Anatomy of a Photo: 1986 Milan-San Remo

Anatomy of a Photo: 1986 Milan-San Remo

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It’s a classic tactic. The day’s break is caught and before anyone has time to decide what to do about it, you counter-attack. Already tired from chasing the break, maybe – just maybe – the suckers you tricked into pulling for you will let you get away.

That was Beccia’s plan in the 1986 Milan-San Remo. He attacked right as the break was caught on the Poggio and Greg LeMond – America’s greatest-ever cyclist – went with him. The Poggio’s big-ring gradient must have suited LeMond’s powerful style perfectly and riding with the weaker Beccia, he must have felt almost assured of notching what would be the first American win in a monument.

A quick check over the shoulder to make sure no man is bridging up. Sure enough; no man is coming, but that doesn’t mean you’re not being overtaken. That’s Sean Kelly – half man, half bear, and half pig – doing his best to crack his bottom bracket on his one-race-per-frame Vitus.

That’s three big rings and three hard men, but only one has managed to scare the mud off his forehead. Spoiler alert: the finish line photo shows Kelly with spotlessly clean face.

// Anatomy of a Photo

  1. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    And according to the video, he was expecting his second child that day.

  2. @all

    These Lance vs. Lemond arguments are just like James vs. Jordan. A waste of time. Both were greats and have done amazing things for their sport. We should be grateful for both of them, at least the non-Europeans here, as they helped raise cycling’s profile outside of Europe. Lance won the tour more, and has done great things for cancer awareness. Lemond was slightly more diverse, and is a nice guy. Both have overcome difficulties in their lives to reach the peak of their sport. Everytime someone here tries to put one below the other it’s very disheartening. I would think we could manage to be happy with both and move on. Both Armstrong and Lemond deserve our respect, and I am dissapointed whenever either one of the two gets put down here, and I think we all know at least one of them gets more then their fair share thanks to all the anti-lance trolling that takes place. You don’t have to love them, just respect them.

  3. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    I think this is how I did it:  In YouTube, click “Share” then “Embed.”  Copy the code.  Come over here, click “HTML” and paste in the code.

  4. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Now that I’ve actually watched it:  WOW.  Haven’t seen that one before.  Talk about la course en tete.  And against some bad, bad men.

  5. @King Clydesdale

    No, no-one is obligated to have to respect anyone. That’s like saying, “that Jeffrey Dahmer sure killed a lot of people in horrible ways, but boy he raised awereness of serial killing, and for that I respect him.”

    What’s to respect about a lying, cheating, sociopath bully-boy who’s made millions by being a fraud and championing a terrible disease to smokescreen what an asshole he is? Is that the type of person that should earn respect?

  6. @Nate Merci!  I’d have never gotten close to figuring that out.  Not too sure what HTML means.  Hot meal?  Hate mail?  Hail To My Loins?

    @xyxax
    Really?  My high school French just doesn’t cut it.  Doing the math, that means that, at around the very time he dropped out of the TdF in 1980, he was, well, you know, practicing his husbandly duties.

  7. @Nate

    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Now that I’ve actually watched it:  WOW.  Haven’t seen that one before.  Talk about la course en tete.  And against some bad, bad men.

    I know!  It’s not just what he does, or how he does it.  It’s in the context of taking on the giants of P-R.  RDV even had Kuiper there to drive the train.  And Hinault still hammered ’em.  Wow.  One of my all-time favorite videos.

  8. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    No idea what “HTML” stands for.  It refers to code, however.

    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    This.  Didn’t even realize RdV was still rocking it in ’81.  Plus Hennie and Moser.  Serious firepower there.

  9. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Not to mention the fact that he did it in the bands. So badass Hinault himself could lay claim to being the best American cyclist of all time and nobody would dare argue the point with him.  And all the black shorts in that video are enough to make me get down and pray at the altar of Merckx.

    Some days, when I feel like I’m going really well, I imagine myself instead of LeMan in that pic that @RedRanger posted. Then I realize what a Choadstool I am and that I’m only going 23kph.

  10. Just got to love Kelly.

    Here’s a pic we got at last year’s Cat & Fiddle ride in Stoke. He’s still laying down the V today…

    Martin, Sean Kelly & Andy

     

  11. @Marko Yep.  Black shorts.  A-Merckx, Brother.

