Throwback Thursday: Ireland’s OldVelos Sing the Song of Cyclocross – Cyclocross Magazine

The past cyclocross season was a big one for Irish cycling. The country hosted its first-ever UCI race and sent a strong contingent of young riders to Worlds in Bogense.

The growth of ’cross in the country is not limited to the sport’s highest level. Part of why Ireland was able to host a UCI race was the growing popularity of cyclocross among amateurs.

One group that has embraced cyclocross is the OldVelos. The OldVelos started about five years ago as an excuse for friends Alec and Brendan to ride vintage steel bicycles.

The group’s first event was a Commemorative Ride in 2013 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Shay Elliott’s stage win and three days in the yellow jersey at the 1963 Tour de France. Elliott was the first Irishman to race the Tour and the first to wear the yellow jersey.

A year later, the group held the first-ever OldVelos Vintage Classic, which is now an annual event on the Irish calendar that allows participants to dust off their vintage bikes, have them judged and ride either 45 or 75 miles.

When not hosting an event, Brendan Hennessey, one of the group’s founders, maintains a blog covering ’cross, road, triathlons, whatever that is equal parts informative and irreverent.

One post from the last season was entitled “The Sound of Cyclocross: De Ronde Cross—The Musical,” which we share here.

“The hills are alive with the sound of CX
With mud, slime, inclines and camber

The hills fill my lungs with gasping breathing
My heart wants to stop every lap”

“Oh father, dear Father, can we not go and play amongst the pretty marking tape. Please father?” The De Ronde children, all turned out in their sky-blue matching tights and bibs implored their strict father, Captain de Ronde, if they could not race amongst the turns and switchbacks of their grounds.

“No, not at all. We are an orderly, well maintained, well-mannered troupe. You may not get muddy.”

Captain de Ronde had never gotten over the loss of his beloved, she was of a race in another place. His charges, the best turned out in the community, were tightly marshaled, but wayward outside strict supervision. For him, there was just one too many incidents away from home where they did not keep their shirts clean.  Now, he was going to have to marshall them in front of visitors.

In exasperation, Capt. De Ronde wrote to the local institution seeking wisdom. Would they have anybody who could help?

Sister City Council responded to the request. “In our community Capt. De Ronde, we have a saying, Statio Bene Fide Ciclicrosstis. Not only do we have what you need, we have who you need.”

Sister City Council was generously offering Tramore Valley Park to Capt. De Ronde, but also a slightly problematic novice, Fraulein Munster League. “How would you say Captain, she’s a bit rough around the edges and doesn’t observe Sundays. We call her M’Liga. Ah is that not the sound of Brother Corkery coming now.”

Oh, how do you solve a problem like M’liga?

How do you pump a tyre without psi?
How do you find a course that suits M’Liga?

Many races on the one day you have to tell her
The difference between A & B she has to understand.

[Brother Walsh now…]

How do you solve a problem like M’liga?

When I’m riding a lap I’m confused
Whether on my Focus or Planet X I’m bemused

I never know where to pin the number on my arm
Or exactly where I am!

[Ah Sr. Grace…]

Oh, how do you solve a problem like M’liga?

Some fall a bit and scrape their knees, their kit gets all torn
They seem to waltz to victory, while others just fall down

And underneath their harsh exteriors, they stay up late
and clean their bikes, till they shine again.

However, M’Liga was able to help the wayward De Ronde children find fun in their lives again. Turning the once dismal and dreary dump into a ribbon-bedecked playground, M’Liga taught the youthful sky-blues to run, cycle, fall-off and frolic. Even Capt. De Ronde relaxed the rules about wearing club-gear and Fraulein M’liga helped John Ahern find his voice and express himself again.

Marking tape, Marking tape
Every corner you greet me

Red and white, clean and bright
You look happy to meet me

Ireland's OldVelos. photo: Michael Buckley

Ireland’s OldVelos. photo: Michael Buckley

News soon spread about how well the De Ronde family were performing. Visitors were coming from far and near to be entertained by the family. “He doesn’t seem so cross to me,” said Paul Birchall to AJ Murphy as the dashing Capt. De Ronde came across to him with his children.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” said Russell Treacy to Trevor Woods. “Indeed, I think they’re singing campagnolo.”

“Oh, I do love Campagnolo!” cried Tom Mulqueen, “It’s one of my favourite things…”

Drop bars on racers
And derailleurs on dropouts

Bright coloured jerseys and warm lycra mittens
Good grippy tubulars glued to new lace-ups

These are a few of my favourite things

Integrated brake levers and hydraulic cables
Chain rings and toe clips

And helmets with visors
Carbon frames that creak when you stand on the pedals

These are a few of my favourite things

Boys and girls in lycra with blue and red flashes
Wild turns that fling you to the mud face forwards

Supporters who stay on and call your name amongst others
A beautiful old Alan that springs when it’s cycled

These are a few of my favourite things

Alas, dark clouds were looming over the Valley Park. Foreign flags and bunting flapped in the bitter wind, heavy drops of rain splattered the shining footwear of the De Ronde off-spring.

The De Ronde family looked up from under their cycling caps wondering what would happen on their course’s twists and turns.  It was Sr. Nessa’s turn to sing:

You were cycling now you’re slipping
Boy, it’s time to slide

Better beware, be canny and careful
Baby, you’re in for a ride

You were cycling now you’re falling
Fellows will topple in line

Eager young lads and racers and caads
Will offer you advice and laugh

I was cycling now I’m walking
I know that I am in a heap

Fellows I meet may tell me my bikes are sweet
And willingly I believe

Ireland's OldVelos. photo: Michael Buckley

Ireland’s OldVelos. photo: Michael Buckley

Eventually, with the great help of M’Liga, Capt. De Ronde spoke to his visitors. “This is my hometown. Yes, my beloved marking tape may be blowing in the wind but I hope you find your way. Don’t try to take any shortcuts or it will be so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu. To you, and you, and you.

And the choir of racers replied:

What will this day be like? We wonder.
Which Richie will we see?

It could be so exciting to be out on the course
With our legs burning acidly.
Oh, why’s that guy laughing at me?

We’ve always longed for adventure
To jump the boards we’ve never dared
Now there’s Paudie and Kevin and Trevor
Why do they seem so carefree?

Captain De Ronde with 70 children
What’s so fearsome about that?

Oh, I must stop these doubts, all these worries
I just have to face that switchback
I must dream of not coming unstuck
Or I’ll be the same as Will Rock

The courage to take that turn on two wheels
Face my mistakes without faceplanting
Show them I’ve great handling

And while I show them
Sean Rowe and Michael Buckley will show me!