Sean Kelly (cyclist)

John James 'Sean' Kelly (born 24 May 1956)[3] is an Irish former professional road bicycle racer, one of the most successful road cyclists of the 1980s, and one of the finest classics riders of all time. From turning professional in 1977 until his retirement in 1994, he won nine monument classics, and 193 professional races in total. He won Paris–Nice seven years in a row and the first UCI Road World Cup in 1989. He won the 1988 Vuelta a España and had multiple wins in the Giro di Lombardia, Milan–San Remo, Paris–Roubaix and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. Other victories include the Critérium International, Grand Prix des Nations and smaller tours including the Tour de Suisse, Tour of the Basque Country and Volta a Catalunya.

Sean Kelly
Sean Kelly, Tour de France 2009.jpg
Kelly in 2009
Personal information
Full nameJohn James Kelly
NicknameSean, King Kelly[1]
Born (1956-05-24) 24 May 1956 (age 64)
Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary,[2] Ireland
Height1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Weight77 kg (170 lb; 12 st 2 lb)
Team information
Current teamRetired
Rider typeStarted as a sprinter
Became an all-rounder
Professional teams
1977–1978Flandria–Velda–Latina Assicurazioni
1979–1981Splendor–Euro Soap
1982–1983Sem–France Loire–Campagnolo
Major wins
Grand Tours
Tour de France
Points classification (1982, 1983, 1985, 1989)
Intermediate sprints classification (1982, 1983, 1989)
5 individual stages
Vuelta a España
General classification (1988)
Points classification (1980, 1985, 1986, 1988)
16 individual stages

Stage races

Paris–Nice (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988)
Tour de Suisse (1983, 1990)
Tour of the Basque Country (1984, 1986, 1987)
Volta a Catalunya (1984, 1986)
Critérium International (1983, 1984, 1987)

One-day races and Classics

Milan–San Remo (1986, 1992)
Paris–Roubaix (1984, 1986)
Liège–Bastogne–Liège (1984, 1989)
Giro di Lombardia (1983, 1985, 1991)
Gent–Wevelgem (1988)
Paris–Tours (1984)


Super Prestige Pernod International (1984–1986)
UCI Road World Cup (1989)

Kelly twice won bronze medals (1982, 1989) in the World Road Race Championships and finished 5th in 1987, the year compatriot Stephen Roche won gold. Kelly was first to be ranked No.1 when the FICP rankings were introduced in March 1984, a position he held for a record five years. By total career ranking points, Kelly is the second best cyclist of all time after Eddy Merckx.[4] In the 1984 season, Kelly achieved 33 victories.

Early life and amateur careerEdit

Kelly is the second son of Jack (John) and Nellie Kelly, a farming family in Curraghduff in County Waterford. He was born at Belleville Maternity Home in Waterford city on 21 May 1956. He was named John James Kelly after his father and then, to avoid confusion at home, referred to as Sean.[5] Seán is the Irish form of John.

For eight years he attended Crehana National School, County Waterford to which he travelled with his older brother, Joe. Fellow pupils recall a boy who retreated into silence because, they thought, he felt intellectually outclassed.[6] His education ended at 13 when he left school to help on the farm after his father went to hospital in Waterford with an ulcer. At 16 he began work as a bricklayer.

Kelly began cycling after his brother had started riding to school in September 1969. Joe rode and won local races and on 4 August 1970 Sean rode his own first race, at Kennedy Terrace in Carrickbeg, County Waterford, part of Carrick-on-Suir. The race was an eight-mile (13 km) handicap, which meant the weaker riders started first and the best last. Kelly set off three minutes before the backmarkers. He was still three minutes ahead when the course turned for home after four miles (6 km) and more than three minutes in the lead when he crossed the line. At 16 he won the national junior championship at Banbridge, County Down.

Kelly won the national championship again in 1973, then took a senior licence before the normal qualifying age of 18 and won the Shay Elliot Memorial race in 1974 and again in 1975 and stages in the Tour of Ireland of 1975.[7]

Kelly and two other Irish riders, Pat and Kieron McQuaid, went to South Africa to ride the Rapport Tour stage-race in preparation for the 1976 Olympic Games. They and others rode under false names[8] because of an international ban on athletes competing in South Africa, as a protest against apartheid. The three Irish were suspended from racing for six months. They were racing again when the International Olympic Committee banned them from the Olympics for life.[9]

Unable to ride in Canada, Kelly rode the 1976 Tour of Britain and then went to Metz, in France, after a London enthusiast, Johnny Morris, had arranged an invitation. Velo Club de Metz offered him £25 a week, free accommodation and four francs a kilometre for every race he won. Kelly won 18 of the 25 races he started in France and won the amateur Giro di Lombardia in Italy.