  12. Great photo. Beccia this look on his face of “I’m not game to look back! Fuck I hope that’s not who I think it is, ’cause if it is, I’m fucked!”

  13. @il ciclista medio

    Yep. And Lemond looks beaten, too. I know it’s a still photo, but it looks as though he’s already started freewheeling, having accepted defeat…

    Must be an Irish thing. My son was born in the Coombe, and he’s been dishing out the pain on the local MTB ride.

  14. @Steampunk

    This. Name one other rider who would have instilled such fear? Take the anatomy of a photo theme even further: the race is already over. The winner is inevitable.

    +1 there are only a handful of the greats that would creat that “oh shit” moment where you know your done, no matter what you try. Kelly is at the top of the list with Merckxs and Hinault.

    @Frank, it’s too bad Major Taylor did not race in the modern era… He overcame more racesist B.S., obviously was not “doping” and remained a gentleman.

    I too hung out with Greg but found him to be a bit big headed, not in a bad way for a nineteen year old already a star. As I think about it maybe the feeling was he was spoiled. Not that he did not work nor have his heart in it, he did but that it all came a little too easy. Compare him to the Euros and how they came up and their attitudes of working and being hard in life before being hard on the bike just to scrap out a place in a training race so that you might get noticed… Greg had it easy. Just saying that is not bad but the attitude did not impress …

    As for Armstrong never met the man and have such mixed feelings about his Palmeres and methods of training. Leaving aside pharmacology he was too mechanical and driven with out the humanity of Merckx who was also the same in his training. The difference is that Merckx risked failure and Armstrong never did…

  15. @Rob

    I too hung out with Greg but found him to be a bit big headed, not in a bad way for a nineteen year old already a star. As I think about it maybe the feeling was he was spoiled. Not that he did not work nor have his heart in it, he did but that it all came a little too easy. Compare him to the Euros and how they came up and their attitudes of working and being hard in life before being hard on the bike just to scrap out a place in a training race so that you might get noticed… Greg had it easy. Just saying that is not bad but the attitude did not impress …

    Interesting perspective. A former student of mine who works at my local café talked about racing with Taylor Phinney a few years ago, and how””similar situation””already an imminent star as a teenager, he was impressed with his big personality. The aura around him. I think he was impressed with his abilities, but less enamoured of his character””having to deal with already being the next big thing.

    @Rob

    +1 there are only a handful of the greats that would creat that “oh shit” moment where you know your done, no matter what you try. Kelly is at the top of the list with Merckxs and Hinault.

    Kelly’s also notoriously different than a number of the greats insofar as he is less famous for his long breakaways (Coppi, Merckx, et al.), but rather for this kind of comeback. My other great favourite of this period was Fignon, but his style involved being part of the initial break. You get the impression for most of the contenders in Kelly’s two MSR wins, he’s the only one who had the mental fortitude to claw back the distance lost, where most would have been inclined to sit up. Interesting that Kelly is one of the very few riders who gets a lot of praise from Fignon in his autobiography.

  16. @Oli

    @frank Wrong. Far from a “one-trick pony” before cancer Armstrong was convinced he could improve on his 36th (32nd?) place on GC in the Tour to maybe one day take a tilt at the podium. He won small stage races like Tour Dupont and came close to winning Paris-Nice. He was the first American to win a classic when he won Fleche-Wallone, and he came second in Amstel a couple of times. He raced from the start of the season until the end. I’m not disputing your LeMond statements, as I agree he was a legend, but you’re being a bit revisionist about LA’s place in the scheme of things.

    Having aspirations to improve on a 36th place is a long shot from being a contender in the Tour pre-cancer. And La Fleche is a classic, but its no monument. He did win DuPont (awesome race, by the way, wish that was still around) but that and Paris-Nice are both a far cry from a grand tour.

    I’ll give you that calling him a classics-specialist is unfair in light of those races, but he was no all-rounder like LeMond winning the Tour and getting second in MSR during the same season. Its a completely different class of races.

