Monday, January 17, 2011

Seamus Elliott...

Before there was a King Kelly, before Roche's triple crown victories, before Earley, or Kimmage, there was Elliott. 2011 marks the 40th year of the death of Seamus (Shay) Elliott (1934-1971)

Elliott is widely considered to have been the first Irish racer to have widespread success racing on the continent. Elliott's Wikipedia entry has a lot of interesting information on the racer, however there is some contradiction between that and the video above concerning how the 1962 World Championship Road Race played out for Jean Stablinski and Elliot, who finished 1st and 2nd. If you are curious put on your houndstooth cap and do a little investigating.

Elliott's palmares include 1st at the GP d'Isbergues (1956), 1st at the Semaine Bretonne, and Circuit de la Vienne, as well as 1st in the points classification of Paris-Nice (1957), 1st in the points classification and two stages at the 1958 Four Days of Dunkirk, 1st in the 1959 Omloop Het Volk, 1st at the GP de Denain and GP de Nice (1959), 1st on stage 18 of the 1960 Giro d'Italia. In 1962 he finished 3rd overall and the Vuelta a Espana, winning stage four and wearing the gold jersey for nine stages. The following year he won stage 13 of the Vuelta, as well as stage 3 of the Tour de France, during which he wore the yellow jersey for three stages. In 1965 Elliot won the Tour de l'Oise, GP de Saint-Raphael, GP d'Esperaza, and the GP d'Orchies. His final win came in 1966 at the GP du Tregor. Prior to these professional continental victories, Elliott was also two time Irish National Road Champion (1954 & 1955), and once Irish amateur road champion (1953).

Elliott was one of the classic "hard men" of the peloton. In 1954, at his first professional training camp (Team Simplex), the soigneur Raymond Le Bert exclaimed: "Ah ha, now this is really rock. He is a real flahute". "Flahute" refers to an old-type tough Flemish roadman. The Shay Elliott Memorial Road Race is held each April in his honor, while a monument to Elliott sits atop a climb near Glenmalure, County Wicklow. The Memorial road race has been dominated by Irish riders over its 53 editions (the race was previously known by another name), but the victor list includes some of the top racers in the professional peloton including, Sean Kelly (twice), Martin Earley, and Malcolm Elliot among other notables.

Wikipedia is a good source for collecting facts about personalities, such as Elliott, but these facts often miss the story. Elliott was found dead of a presumed self-inflicted shotgun blast two days following the death of this father. His business ventures had either failed or were unfulfilling, an attempted comeback at racing fell short, and his marriage had collapsed numerous year previously. His estranged wife, Marguerite, a French national and sister of Elliott's former teammate and friend, Jean Stablinski, was at the funeral of Shay's father, but returned to France almost immediately after. Two days later Seamus Elliott was dead. 

Seamus Elliott on the Web:

Dublin Wheelers Cycling Club
Bike Race Info by Owen Mulholland
Fast Eddy's Flandria Cafe

In addition an Irish television documentary was produced on the life of Elliott called Cycle of Betrayal (2010), but good luck finding it on this side of the Atlantic. Unfortunate; it sounds very interesting, and the short clip on YouTube would seem to support that.

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