The win in Italy impressed two French team managers, Jean de Gribaldy and Cyrille Guimard. De Gribaldy went to Ireland unannounced to discuss a contract with the Flandria professional team.[10] He did not know where Kelly lived and was not sure he would recognise him, so he took with him another cyclist, to point out Kelly, and translate. Kelly was out driving a tractor and de Gribaldy set out again in the taxi that had brought him from Dublin, hoping to find Kelly as he drove home. They found him and went to Kelly's stepbrother's house. De Gribaldy offered £4,000 a year plus bonuses, and a week later Kelly asked for £6,000, and got it. He signed for de Gribaldy, with misgivings about going back on his promise to return to VC de Metz; the club had offered him better terms than before.[11]

Kelly left for France in January 1977 and lived for two years at 18 place de la Révolution in Besançon, de Gribaldy's home town. He shared with four teammates.

Professional careerEdit

Early yearsEdit

Kelly's first professional race was the Étoile de Bessèges. It started on 7 February 1977 and lasted six days. Kelly came 10th on the first day. The Flandria team was in two parts: the strongest riders, such as the world champion Freddy Maertens, were in the main section, based in Belgium. Kelly rode with the second section, based more in France because Flandria wanted to sell more of its mopeds, scooters and bicycles there. The strongest riders in both camps came together for big races. Kelly was recruited as a domestique for Maertens in the main team for year's Paris–Nice – shortly afterwards he won his first race, the opening stage of the Tour de Romandie. In 1978, he started in the Tour de France, in which he also won a stage.

Kelly stayed with de Gribaldy for 1977 and 1978. Then in 1978 Michel Pollentier was disqualified from the Tour de France after cheating a drugs test on the afternoon that he took the race lead. He left the team at the end of the season and started his own, with a new backer, Splendor. Both Maertens and Pollentier wanted Kelly. Pollentier and Splendor offered Kelly more and made him a team leader.[12] But Splendor was new and logistic problems became obvious. The bikes were in poor state – enough that Splendor decided not to ride Paris–Roubaix – and the manager, Robert Lauwers, was replaced. Kelly rose above it and rode for himself. The writer Robin Magowan said:

Some people can do business on the committee system; others find that life is only fun when you are running the show. In Kelly's case it was to mean working for the collection of underpaid has-beens that de Gribaldy habitually assembled. But a smaller, less pretentious team can have its advantages for a rider of Kelly's sort. When you don't have to compete for a team's loyalty you can concentrate on winning races, and that's exactly what Kelly proceeded to do.[13]

In time the team improved. Kelly received few offers from elsewhere and Splendor matched those he did get. He was paid about £30,000 plus bonuses in his last season with Splendor. But strengthening the team had included bringing in another sprinter, Eddy Planckaert, and Kelly's role as a foreigner in the team was unclear. He heard that de Gribaldy was starting a new team and the two were reunited in 1982 at Sem-France Loire.

Stage successesEdit

By now Kelly had a reputation as a sprinter who could not win stage races, although he did finish fourth in the 1980 Vuelta a España.[14] De Gribaldy employed him as unambiguous team leader, someone he believed could win stage races and not just stages. To this end, de Gribaldy encouraged Kelly to lose weight, convincing the latter that he could target the overall win at Paris–Nice: Kelly won the "Race to the Sun" and four of its stages. On the last of those, a time-trial to the col d'Eze, he beat Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle and pushed him out of the lead. Years later Kelly admitted that his countryman Roche's emergence during his neo-pro season in 1981, during which he had also won Paris-Nice, was one of the factors which motivated him to adjust his focus to becoming more of an all-round rider. However, the spring classics season proved a disappointment, with Kelly's best result being a 12th place in Paris–Roubaix after suffering multiple punctures.[15] Despite that, that season he went on to win another of objectives set by de Gribaldy: the points classification of the Tour de France, where he took five second places on flat stages before winning a reduced bunch sprint in Pau after climbing the Col d'Aubisque. His points total was nearly three times that of the points classification runner-up, the yellow jersey winner Bernard Hinault.[16][15] He finished third in the world championship in England - the first worlds medal for an Irish rider since Shay Elliott's silver in 1962[15] - and at the end of the year married his girlfriend, Linda Grant, the daughter of a local cycling club official. Carrick-on-Suir named the town square "the Sean Kelly Square" in tribute to his achievements in the 1982 Tour de France and his bronze medal at the championship[17] The following year Kelly again won Paris–Nice and then the Critérium International and the Tour de Suisse as well as the points classification in the Tour de France the second time in a row.

