Brendan Hennessy’s interview for Be Celt


Below is the original text of Brendan Hennessy’s interview for the French sports website ‘Be Celt’.

The English -> French -> English translation on the website is well worth reading !

1) Can you explain us what’s The “30th Anniversary of the Nissan International Classic cycling race.” ?


When I was 11 after watching Sean Kelly ride the Nissan Classic I sat in my sisters room and traced the word SKIL onto a peaked cap.  My love for cycle racing was born.  Thirty years later I still have my Bianchi of my teenage days, my cycling heroes are still my heroes and I have my cycling friends in Oldvelos to share those memories.


The Oldvelos Vintage International Classic remembers the Nissan International Classic held in Ireland in the 1980’s.  The ‘Nissan’ was a special moment for Irish cycling as it gave the domestic scene an opportunity to welcome and see their cycling heroes, particularly Irish professionals like Kelly, Roche, Early, Kimmage and McCormick but also their international rivals from the Continental peleton.   It was also an opportunity for Ireland to showcase it’s beauty on international TV.


Our event in beautiful Kerry on Sunday September 13th  not only celebrates the significance of the race but also the nostalgia we all have for the Irish glory days.  Like other heroic events we want riders to dust down their vintage bikes and find their original clothing,  We also want riders to bring their ‘Nissan’ memorabilia for a vintage exhibition.


Our route remembers one of the classic Nissan stages through the Kerry mountains.  We will be riding from Killarney through the iconic ‘Gap of Dunloe’  a winding valley road in the Kerry mountains and on over country roads to some more tough climbing over the legendary Bealach Béime (13% or 42×28 all the way!).  Then up and around Caragh lake and back on a good secondary road to Killarney.  75 miles of pure pleasure.


2) Why this event is very important for irish cycling ?


Cycling Ireland recently produced an infogram about the national membership.  It showed that at the height of the Kelly-Roche era that there were about 2000 members, this number remained the same right through the grand depart in Dublin in 1998. However, since the introduction of a ‘bike to work’ tax-back scheme the numbers have shot up to over 20,000 members.  Bike to work schemes have reunited many riders with their love of the bike, but also with their memories of their own glory days.  This is the opportunity for them to be teenagers again and to show their love for classic bikes, craftsmanship and true style.


3) VIntage is popular in Ireland?


Our first vintage cycling event marked the 50th anniversary of Shay Elliott’s 3 days wearing yellow in the 1963 Tour de France.  Elliott is a tragic hero who paved the way for many English speaking riders to join the peleton. In France he will be remembered as a domestique to Anquetil and perhaps also for losing the opportunity to be world champion in 1962.   Elliott is not universally known in Ireland and our idea was simply to remember him on the types of bikes he would have ridden on his own training grounds in Co. Wicklow.  The idea seemed to strike  a chord amongst riders.


4) Oldvelos vintage organise lots events in Ireland, can you tell me more for the others events ?


Oldvelos is a play on the term “old fellas” and there’s certainly lots of old fellows out there!  We are like minded enthusiasts who remember our first bicycles and how they expanded our horizons.   Our website is a way to reach cyclists all over the country and we have had cycles and events in 5 counties over the last two years.  The short write-ups by riders on our website gives a real feeling for the shared interested, camaraderie, occasional mishaps and fierce rivalry for our own Concourse d’Elegance trophy.


5) You have just finished building Stephen Roche’s Ti Raleigh, how you find this Bike? and will you ride with it during Anniversary of the Nissan International Classic cycling race.
Sadly, the bike is not mine, but it was my honour to restore it for a friend – he’d better ride it in September!  As a former bicycle mechanic it surprises me sometimes when people newer to the vintage scene are mystified by the machines’ mechanics.  But of course every bike has some little thing that needs a special solution.  For the Roche bike which will be used for climbing I found that a 43-50 chainset would accommodate a 14-28 freewheel.  These are the special things for me.  I’m lucky I have a choice of bikes to ride from the 30’s to the 80’s, but most likely it will be my 1983 Bianchi Super Leggera  that I raced as a teenager.  It’s showing its age..and so am I!


6) Will you go in europ for discover other eroica or vintage events?


I’ve been to l’Erocia twice and loved every minute of it.  I was so impressed by the riders who rode single speed bikes I just had to build one.  I picked up an old English frame and built it up bit by bit.  When I tried to discover the builder I couldn’t so I put my own name on it.  Lots of people thought ‘Hennessy’ must be a French builder!  Only what was in my bidon was French!  My feelings about the European events is mainly jealousy – easy road travel to events, bikes and gear on demand and seemingly guaranteed sunshine.  September is usually a great month in Ireland so we can certainly guarantee weather for readers who want to discover us.

7) About you do you think t’s possible to have an eroica in Ireland one day ?
This is certainly something we are thinking about.  Our events to date have given us great experience and learning.  As volunteers we need to be realsitic in our expectations but I always say it’s like having a house party, it’s when you hear your guests chatting freely you know it’s a success.  I think most riders appreciate the effort of volunteer organisers but know it’s them that make the party.
The Oldvelos Vintage International Classic takes place in Killarney, Co. Kerry on Sunday September 13th 2015.  Killarney is one hour from Cork Airport and three hours from Dublin.  Contact the event through



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