bike is a top of the range Trek Madone.

PRO:    What's your favourite route around Mullingar? 

The circuit we use for our tribute to the Tour of Flanders Classic race which takes in 100kms of the smallest, windiest, hilliest and roughest roads we can find around Mullingar.

PRO:    You have cycled in a few events abroad.... how did that start and where have you been? 

It all started at the 2008 “Wheelers” Christmas Party. A few of us decided to do an event in the French Alps called La Marmotte. This is a savage 185km trip taking in over 5000m of climbing. On the start line, 15 of us had signed up absolutely not knowing what was ahead of us. The closest mountain we had to us to train on was “The Cut” in the Slieve Blooms in Laois which wouldn't even register as a hill in the Alps. But it was a fantastic few days away and it gave birth to many stories which are often rehashed but ARE only told at Christmas Parties. 

Since then I've been to Italy, France and Belgium on cycling holidays taking in the Gran Fonda Stelvio and the Tour of Flanders sportif. We've been to three of the “Monuments” which are one-day Classics of cycling: Paris Roubaix, Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and the Giro Di Lombardia. We've been to see the 100th edition of the Tour de France on Alpe D'Huez which truly was an amazing spectacle. But, if there is anyone out there looking for some brutality, they have to climb the Mortirolo in Northern is ridiculously tough. 

PRO: Who is the best rider you have cycled with? 

Currently, Damien Shaw. In saying that, I was only able to cycle with him in the early part of his career as he quickly moved on to another level. In previous years when I wore leather chamois it was Tommy McGowan. He was the best underage cyclist we have ever produced in Mullingar. He was a tall, rangy rider like Miguel Indurain, the famous Spanish professional during the 1990’s and was extremely powerful. If we went back through the records I'm sure he would have a very enviable palmares.

PRO:    Any cycling goals? 

I've an injury at the moment which I cannot seem to shake so hopefully, to ride pain free, stay physically fit and continue to beat Mick and Dermot Reynolds EVERY Sunday. I also have a few more countries and events to cycle in starting with the Pyrenees in France this July.

PRO:     Where do you see LSW in the next 40 years? 

The Bike will always exist as an important aspect of everyday life and nowadays there is more awareness than ever on staying healthy. I believe that Lakeside Wheelers is very lucky to have the excellent Greenway on our doorstep and as we try to facilitate all genres of cyclists, whether they be racers or tourers, clubs like ours will always be necessary.

Thanks Robbie for taking part in this series and best of luck with your “injury”, your travels and that new Trek Madone!  Thanks also to Ed Tyrell, Kevin Monaghan and Claire Malone for their contributions over the last month.

Interviewee Robbie Kenny pictured on the left at the 2014 Gran Fondo Stelvio in Italy with Jack Nugent, Charlie Sheridan and Shay O'Toole
Interviewee Robbie Kenny pictured on the right at the 2014 Gran Fondo Stelvio in Italy 
with Jack Nugent, Charlie Sheridan and Shay O'Toole