Kelly confirmed his potential in autumn 1983. A leading group of 18 entered Como in the Giro di Lombardia after a battle over the Intelvi and Schignano passes. Kelly won the sprint by the narrowest margin, less than half a wheel separating the first four, against cycling greats including Francesco Moser, Adri van der Poel, Hennie Kuiper and world champion Greg LeMond.

Kelly dominated the following spring. He won Paris–Nice for the third successive time beating Roche as well as the Tour de France winner, Bernard Hinault[18] who was returning after a knee injury. Kelly finished second in Milan–San Remo and the Tour of Flanders, but was unbeatable in Paris–Roubaix and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. The day after Paris–Roubaix, the French daily sports paper, L'Équipe, pictured Kelly cycling the cobbles with mud on his face and had the heading Insatiable Kelly! referring to his appetite for winning that spring[19] He won all three stages in the Critérium International: the bunch sprint on stage 1, a solo victory in the mountain stage and beating Roche in the final time trial. Kelly achieved 33 victories in 1984. He was becoming a contender in the grand tours, as seen by finishing fifth in the Tour de France. This may have caused him to lose his grip on the points classification in that year's Tour. Kelly was wearing it as the Tour was finishing on the Champs-Élysées but lost it in the bunch finish to the Belgian, Frank Hoste, who finished ahead of Kelly gaining points to take the jersey off Kelly's shoulders.[20]

He won Paris–Nice in 1985, again beating Roche. He also took three stage wins at the Vuelta a España, but suffered a frustrating spring classics season, taking a third place at Paris-Roubaix and fourth at Liège–Bastogne–Liège, but losing out on wins through poor tactical decisions, such as at Milan-San Remo where he and rival Eric Vanderaerden marked each other out of contention. He won the points classification for the third time and finished fourth in the 1985 Tour de France, where his rivalry with Vanderaerden boiled over at the finish of the sixth stage in Reims: the latter veered to prevent Kelly from coming past in the final sprint, leading Kelly to push Vanderarden, and the Belgian pulling the Irishman's jersey in response. The race saw him battle for the last step on the GC podium with Stephen Roche: although Roche finished the tour in third, the duo's performances saw interest in the race expanding gradually in the Irish press.[21] Kelly won the first Nissan International Classic beating Van Der Poel. At the end of the season, he won the Giro di Lombardia.

