The Loserdom guide to the Nissan Classic
All I remember of the Nissan Classic was a fuzz of cyclists going by and I was looking for Seán Kelly in yellow. But when I see now how much stars were there riding around Ireland and battling it out with Kelly in all the eight editions of the race, you really realise it was something else. People write that it was very popular and had huge crowds, in the early years anyway, but you wonder did the Irish public ever get that used to the continental sport and the subtleties and the quality of the opposition that, for the most time, Kelly beat day in and day out.
Just taking a look at the players in the Nissan Classic and you see all the big guns of the classics of the north - Adri Van Der Poel, Teun van Vliet, Eric Vanderaerden, Johan Museeuw, Eric Van Lancker, Edwig Van Hooydonck, Johan Lammerts, Andrei Tafi and Andrei Tchmill. It reads like the favourite list for several classic editions of Paris-Roubaix or the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Other classics specialists who took part included Gilbert Duclos Lasselle, Marc Madiot and Eddy Plankaert. Riders that would become world champion or who were ex-world champions also took part - Luc LeBlanc, Laurent Brochard, Hennie Kuiper, Greg LeMond, Joop Zoetemelk and Johan Museeuw not to mention Roche wearing the rainbow jersey in the 1987 edition.
The stars of the big stage races came to the event, perhaps lured by a start fee, but nevertheless they were riding the Nissan Classic. These included all the winners of the Tour de France between 1983 and 1990 except the winner of the Tour in 1985 (not mentioning Armstrong's wins that were to come). The winners of the Vuelta a Espana of 1979, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1988 and 1989, and the winners of the Giro d'Italia of 1987, 1988 and 1989 were there. These were Laurent Fignon, Greg LeMond, Roche, Pedro Delgado, Marino Lejarreta, Eric Caritoux, Seán Kelly and Andy Hampsten. Many of the runners-up of these grand tours were there too - Jean Francois Bernard, Charly Mottet, Hennie Kuiper, Erik Breukink, Steven Rooks, Peter Winnen and Robert Millar. Hennie Kuiper and Joop Zoetemelk came at the tail end of his career while Lance Armstrong came at the start of his.
Roche rode four great Nissan Classics in 1985, 1987 in the rainbow jersey, 1991 and finally 1992 when he had a real panache to try to win but couldn’t. Although the papers complained that the cyclists were going slow until the last hour, Pat McQuaid and the organising group was behind the scenes organising a finale that was great entertainment and it certainly was in 1986 when Kelly took the yellow jersey off the shoulders of Steve Bauer.