Waterford has played an important role in Irish cycling history. The first cycle club in Ireland- “The Dungarvan Ramblers” was formed in Dungarvan in 1869 by Richard Edward Brenan, the local Postmaster. His various other occupations included; bookseller, stationer, letterpress printer and photographer. In 1883, he edited and printed The Dungarvan Journal. Richard also went on to win the cup for the first cycling challenge race in Ireland and Britain in September 1869. This race took place just one year and four months after the worlds first recorded bicycle race, a 1,200 meter race held on the 31 May 1868 at the Parc de Saint-Cloud, Paris. It was won by expatriate Englishman James Moore who rode a wooden bicycle with iron tires.
Richard Edward Brenan
In 1903 The Cyclist’s Guide to the South East was published and it included the following text:
‘In the Co of Waterford we claim the oldest cycling club in Ireland – The Dungarvan Ramblers C.C., started in 1869. In that year the first cycle race for a challenge cup held in this or any other country, was run under the auspices of the club, and it was won by Mr R. Edward Brenan, the present Postmaster of Dungarvan, who is as proud of the Trophy as if it were a collar of gold.’
The trophy which was lost for many years was rediscovered by Father Columba O’Donnell in 1984 in the Augustinian house on Main Street and it was donated to the Waterford Museum. The trophy has the following inscriptions:
- Four Mile Bicycle race at Dungarvan, September 1869 Winner – Richard Edward Brenan
- Mr R.E. Brenan, winner of the Four Mile Bicycle races at Dungarvan 19 September 1870 and 5 September 1871
Another famous cyclist who hailed from County Waterford was Cappoquin man Jimmy J. Foley. In 1942 Jimmy was victorious in the 5 mile Irish championships and in 1945 he was once again Champion of Ireland in the 7,000m event. After his career in cycling he became the proprietor of The Railway Bar in Cappoquin. In more recent years a trophy was named after him which was contested for in the Cappoquin Criterium. On the 12th July of 1999 the ‘JJ Foley Trophy’ was held in Aglish in Co.Waterford but it failed to draw the expected big names with riders instead heading to the Stena Dun Laoghaire GP in Dubln. The trophy was won by Cidona-Carrick Wheelers’ rider Brian Kenneally, with team-mate Eddie O’Donoghue in second and Paddy Moriarty of Les Jeunes rounding up the podium.
Obviously we couldn’t write a post about Waterford cyclists and not mention John James Kelly or as he is better known Sean Kelly. Kelly had a glittering career on the bike and is Ireland’s most successful racing cyclist, one of the top eight cyclists of all time. His professional career started in 1977 and ran for a staggering 17 years until he retired in 1994.
In more recent times the pro peloton included another Waterford man Declan Lonergan. In 1994 he was a member of three professional teams. The first was Saab (United States of America), the second was Lex Retail Group – Townsend Cycles (Great Britain) and the third saw a move to the other side of the globe with him finishing the year with Jayco (Australia). For the 1995 season he moved back to Saab who were now co-sponsored by Giordana and in 1996 he raced with Giant- Australian Institute of Sports (Australia). Some of this career highlights include winning the points classification in the Rás Tailteann in 1990, 1991 and 1994.
Without a doubt the second most successful cyclist to come out of the county is Ciarán Power. Born in 1976 Power turned professional in 2000 when he raced with the Linda McCartney Racing Team. In that same year he rode the Giro d’Italia and impressed with 2 top ten stage finishes. Power was the first Irishman to ride a grand tour since the glory days of Kelly and Roche. In 2001 the Linda McCartney Racing Team folded which saw Power moving to the French St Quentin team to finish out the season. In the following year (2002) he moved stateside and raced with Navigators where he was to stay until 2007. In 2008 which was his last year as a professional he race with the Pezula Racing who were registered in Ireland and were managed by Brian O’Loughlin and David McQuaid. In that year Power notched up a stage win in the Rás and finished 7th in the National Road Race Championships. He also took 3 stage wins in the Rás Mumhan and was the overall points winner. A lesser known fact is he holds the acolade of Irelands highest placed finisher in the Olympic road games finishing in 13th placs in Athens. Ciarán is now a Neuromuscular and sports massage therapist based in Waterford.
These days the Waterford locals are cheering on Sam Bennett who just took part in his first Tour de France. Unfortunately Sam didn’t finish the Tour after a dnf on the 17th Stage between Digne Les Bains and Pra-Loup. The future is bright though for this rider and we’re sure we will be filling even more column space in the future with his great results.