He won Milan–San Remo in 1986 after winning Paris–Nice. In Milan-San Remo, Kelly was being marked closely by Vanderaerden in the closing stages of the race. Mario Beccia attacked on the race's final climb of the Poggio di San Remo and was followed by Greg LeMond. In order to shake Vanderaerden, Kelly feigned a mechanical problem before sprinting away to join the lead group, and drove hard on the front to prevent Niki Rüttimann, LeMond's team-mate, who had followed Kelly, from linking up with the front group: Kelly won the three-up sprint at the finish. He also took stage wins at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Critérium International and Three Days of De Panne. He finished second in the Tour of Flanders and won Paris–Roubaix again. According to his autobiography Hunger, Kelly gave his support to Van der Poel in the latter's bid to win Flanders in exchange for the Dutchman's help in the French cobbled classic. In Flanders, Kelly rode on the front of the leading four man group in the closing stages of the race, which also included Van der Poel, Jean-Philippe Vandenbrande and Steve Bauer: regarding the final sprint, Kelly wrote that "I started my sprint early, and I knew Van der Poel was probably in my wheel as well, but I certainly gave it 100 per cent". After Flanders, he flew to Spain to race the Tour of the Basque Country, which he won, before flying north to compete in Paris-Roubaix. Roles were reversed as Kelly followed Van der Poel in latching onto an attack from Ferdi Van Den Haute on a late cobbled secteur to form another four-man group along with Rudy Dhaenens. Van Den Haute attacked again a kilometre from the race finish - which was located away from Roubaix Velodrome for the first time since 1943 - and once again Van der Poel led Kelly out in the sprint, enabling the latter to cross the line first. To date, Kelly is one of only three riders to win the double of Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix in the same year, along with Cyrille van Hauwaert in 1908 and John Degenkolb in 2015. Kelly was enagaged in an intense racing schedule, even by contemporary standards, having competed 34 times from the beginning of the season to 1986. He later explained this as partly due to the influence of Jean de Gribaldy, who reasoned that he might as well race if he was going to have to train on his bike if he didn't compete, and because of new sponsor Kas, a Spanish soft drink manufacturer, who were primarily concerned with success in Spain, and uninterested in winning the classics, meaning Kelly had to compete in both types of races. He finished on a podium in a grand tour for the first time when he finished third in the 1986 Vuelta a España, winning two stages along the way.[14][22] Kelly missed the 1986 Tour de France due to a serious crash in the last stage of Tour de Suisse. He returned to Ireland and won the Nissan Classic again. His second win in the Nissan came after a duel with Steve Bauer, who took the yellow jersey after Kelly crashed numerous times. Kelly went into the final stage three seconds behind Bauer and took the jersey when he finished third on the stage and won bonus seconds.[23] Kelly took more than 30 victories in total across the 1986 season.[22]

Kelly won Paris–Nice in 1987 on the last day after Roche, the leader, punctured. Later, leading the Vuelta a España with three days to go, he retired with an extremely painful saddle sore. His bad luck continued in the Tour de France, retiring after a crash tore ligaments in his shoulder. After the World Championship, in which he finished fifth behind Roche, Kelly returned to Ireland to win the Nissan for the third consecutive time.

Kelly won his seventh Paris–Nice in spring 1988, a record. He won Gent–Wevelgem several weeks later.

Grand Tour successEdit

Kelly (right) with Etienne De Wilde in 1988

Kelly returned in April to the 1988 Vuelta a España which started on the rugged mountainous island of Tenerife where his team struggled in the second stage, losing the influential rider Thomas Wegmüller to dysentery and losing further time in the time-trial around Las Palmas. However, on the Spanish mainland, Kelly concentrated on winning sprint time bonuses, battling with sprinter Jorge Dominguez, the BH teammate of leader, Laudelino Cubino.

After regaining a minute in four days, the race reached the mountains where Kelly relied on help from Robert Millar of team Fagor-MBK to stay within two minutes of Cubino after the mountain trial to Alto Oviedo. He then finished fourth behind stage-winner Fabio Parra and Anselmo Fuerte on stage 13 to the ski-station at Cerler, cutting a minute and a half into Cubino's lead.[24] From this stage, Fuerte had moved into second overall and later took the jersey from Cubino on the 16th stage to Albacete when the leader got caught on the wrong side of a split caused by cross-winds.[25]

Kelly maintained the gap between himself and Fuerte and started the time trial on the second last day 21 seconds behind. Confident that he could overhaul the leader, he "put it in a big gear and gave it everything".[26] He took the leader's amarillo jersey, beating Fuerte by almost two minutes. The following day Kelly won his only grand tour, over West German Raimund Dietzen[27] and also won the points competition.[28] After his Vuelta win Kelly returned to Carrick-on-Suir where a parade was held in his honour.[29]

Twilight of his careerEdit

Kelly (left) with the Festina–Lotus team at the 1993 Paris–Nice

Kelly finished 46th in the Tour de France just over an hour behind Pedro Delgado. He was no longer a contender for overall victory after this and said he'd never win the Tour de France.[30] Kelly finished third behind the German, Rolf Gölz, in the Nissan Classic that year Kelly finished third in the sprint at the rainy world road championship of 1989 at Chambéry, France, behind Dimitri Konyshev and Greg Lemond. Lemond won his second rainbow jersey as world champion.

Kelly switched to the Dutch PDM team and stayed there three years until the end of 1991. The following year he won Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the points classification in the Tour de France, and the inaugural UCI Road World Cup championship. Kelly won the Tour de Suisse in 1990. In March 1991, he broke a collarbone,[31] then pulled out of the 1991 Tour de France[32] and then while Kelly was competing the Tour of Galicia in August, his brother Joe was killed in a race near Carrick-on-Suir.[33] He came back to win his fourth Nissan Classic by four seconds over Sean Yates[34] and then went to and won the classic at the end of the season, the Giro di Lombardia.

