Today in the shop Ray, John and I huddled around the small screen of an iPhone hoping that no customer would walk into the shop for the next five minutes. Commercially this is not a good attitude to have, we depend upon our great customers to make a living but normal everyday life was now suspended for the next five minutes.
The reason for this escapism was a bike race taking place thousands of kilometres away in Italy that was now being beamed into a bicycle workshop via the eurosport player app on an iPhone. This was no ordinary bike race, it was the Tirreno Adriatico, one of the first really big pro races of the season. An added dimension of interest was the participation of Sam, the local lad from Carrick.
It would have been fantastic to watch the race on the small screen and catch the odd glimpse of his NetApp Endura jersey. It would have been a bonus if he managed to get a mention. This alone would be incredible for a rider just weeks into his first season at the highest level of World cycling. But this was Sam, and he was never going to be there riding just to finish.
What actually happened was the inclusion of a familiar name within the commentators repartee as the finish loomed close. Who would it be to win the bunch sprint was a question posed. The answer given was a number of names like Cavendish, Kittell, Greipel, and there included in the list was ‘Bennett’, which led to a shiver of excitement going down my spine.
Inside 3k to go as the tension mounted there was the dreaded word ‘Crash !’ We searched for Sam within the carnage and did not see him. After watching Marcel Kittell launch his bike ‘hammer thrower style’ into the air the camera went back to the bunch and we searched again for Sam. And there he was, fighting, pushing, shoving, taking no shit and giving no quarter. Sam was well up there and our heart rates were right up there with his.
Inside the last K and Sam is boxed in, he has to stop pedalling, readjust and go again. And go he surely does. Making up ground and places. Inside the final 200 meters and he is still there fighting, giving it everything and more. He gets switched again but that does nothing to alter his determination. He readjusts and goes again. The line is now on screen and Sam launches the bike at the line and we launch into fourth, third, fifth !
Sam was confirmed fourth which was just as impressive as his win last week in Spain. Yes, just in case you were visiting Mars last week Sam won the Classica De Almeria which was right on the back of a third on the final stage of the Tour of Oman.
It has been fantastic watching Dan Martin and Nico Roche for the past few years, winning at the highest levels but to watch Sam, the local lad from Carrick adds another dimension altogether.
I still remember Sam’s first road bike. His Mam Helen had ordered the Orbea Larrau from us in plenty of time for Christmas about 10 or 12 years ago. It probably wasn’t a Santa present but his younger brother Scott would have been at a borderline age so Santa may well have been charged with its delivery. We ordered it from our supplier and as the weeks passed by and Christmas came closer we were starting to get a little nervous but were assured that we would have it in time. Then came the week before Christmas and we were told that it would arrive up North on Friday but as Christmas day was the following Tuesday there was no guarantee that we would have it in time. This left only one option as I skipped the Sunday spin and drove the 300 mile round trip to Newry to pick it up and ensure that it would be ready for collection by Santa the following day. Now you know why I’ll always remember Sam’s first bike.
When the previous local hero Sean Kelly was at his peak winning all around we used to have to wait for the following days paper for results and the following weeks cycling weekly for pictures. Now we have it all instantly on twitter, Facebook and Youtube so here it is again just incase you were in a 3G blackspot for the afternoon
Well done Sam. Here’s looking forward to many years of you giving us heart attacks !