By Dave Towle
The Winners Circle
Read Part One
If you were around professional road cycling around 1984 in any manner, you
were well aware of the “Killians” brand, which was one of the many different
beers that Coors made. It was actually Alan McCormack who had become the man
behind the brand, and wow, did he do an incredible job.
He seemed to always have energy, whether racing, or other-wise to deliver the
goods. Post race, he was always ready and willing to go out for a pint with his
many supporters. It was a shame that Alan wouldn’t get to race at that year's
Coors. He was one of a few top riders based in North America, that wouldn’t have
a chance to race this “special” year.
The marketing people at Killians wanted to take advantage of the great
opportunity that each year’s race presented and looked for a way to get involved
with the Irish Olympic team, for the Coors Classic only. Getting your brand in
front of the great demographic that made up of the 10’s of thousands of people,
from Colorado and beyond, that followed the race each year, was just something
they couldn’t miss.
Courtesy Branford Bike.
In the way that corporations like to be involved with sponsoring major sports
teams (buying sky boxes and the like); it was a lot of fun for the marketing
people that had involvement with teams to follow the race each year. Being a
part of the race was something that meant a lot to the people who worked the
event. Most people on staff made it back year after year, some even used their
summer vacations to come work at the race as a volunteer!
So, no Alan, even though he would continue to race year round on a trade team
backed by Killians for years. That left what they thought would be a handshake
deal with the “new” team, and they’d be off. Not so fast, actually.
Because it was July, and for many other reasons, the UCI wasn’t about to let
the Irish Olympic cycling team make an ad hoc deal with a beer company in
America. The whole thing was just a hassle, for everyone, for a few days. Pat
McQuiad represented the team, and Irish cycling in general. The problem was
finally resolved, and the team had “Killians” on their shorts, which they
promptly had made, and the national team jersey, which was a classic, solid
green. They added a “Killians” logo to the jersey too, but it was pretty small
and tasteful. The team came over to the States with stuff made by “Le Coq
Sportif”, a brand I’m just now wondering what ever happened to. Probably still
strong in France, I imagine.
Having Paul McCormack, Alan’s younger brother, on the team was going to be
interesting, no doubt. You see, Paul was a very talented cyclist, something he
would prove over the next 2 weeks, but was not on the team as far as the
upcoming Olympics. Looking back, I’d bet that to a man, the Irish guys who made
the trip would say the Colorado part of their USA experience was by far more
special than the Games, as monumental as they were. They had a lot of contact
with people, who all wanted to see, and learn more about, these top athletes.
Pat McQuiad, team director, would surely have his work cut out, managing egos,
as this month would be the culmination of 3 amateur careers, with 2 riders
moving on to become pros, and one retiring.
Besides the wickedly bad sunburn that a few of the guys got (I mentioned this
in the first piece), the days were spent in that beautiful way that a supported
cyclist can enjoy. Riding, resting and eating were the obvious activities.
Enjoying the afternoons at the Boulder Mall people watching and window shopping
was generally how the rest of the day was passed, and it was a blast. The whole
team was funny, I mean really funny, and this was one of the best times of their
lives. Something they had worked very hard to obtain, as well, so I should
mention that they were taking the whole trip very seriously.
It was only 4 years earlier that the Irish had high hopes for Stephen Roche
at the Moscow Games (yep, the Irish went), and without a team around him that
could counter the powerful Eastern Bloc squadras, Roche came home empty handed.
Having fun, at each other's expense, as well as through members of the general
public, was also a major occupation of the team. There were a few sponsor
involved activities as well, but the team was always happy to help out, and they
seemed to understand, maybe a little better than the Americans, the value of
good sponsor relations. Either that or they really were just naturally outgoing
ambassadors of the sport.
The two major hopes for the Olympic road race in Los Angeles were Paul
Kimmage and Martin Earley. To be honest, I don’t think the team even thought
they had a chance to go top 10 in the team time trial, and they didn’t seem to
be focusing any energy on that event. It showed when they crashed at the team
time trial stage at the Coors Classic, a week later.
Kimmage went on to ride for years as a pro, for the RMO team, in France. He
rode the Tour, and really wrote an amazing book, which was way ahead of its
Rough Ride was an expose on the use of drugs, but even more than that,
it was an honest look at the brutal way of life that is being a domestique
racing in Europe. Earley went on to ride as a pro as well, for Fagor, and PDM.
He won a stage at the Tour de France; enough said. They thought they were pretty
ready to go.
The prologue was an eye opener, and we’ll be back. Thanks for reading!
Stephen Roche in 1979. Courtesy
FDB Milk Ras.
Paul Kimmage, center, with The Ras author Tim Daly left,
and publisher Con Collins, right. Dublin 2003.
Photo courtesy Peter Purfield.