Kelly won the Giro di Lombardia for a third time in 1991 but started 1992 regarded as past his prime. He moved to Festina and prepared for Milan–San Remo. Race favourite Moreno Argentin attacked from the leading group on the final climb, the Poggio. He broke clear after several attempts and reached the top eight seconds before the rest. It seemed he was on his way to a solo victory as the peloton descended the Poggio, where Maurizio Fondriest led, marked by Argentin's teammate Rolf Sørensen. Kelly was behind these two in third position. Kelly attacked with three kilometres of descending left. Sorensen could not hold his acceleration and Kelly got away. He caught Argentin with a kilometre to go. Both stalled, the chasers closing fast, Argentin gesturing to Kelly to take the front. Kelly stayed on Argentin's wheel. The two moved again, preparing for a sprint; Kelly launched himself and in the final 200m came past Argentin to win his final classic.

In 1992, Kelly travelled to Colombia for the Clásico RCN, where he won the second stage.[35] His PDM teammate, Martin Earley, pushed him into second place at the 1993 Irish road championship.

Kelly's last year as a professional was 1994, when he rode for Catavana. He returned to Carrick-on-Suir at the end of the season to ride the annual Hamper race. That was Kelly's last race as a professional. Eddy Merckx, Laurent Fignon, Bernard Hinault, Roger De Vlaeminck, Claude Criquielion, Stephen Roche, Martin Earley, Acacio Da Silva and Paul Kimmage were among 1,200 cyclists present.[36] The President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, attended a civic presentation to Kelly the day before the race. Kelly won in a sprint against Roche. Kelly won this race again six years later.

Legacy and riding styleEdit

Kelly's career is remarkable in that it spanned the eras of several legends of the Tour de France, from Eddy Merckx through to Miguel Indurain. His first Tour was also the first for Bernard Hinault and the two battled in the sprint of stage 15. Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon emerged in the early eighties and challenged Kelly in the classics as well as in the Tour, and Kelly witnessed the rise of Miguel Indurain and the early career of Lance Armstrong. Kelly's career coincided with Stephen Roche as well as classics specialists including Francesco Moser, Claude Criquielion, Moreno Argentin and Eric Vanderaerden. Evidence of Kelly's dominance can be seen from his three victories in the season-long Super Prestige Pernod International competition (predecessor to the World Cup). Kelly competed throughout the season, from Paris–Nice in March to the Giro di Lombardia in October, winning both in 1983 and 1985.

Robin Magowan said:

"It is customary to talk of Kelly as quintessentially an Irish rider. For my part, though, I think it helps to place Kelly better as a cyclist to see him as the last of the Flemish riders.[37] This is usually a title associated with the post-war rider, Briek Schotte who has become appropriately enough the man in day-to-day charge of the de Gribaldy teams. As exemplified by Schotte it stood for a certain type of mentality, willing to suffer, narrowly focussed, and hard, hard, hard. Kelly had all this in him from his Irish small-farm background: the outside loo;[38] the dogs that have to be chained before you can step from your car; the one career possible, as a bricklayer on a construction site, stretching away and away into the grey mists. On the positive side, along with the self-reliance, came a physical strength that even by peasant standards is impressive. In a profession of iron wills, there is no one harder."[39]

While some sprinters remain sheltered in the peloton until the final few hundred metres, Kelly could instigate breaks and climb well, proving this by winning the Vuelta a España in 1988, as well as winning a stage of Paris-Nice on the climb of Mont Ventoux. His victories in Paris–Roubaix (1984, 1986) showed his ability in poor weather and on pavé sections, while he could stay with the climbing specialists in the mountains in the Tour de France. He was also a formidable descender, clocking a career top race speed of 124 km/h, while descending from Col de Joux Plane to Morzine on stage 19 of the Tour in 1984.[40] He finished fourth in the Tour in 1985 and won the points classification in 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1989, the first to win four times, a feat he repeated in the Vuelta a España. Kelly won five stages in the Tour de France and 16 in the Vuelta a España.


