With the off-season lull continuing, here's something to brighten your day - a quick interview with one of Orwell's racing legends, Paul Tansey!

Paul time trialing in his TI Raleigh days.

Age: 54

Years with Orwell: 39 years.

How did you get into cycling? Did you try any other sports first?

At school I was a good national standard swimmer and had several medals to my name. But I gave it up when I was studying for the Inter Cert. During those exams I took time off to look at a three day race in Wicklow town with my Dad, Joe. I saw a spectacular performance from a young rider called Sean Kelly, who won all three stages. I also met Noel O'Neill for the first time. Noel knew my dad well and suggested that I might be interested in joining a beginner group, meeting in Dundrum. On my first evening I met Stephen Roche.

What sort of cycling do you do, and what do you enjoy about it?

Mostly leisure cycling, but I participate in the club league and some of the vets' races. I really enjoy meeting up with a regular group of friends and solving world issues as we cycle along, but I must admit that I love racing - I just wish my legs could perform the way my brain would like them to.

Greatest cycling achievements:

I have represented Ireland on sixteen occasions and have won stages in the Rás, Tour of Ireland, Tour of the North, Gorey and the Carrick International. I have been on the winning team in the Rás four times. Probably my 4th overall on the 1981 Rás was my best, and winning the final stage of the Tour of Ireland into the Phoenix Park beating both Dan Martin's dad Neil and Olympic medallist Bob Downs was the highlight.

Cycling low/disappointment:

Not winning the 1981 Rás, won by Jamie McGahan. I was leader on the road on the penultimate stage over the Wicklow Mountains, when I had a bad attack of hay fever and slipped to 4th. The following year I had severe glandular fever and that ended my international career.

Best cyclist you raced against?

I rode many international events during my short time in the top flight and competed against several world champions including the great Soviet team of the eighties in the Milk Race, where six past and present world champions participated. On the Tour of Ireland there was Phil Anderson the first Australian to wear the yellow jersey on the Tour de France and Robert Millar the mountains jersey winner on the Tour. I also raced against Kelly, Martin Earley, Paul Kimmage and many others, but the greatest rider that I competed against was closer to home, Stephen Roche stands out as a truly unique talent.

A very youthful Stephen Roche and Paul Tansey, club race on the Ballyogan Road, circa 1974.

Tell us about racing with Stephen Roche:

As Stephen is almost two years younger than me, when we competed against each other in those early days, I had a distinct age and strength advantage. But that advantage did not last for long. Stephen had a God-given talent for recovery and I quickly realised that my only advantage on him was that I could sprint better. But I had to get to the finish before I could challenge him and frequently Stephen just rode away from me. He always raced from the front and on one occasion on the Isle of Mann, I was struggling near the tail end of the bunch riding beside a team car that was tuned to the local radio station, they were covering the event and I heard Stephen being interviewed as he rode solo off the front. The penny dropped at that moment.

Favourite training route:

Blessington, Valleymount, Wickow Gap, Laragh, relax in Clodagh's coffee shop, back over Glenmacnass, Sallygap and home.


Dire Straits, Don Hendley and Fat Boy Slim.

Something not many people know about:

On stage 10 of the Milk Race, across the Yorkshire moors, I was struggling up a 20% climb when a guy came over to me, placed his hand on my back and while pushing said, "I'll fix it for you". It was Jimmy Saville, a keen cycling fan among other things!!!

Paul Kimmage and Pat Mc Quaid, which would you least like to fall out with?

I was just starting my best cycling years while Pat McQuaid was coming to the end of his career. He was a rider that I always admired and had a great style. When he acted as manager and later organiser of events he continued with the same professional attitude, and during that time we had a mutual respect for each other.

Unfortunately with Paul Kimmage we never got on well. We always seemed to rub each other the wrong way. I have tremendous respect for his writing talent, which I remember him starting when I worked with him on the Fagor professional team. Therefore I would not like to cross swords with Paul. As they say "the pen is mightier than the sword", and he is extremely skilled with his penmanship.

Anything you'd like to add? 

During my many years with Orwell I have seen the numbers go up and down. At one time in the club there was only one racing member Liam Keenan. Liam was very kind and helpful to the New Orwell members and gradually the numbers grew. But the average attendance on Sunday mornings rarely exceeded ten, what a contrast to now.

For sure the numbers cycling have increased massively and I feel that they will continue to grow and the club have a real challenge to control and manage the ever increasing interest. But I have every confidence they will control and filter riders into the racing category. My one concern is the age profile. While wonderful to see almost hundreds of riders in groups on the road, there are very few youth riders and for the future of the sport we need an enthusiast to nurture new talent. Bring back Noel O'Neill!



Ed's note: this interview was conducted two years ago, when Pat McQuaid was still president of the UCI, and suing Paul Kimmage. And everyone thought Jimmy Saville was a charitable hero!