  17. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    I’m too ignorant of technology to link a video, so bear with me while I go old school and cut/paste…

    My favorite “I’m going to chase you down, then lead from the front, then sprint from the front, win, and you can do fuck all about it” moment is Hinault’s victory at Paris-Roubaix in 1981.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdjP4TFwDEc  He crashes.  Then he catches.  Then he goes to the front to let everyone know he’s caught back on.  Then, when he enters the velodrome, he overpowers the likes of RDV, Moser, Van Calster, Demeyer, and Kuiper.  Just beats them in a drag race.  Like redheaded step-children.  No jockeying for position.  Opens a 2liter can of whoop-ass.  The announcer shits himself.  It’s AWESOME.

    Possibly the best finish ever, especially with him in the bands. Incredible. Bretto actually circulated that video around the KT attendees pre-departure to remind us how to ride if something goes awry on KT.

  18. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    @Nate How?  I used to do it under the old program, but I’m lost now.

    Its the same as always. Just past the “embed” code from YouTube. Or, if you past the link, the link will convert it when you click on it.

  19. @King Clydesdale

    Saying one athlete  is better than another is hardly being disrespectful, mate. Pointless, sure. Fun, absolutely. Disrespectful? We have different definitions of what that means.

  20. @Rob

    As for Armstrong never met the man and have such mixed feelings about his Palmeres and methods of training. Leaving aside pharmacology he was too mechanical and driven with out the humanity of Merckx who was also the same in his training. The difference is that Merckx risked failure and Armstrong never did…

    Well articulated as usual, my man. As for LeMond, I was probably too young and starstruck to recognize spoiledom or some such, or maybe he was over by then. One way or another, he was incredibly friendly and approachable.

  21. I loved King Kelly.  And I really loved his Vitus.  I raced an Alan for a little while, which was essentially the same bike.  Aluminum tubes screwed and glued to lugs.  If someone still made that frame, but designed it to support the wider hubs of today, I’d buy one. 

  22. @frank  I liked him too for the 4 races and 3 hours I spent socially with him. It’s just that I still have a bug about him that does not need going into here and it ties into that “spoiledom”. He was a natural, talented and dedicated and if his mini dufoosness of getting shot had not sped his retirement he would have stood with the Gods. Perhaps it was karma?

    Also while I am on a rant one could argue that his Yank sense of entitlement caused the whole train wreck of Euro dopage or at least speed it along. His ego and need for a U.S. football like pay check was what started the quest for teams demanding more from all the riders. . . Maybe that is simplistic and you can’t put the genie back?

  23. @Jeff in PetroMetro Kelly for me is the epitome of old school tough, get it done with style, don’t whine, ride with balls of steel and throw in the best accent in the peloton!

  24. I did not discover competitive cycling until 1989, inspired by Greg LeMond versus Laurent Fignon and 8 seconds to wiin the Tour de France. And can still hear Phil Liggett caught in the excitement.

  25. @versio and the deficit going into that ride was 50 seconds and Lemond got all aero then did the ride of the decade and Fignon was just devastated… I remember how intense it was and poignant, happy and sad all at once – the smallest margins of victory/defeat ever for the Grande Boucle.

  26. @Rob Totally agree.

  27. @frank

    @Anjin-san

    Sean Kelly is about as hard as they come, but I have never cared for LeMond.  You may not like him, but it’s hard to argue that Armstrong (Lance, not Kristin) is America’s best all-time cyclist.  There, I said it, let the thrashing begin ; )

    Finally someone bit, it’s about time.

    Pharmy isn’t the best not because of his obvious doping to get to the top, but because he was a one-trick pony. Pre-Cancer, it was only classics. Post-Cancer, it was only the Tour with the exception of Liege to test his form. Not to mention that he was standing on the shoulders of giants in terms of infrastructure and a precedent of American cyclists in Europe.

    Not only was LeMond a pioneer in Europe, but were it not for his hunting accident, he’d have 5 if not 6 or 7 Tour wins to his name as well, along with podiums or wins in races on both ends of the calendar. He was second both in MSR and Lombardy (both to Kelly, incidentally).

    And that’s even before we start talking about what an incredibly nice guy LeMond was. Having known him personally and spent more than a few hours hanging out and skiing with him, he was absolutely genuinely friendly. And fucking hard as nails. And – we know now that LeMond was right all along when he went all douchey about drugs in cycling.