Kelly failed drug tests twice during his career. After the 1984 edition of Paris–Brussels, in which he had finished third, cycling authorities stated that a urine sample supplied by Kelly had tested positive for pemoline (Stimul), a result which was repeated with the testing of a B sample. The Royal Belgian Cycling League sentenced Kelly to a three-month suspended ban and a fine. Kelly denied taking any banned substances: in an interview at the time with David Walsh, he claimed that there were "irregularities at the testing centre that day... the medical control at Paris-Brussels was very badly organised and lots of people were in the room who had no right to be there... in all this confusion something must have gone wrong". In his autobiography Hunger, Kelly stated that Irish Cycling Federation official Karl McCarthy, who acted as a witness on Kelly's behalf at the second test as he was unable to attend due to racing commitments, told him that the B sample was "tiny" and below the amount required for the test. In his book Breaking the Chain, Kelly's former soigneur Willy Voet claimed that Kelly had been ill with bronchitis in the week before the race and had taken ephedrine to treat it: to avoid a positive test, Voet wrote that Kelly had carried a container in his shorts filled with urine supplied by one of the team's mechanics to doping control, and that the Stimul detected in the sample had been taken by the mechanic to help him stay awake while driving the team's truck.[41]

Kelly's second positive test occurred at the 1988 Tour of the Basque Country, where he tested positive for codeine. Having finished third in the overall classification, he received a ten-minute penalty that dropped him down the order. Kelly explained this as being the result of a worsening cough he had developed during the race: he said that between the end of the final stage and attending doping control he took a swig from a bottle of cough medicine, to which he attributed the presence of codeine in his urine sample.[41]

Post-cycling careerEdit

Kelly is a commentator for the English-language services of Eurosport and has established and is involved in the Sean Kelly Cycling Academy in Belgium. In 2006 he launched Ireland's first professional team, the Sean Kelly Team, composed of young Irish and Belgian riders based at the Sean Kelly Cycling Academy in Merchtem, Belgium.[42] He has a cycling clothing company which supplies clubs and companies, and which also organises corporate cycling events in Ireland and throughout Europe. He rides long-distance charity cycling tours with Blazing Saddles, a charity raising money for the blind and partially sighted. Such tours have included a journey across America by bike in 2000. He also participates in charity cycling endurance events in Scotland (notably with the Braveheart Cycling Fund), England, France and Ireland. Sean Kelly regularly cycles with SportActive cycling holidays in Mallorca.

The inaugural Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford was held on 19 August 2007.[43] Kelly was one of the 910 participants. The second was on 24 August 2008. Kelly was one of the 2,048. The 2009 tour went ahead on 30 August 2009. It attracted over 3,400 participants. On 29 August 2010, 3708 cyclists took part in the Tour. In 2011 the attendance ballooned to over 8,000 over the two days and 10–50–90 and 160 km (6.2–31.1–55.9 and 99.4 mi) events. This ran annually until 2017. In 2018, the organisers of The Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford completed a review and decided not to run the event and to look at other cycling initiatives in and around Waterford.[44]

In November 2013, at Dublin City University, Sean Kelly was awarded with an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy in recognition of his contribution to Irish sport.[45]


Fellow pupils at Kelly's school [see above] felt Kelly fell silent because he felt intellectually outclassed. The lack of words continued even after Kelly had proved himself one of the best racing cyclists of his era. The writer Robin Magowan said:

"On the bench, swivelling his body away as you approach, chary of words when not downright hostile, Sean Kelly remains for a journalist the hardest of the great riders to fathom. In an age when most of his brethren rate themselves, and are paid, according to the amount of publicity inches they have gleaned in a season, this farmer's son... remains very much the exception, closed, withdrawn, and extremely suspicious. Yet one has only to look at him joking with Stephen Roche, or know the respect with which he is held by the peloton, to see that he gets along very well without us."[46]


Kelly is the subject of several books, including a biography Kelly in 1986 and A Man For All Seasons by David Walsh in 1991.

