The second edition of the Nissan International Classic

1987 Nissan Classic
Kelly was the favourite to win the event again in 1987. Stephen Roche was after his great wins in the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the world championships road race was also considered as a challenger even though he himself maintained he was not properly prepared. The night before the race began, Roche was conferred with freedom of the city of Dublin in a ceremony. He said that the demands for interviews and appearances had been enormous, adding “I’m riding the race for a rest, to get away from the other pressures.” While Roche was playing down his chances he did say that he was “not going to be left behind on the first day” referring to the first stage of the 1985 edition when he missed the race deciding break. Roche would be riding the race in his newly acquired rainbow jersey. Kelly was out to win; “Racing at home like this is very serious for me,” he said. Another favourite was Charly Mottet who had beaten Kelly the previous Sunday at the Grand Prix des Nations time trial classic. Mottet had finished the Tour de France in fourth place and would be joined by Martial Gayant, Joel Pelier and the 1987 champion of France and the winner of Paris-Roubaix in 1985 Marc Madiot. Other stars included Acacio da Silva, Adri van der Poel and Rolf Golz. Greg LeMond was recovering at the time from the injuries of the shooting accident from earlier in the year and he had also had an appendix operation. Roche had Carrera teammates Eddy Schepers and Jorgen Pederson as well as Ever Ready teammates Dudley Hayton and Neil Stephens. Kelly was riding for Burmah-Castrol Kas had Da Silva, Frederick Vichot, Jean Luc Vandenbrouche and Thomas Wegmuller. Other stars included Dag Otto Lauritzen, Ron Kiefel, Jens Veggerby (7-Eleven), Martin Earley, Johnny Weltz, Sean Yates (Fagor), Paul Kimmage, Michael Vermote (RMO), Ronan Pensec, Gilbert Duclos Lasselle, Denis Rouz, Bruno Cornillet (Z-Peugeot). Other teams included Toshiba, ANC Halfords, Superconflex and Hitachi. The Irish national team had Stephen Spratt, Cormac McCann, Paul McCormack, Philip Cassidy and Gerald Irvine.

Stage one:Dublin to Waterford

The first stage went from Dublin to Waterford. The peloton rode just below 15 miles an hour and were behind the slowest schedule coming into the finish in Waterford an hour and a half late. The race jury even considered to involve a rule to withhold race prizes but race director Pat McQuaid defended the peloton saying that at the end of a hard season and a strong head wind, it happens. Kelly found the stage of 140 miles too long at that time of the year. Malcolm Elliot won the stage ahead of Marnix Lamiere of Belgium and Kelly.

Stage 2:Waterford to Cork

The second stage went from Waterford to Cork where the peloton would do four stints of the steep St.Patrick’s Hill in Cork city. The peloton set out from Waterford with the wind behind them. After Clonmel, Dane Johnny Welz (Fagor) and Shane Sutton (Australia) broke away and built up a lead of five minutes. They were leading up the climb of the Vee when back in the peloton, race leader Malcolm Elliot’s chain came off just as a group of 13 pulled away. Welz and Sutton were caught and passed by the group of 13. The Irish professionals were in the group (Kelly, Roche, Earley and Kimmage) together with Joel Pelier, Van der Poel, Eric Boyer, Chris Lillywhite, Heinz Imboden, Johan Lammerts, Frans Maassen, Martin Ducrot and Gilbert Duclos Lasselle. Their gap rose to seven minutes and continued to build rising to twenty minutes at one point. The group was working well together. Kelly took the bonus seconds in Fermoy.

Doing the four laps up St.Patrick’s Hill in Cork, Joel Pelier attacked on the first lap. Roche led the chase on the final lap but Pelier could not be denied. Kelly won the group sprint for second ahead of Boyer, and Lillywhite with Earley, Duclos-Lasselle, Roche and van der Poel all finishing with the same time. Elliot finished over twenty minutes down and Kelly took the lead. The race would not be between Kelly, Pelier, Van der Poel and Roche.

Stage 3:Kilarney to Tralee

The third stage went through the mountains of Kerry in a loop that started in Kilarney and ended in Tralee. Sean Yates broke away early in the stage near Kenmare. He forged ahead through Sneem, up the ascent of Coomaslista and down, up Ballaghisheen and down. His lead grew to twenty minutes. He went up and down three more climbs and was on his own for five hours and 120 miles. The last climb to Castlemaine he slowed considerably but still went on to win by nine minutes. Behind King of the mountains leader Chris Lillywhite fell badly on a steep descent after touching Roche’s wheel. Two British riders stayed back to help him but all three fell again at the feeding zone. They all had a tough time getting to the finish bruised and bloody. Kelly assembled his team on the front and strung out the peloton. Per Pedersen of RMO sprinted ahead and gained a lead. He was joined by Neil Stephens (Carrera-Ever Ready) and then Edwig van Hooydonck. Stephens drifted back to the peloton. On the final climb, Ereic Boyer attacked and Kelly and Roche went with him. They were soon joined by Heinz Imboden. They four caught Pedersen and Hooydonck. Boyer punctured and dropped out. Roche and Kelly drove the group. Behind the peloton was breaking up on the hills. At the finish Kelly won the sprint for second ahead of Van Hooydonck, Pedersen, Imboden and Roche. Ron Kifel won the bunch sprint of a minute later of the group of 12 which included Martin Earley and Paul Kimmage. Roche moved up to second overall but admitted “the Tour of Ireland is not for me. I was riding for myself and also for Seán. It’s possible that I could win but very unlikely because of the team time trial.”

Stage 4A:Tralee to Kilarney, Stage 4B: Kilarney to Limerick

The team time trial was 21 miles from Tralee to Kilarney with 25 teams going off at intervals of three minutes in reverse order of the general classification. Kelly’s Burmah Castrol-Kas team would begin last and chase Roche’s Carrera-Ever Ready team. In the afternoon there was a second stage from Kilarney to Limerick. The team time trial did not prove to be decisive. It only resulted in Kelly gaining one second on Roche and then in Limerick the big bunch sprint was won by Malcolm Elliot with Kelly finishing in fifth.

Stage 5:Kilkenny to Dublin

On the final stage that took the 85 finishers to O’Connell Street in Dublin for ten laps around Parnell Square, Adri van der Poel surged ahead on the second last lap. Kelly stayed at the front keeping van der Poel at a respectable distance before bridging the peloton up to him. Elliot sprinted into the last corner and although Kelly got in behind he could not get past and finished second. Kelly won his third Nissan Classic with 43 seconds over Roche who rode well but never attacked Kelly. Kelly’s prize was a £7,000 Nissan Micro and a 36 piece suite of Waterford Crystal. Roche got £1,200 for second place. Heinz Imboden finished third at 1:05, Joel Pelier 4th, Adri van der Poel 5th, Martin Earley 6th, Gilbert Duclos Lasselle 7th, Paul Kimmage 8th, Johnny Welz 9th and Eric Boyer was 10th. After the race, Kelly and Roche were due to race a final three races before stopping for the season. Both of them were going to compete in the final two classics of the year- Creteil-Chaville (now called Paris-Tours) and the Tour of Lombardy.