    We do know he was right. I said some fairly not nice things about LeMan during a certain period of uncertainty over some doping cases some years ago. And…I was very wrong, and LeMan was very right. He still is.

    I learned my lesson.

  28. It’s so sweet to counter attack, catch ’em by surprise, and then strong leg it to the line.

    Awesomeness!

  29. @frank No it’s not! MSR is “just” attrition, being able to handle the Cipressa and the Poggio and having a fair sprint at the end – any GT rider should be able to handle the distance – whereas Fleche and Amstel are tough races that aren’t won by punters, and who cares if they aren’t monuments?

    I agree that LeMond had some good classics results, but he was essentially a Tour specialist too – in fact, like Armstrong post-cancer, LeMond post-shooting was almost laughable outside the Tour, Worlds win aside. I’m not trying to say LeMond was or wasn’t better or worse than Armstrong, but the calibre of non-Tour results are actually very similar between the two.

  30. @frank And, again, you’ve twisted my words – I didn’t say he hoped to just improve on 36th in the Tour, I said he believed (and those around him believed) that he was capable of at least a podium, perhaps more. When I can be arsed I will scan the interview he gave after the ’95 Tour where he says that just making it through the race was the plan, with a view to the future of more clear performance goals once he knew how it was to finish a three week GT. You have to remember he was still very young at that point (24 in ’95) too.  Like him or don’t like him, but he was always a prodigious power, in much the same way as LeMond was when he was young.

  31. Lemond was the first cyclist I “remember” – I read about his and Kelly’s tour exploits in the Daily Mail growing up in the UK, I remember reading about the hunting accident and the comeback and just being amazed. To be honest, personalities apart, all of these greats actually move me to tears with their efforts – even guys like Cadel or Cavendish who it seems it’s unfashionable to admire. As a mid 40s social cyclist, I have my own goals and things I’d like to achieve on the bike – most of which centre around finishing in one piece (an even more that I will probably never manage) – I can only imagine the pain and the torture these guys put themselves through to achieve, and I think most of them to have every right to be a little self focussed and pumped – I think any athlete at the top of the game must be absolutely convinced that they are going to fulfil their goal every day they go out there – there is no room for self doubt, they just won’t make it if that’s the case.

    I love the Hinault P-R clip posted above, never seen that, just totally inspiring, and in the same vein I loved Armstrong going across the paddock in the Tour, Cavendish and Renshaw’s efforts on the Champs-Elysee, Cadel’s TT at the end of last year’s tour. These things blow me away. Over and over again – and what’s best is they make me want to run out jump on the bike and ride.

    Am totally feeling the warm and fuzzies at the moment. Just thought I’d say it.

  32. @936adl

    Nice photo.Thanks for sharing.

  33. @Giles Glad you did.

  34. @Giles

    It is always fashionable to admire riders you like around here. People may not admire the same ones and we all have to be prepared to catch a little but I don’t think anybody takes this seriously enough to make it personal. At least where riders are concerned. But you’re wrong. Cadel and Cavendish are fashionable – Cadel always has been and Cav is really coming into his own this and last year. So there.

    Great comment.

  35. When Sean Kelly speaks of hard men, he always starts with Steve Bauer….

  36. @marko

    @Giles

    It is always fashionable to admire riders you like around here … Cadel and Cavendish are fashionable – Cadel always has been …

    Great comment.

    Wut? Cuddles pre-Tour win was painted as the biggest weirdo ever. Sure, he was probably frustrated as all get out by the situation with his team pre-BMC, but there wasn’t a lot of love for Cuddles outside Aus. Anyone else here think Cuddles was a wheelsucker before he won the tour? 

  37. Is that a fact: did Kelly only ride those 979 frames once before swapping them out?

  38. @minion

    Can you stop posting common sense? I feel dirty when I agree with you.

    Every non-Australian (and quite a few Aussies – like Brett) used to bag the shit out of Evans. But you are wrong on the timing – his Worlds win was the point when he started to turn people’s opinion – then we saw him win Fleche, the muddy Giro stage win, etc etc.