Sean Kelly published his autobiography Hunger in 2013.[47]

Career achievementsEdit

Major resultsEdit

1st   Road race, National Junior Road Championships
1st   Road race, National Junior Road Championships
Tour of Ireland
1st Mountains classification
1st Stages 5, 6 & 7
1st Stage 7 Milk Race
1st   Overall Cinturón a Mallorca
1st Piccolo Giro di Lombardia
1st Stage 6 Milk Race
1st Stage 1 Tour de Romandie
1st Stage 4 Étoile des Espoirs
1st Stage 6 Tour de France
Setmana Catalana de Ciclismo
1st Stage 1a (TTT) & 1b
1st Stage 3 Tour Méditerranéen
1st Stage 5a Étoile des Espoirs
Vuelta a España
1st Stages 1 & 8a
1st GP de Cannes
9th Road race, UCI Road World Championships
10th Omloop Het Volk
1st   Overall Three Days of De Panne
1st Stage 2
Tour de France
1st Stages 19 & 21
1st Stage 3a Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1st Stage 4 Ronde van Nederland
2nd E3 Prijs Vlaanderen
2nd De Brabantse Pijl
2nd Tour du Haut Var
3rd Amstel Gold Race
3rd Omloop Het Volk
3rd Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne
4th Overall Vuelta a España
1st   Points classification
1st Sprints classification
1st Stages 1, 2, 14, 17 19 & 21
4th Milan–San Remo
1st Stage 15 Tour de France
1st Stage 2 Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1st Stage 5a Ronde van Nederland
1st Stage 3 Tour of Belgium
1st Stage 1 Tour of Luxembourg
2nd Overall Four Days of Dunkirk
1st Stage 2
4th La Flèche Wallonne
5th Rund um den Henninger Turm
6th Amstel Gold Race
7th De Brabantse Pijl
8th Tour of Flanders
9th Züri–Metzgete
1st   Overall Paris–Nice
1st Stages 3, 5, 7a & 7b (ITT)
Etoile des Espoirs
1st Stages 1, 2 & 3
Tour de l'Aude
1st Stages 1 & 2
1st Tour du Haut Var
1st Stage 2 Grand Prix du Midi Libre
1st Stage 3 Critérium International
Tour de France
1st   Points classification
1st Intermediate Sprints classification
1st Stage 12
3rd   Road race, UCI Road World Championships
3rd Omloop Het Volk
3rd Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne
3rd Rund um den Henninger Turm
4th Amstel Gold Race
6th GP Ouest–France
8th La Flèche Wallonne
10th Liège–Bastogne–Liège
1st   Overall Paris–Nice
1st Stages 3a, 4 & 7b (ITT)
1st   Overall Tour de Suisse
1st   Points classification
1st Stages 3 & 5b (ITT)
1st   Overall Critérium International
1st Stage 3
1st Giro di Lombardia
1st Grand Prix d'Isbergues
1st Stage 4 Etoile des Espoirs
1st Stage 2 Paris–Bourges
2nd Overall Super Prestige Pernod International
2nd Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne
2nd Giro del Piemonte
5th Milan–San Remo
6th Trofeo Baracchi
7th Overall Tour de France
1st   Points classification
1st Intermediate Sprints classification
8th Road race, UCI Road World Championships
1st   Overall Paris–Nice
1st Stages 2 & 7b (ITT)
1st   Overall Volta a Catalunya
1st   Points classification
1st   Mountains classification
1st Stages 1, 4a, 4b & 7a (ITT)
1st   Overall Tour of the Basque Country
1st Stages 1, 3 & 5b (ITT)
1st   Overall Critérium International
1st Stages 1, 2 & 3 (ITT)
1st Overall Super Prestige Pernod International
1st Paris–Roubaix
1st Liège–Bastogne–Liège
1st Paris–Tours
1st GP Ouest–France
1st Critérium des As
1st Paris–Bourges
2nd Tour of Flanders
2nd Milan–San Remo
2nd Grand Prix des Nations
3rd Rund um den Henninger Turm
4th Overall Tour de Suisse
1st   Points classification
1st Stage 1
4th Overall Tour du Limousin
1st Stages 1b, 2 & 4
5th Overall Tour de France
1st   Overall Paris–Nice
1st   Overall Nissan Classic
1st Stages 1 & 3a (ITT)
Tour of the Basque Country
1st Stages 3 & 5b (ITT)
1st Overall Super Prestige Pernod International
1st Giro di Lombardia
1st Critérium des As
1st Stage 3 Ronde van Nederland
2nd Overall Volta a Catalunya
1st Stage 2