    Even as a one-eyed Cadel fan, I still didn’t think he was a chance going into last year’s Tour. I was one of those armchair experts opining that he should target the Vuelta and one week stage races…

  39. <iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/-fe79ZuDKfk” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

     

    I didn’t say he’s NOT a creepy little weirdo… 

  40. BTW just kidding I like Cuddles, though I was like Marcus said (ashes in my mouth) I was more ambivalent towards him before he started his worlds/Giro et al purple patch. The only thing I can recall before that was feeling sorry for him in GTs being with Lotto. (See content of above video not related to dogs) 

  41. @lonewheel No, he didn’t ride a different one every race. But he sure killed a few every season…

  42. @lonewheel
    No it’s not a fact, but he did break a lot in a year, I heard him talking them up only this year commentating on MSR, saying what he rode was every bit as light in the 80’s with ali frames and titanium hubs etc. The days when you couldn’t buy what eeh pro’s rode at your LBS. The man’s a legend, my no 2 ride is 979, I only ride it in full KAS regalia, signed by the man himself, breaks all sorts of rules but as a Tipp man it feels good (yes I know he was from Waterford).

  43. Lots of talk here about Kelly being the undoubted hardman that he was/is. Lots of chatter doing he rounds about Wiggo’s meticulously planned training schedule. I’m a big fan of being well-rounded and well-read. Here’s a link to one of the most incredible athletes of all time; Emil Zatopek. Not a cyclist, but a name all should know. His training regimen beggars belief. Add to his success his amazingly personality and strength of character, and it’s well worth  couple of minutes of our time. It’s from the Guardian and the rest of the articles in the series are a joy to read too.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2012/jun/22/50-olympic-stunning-moments-emil-zatopek?INTCMP=SRCH

  44. @frank Sorry for the delayed reply… the current round of allegations against Armstrong and Bruyneel seem like bullshit to me.  Armstrong was tested over 300 times as a professional and never came up hot.  Now, more than two years after his last test as a pro cyclist (he is still being tested as a Triathlete- once again, no positives) he is under investigation.  Based on what?  The allegations of riders that were not and never will be as good as him.  I agree that this is like Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan, BUT I think anyone who claims to definitively know that Armstrong was a doper is full of shit.

  45. My mate and Cycling Sensei has had the pleasure of being chased by Sean Kelly (two years ago on the Etape Hibernia when King Kelly acknowledged his effort for bridging a gap and taking Mr Kelly with him!) and riding the Poggio, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on what way you look at it) not a combination of the two.  He did have me chasing him up the Poggio, which I imagine doesn’t have quite the same effect…..

    Great section of road – you can really feel the history!

  46. @Ali McKee I think that’s one of the things that keeps me a Kelly fan is that he is still so involved on a grassroots level. This isn’t case of showing up for the occasional Gran Fondo, but it seems like he rides these events very regularly. He truly loves riding the bike and staying involved. I mean, how many folks can say they shot some hoops with Jordan, or played a round with Tiger? Damn few.

    While I’m at it, another great thing about our sport, as Ali suggests, is our ability to ride the very same roads as our heroes. We can have that connection and, if we’re lucky, ride beside one. How many folks can say they hit some fly balls at Yankee Stadium or drove at Indy? There a certain disconnect there that doesn’t apply to us.

  47. Thanks guys.  Interesting. I used to ride one of those 979’s myself (complete with Mavic assembly as close to Kelly’s as I could afford), and even as a 60KG mountain climbing junior, I could make the thing flex like a noodle.  I upgrade to a custom Reynolds 753 and never looked back!  

  48. @wiscot
    Totally agree with you on both points. And by all accounts he doesn’t just turn up and roll along easy. Apparently the pace at the Etape that year was tasty and Kelly was right in the middle of it for the majority of the ride. Legend!

    What amazed me on the Cipressa and the Poggio was the atmosphere I felt riding up them.

    It should be some sort of Velominati challenge to rank the top ten sections of road on the pro circuit and then ride as many as possible in a year or two. Not easy for our American brothers mind you!

  49. @lonewheel I had an Alan and even at 72kg the chain would sometimes jump sprockets when I sprinted – I didn’t flex bikes much back then but I sure flexed that Alan!

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