2nd Overall Three Days of De Panne
3rd Overall Critérium International
1st Stage 1
3rd Overall Vuelta Ciclista a la Communidad Valenciana
1st Stage 5
3rd Paris–Roubaix
4th Overall Tour de France
1st   Points classification
4th Overall Tour de Suisse
4th Liège–Bastogne–Liège
6th Overall Tour of the Basque Country
7th Milan–San Remo
7th Gent–Wevelgem
9th Overall Vuelta a España
1st   Points classification
1st Stages 2, 10 & 15
1st   Overall Paris–Nice
1st Prologue, Stages 3 & 7b (ITT)
1st   Overall Volta a Catalunya
1st   Points classification
1st Stage 7 (ITT)
1st   Overall Tour of the Basque Country
1st Stages 3, 5a & 5b
1st   Overall Nissan Classic
Vuelta Ciclista a la Communidad Valenciana
1st Stages 1 & 3
1st Overall Super Prestige Pernod International
1st Milan–San Remo
1st Paris–Roubaix
1st Grand Prix des Nations
1st Critérium des As
1st Stage 4a Vuelta a Aragón
1st Stage 4 Tour du Limousin
2nd Overall Critérium International
1st Stages 1 & 3 (ITT)
2nd Overall Three Days of De Panne
1st Stage 1b (ITT)
2nd Overall Paris–Bourges
1st Stage 2
2nd Tour of Flanders
2nd Giro di Lombardia
2nd GP Ouest–France
2nd Brussels Cycling Classic
3rd Overall Vuelta a España
1st   Points classification
1st Mixed classification
1st Stages 10 & 13
5th La Flèche Wallonne
5th Road race, UCI Road World Championships
6th Paris–Tours
1st   Overall Paris–Nice
1st Stage 3
1st   Overall Tour of the Basque Country
1st   Points classification
1st   Mountains classification
1st Stages 4 & 5b (ITT)
1st   Overall Critérium International
1st Stages 2 & 3 (ITT)
1st   Overall Nissan Classic
Vuelta a España
1st Stages 1 & 3
Held   after Stages 1–4
1st Stage 7 Vuelta Ciclista a la Communidad Valenciana
2nd Overall Three Days of De Panne
1st Stage 1b (ITT)
2nd Overall Super Prestige Pernod International
2nd Tour of Flanders
3rd Dwars door België
4th Milan–San Remo
4th Brussels Cycling Classic
4th Grand Prix des Nations
5th Overall Volta a Catalunya
1st   Points classification
1st Prologue & Stage 1
5th Road race, UCI Road World Championships
10th GP Ouest–France
1st   Overall Vuelta a España
1st   Points classification
1st Mixed classification
1st Stages 10 & 19 (ITT)
1st   Overall Paris–Nice
1st Stage 6b (ITT)
1st Overall Setmana Catalana de Ciclisme
1st   Points classification
1st Stage 4b (ITT)
Tour du Limousin
1st Stages 2b & 3
1st Gent–Wevelgem
1st Stage 4 Tour of the Basque Country
2nd Tour du Haut Var
2nd Grand Prix de Fourmies
3rd Overall Kellogg's Tour
3rd Paris–Tours
4th Tour of Flanders
5th Milan–San Remo
5th Liège–Bastogne–Liège
7th Omloop Het Volk
1st   UCI Road World Cup
1st Liège–Bastogne–Liège
1st Stage 4 Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1st   Mountains classification Nissan Classic
2nd Omloop Het Volk
3rd   Road race, UCI Road World Championships
3rd Wincanton Classic
3rd Trofeo Baracchi
5th Milan–San Remo
7th Overall Tirreno–Adriatico
7th Paris–Tours
9th Overall Tour de France
1st   Points classification
1st   Intermediate sprints classification
1st   Overall Tour de Suisse
1st Stage 4 (ITT)
3rd UCI Road World Cup
3rd Clásica de San Sebastián
5th Road race, UCI Road World Championships
6th Overall Tirreno–Adriatico
8th Overall Critérium International
8th Paris–Tours
8th Trofeo Luis Puig
9th Overall Volta a Catalunya
10th Giro di Lombardia
1st   Overall Nissan Classic
1st Giro di Lombardia
4th Milano–Torino
4th Trofeo Luis Puig
1st Milan–San Remo
1st Trofeo Luis Puig
1st Stage 7 Tour de Suisse
1st Stage 4 Vuelta Ciclista a la Communidad Valenciana
1st Stage 2 Clásico RCN
4th Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne
2nd Road race, National Road Championships
4th Paris–Tours
10th Overall Route du Sud

General classification results timelineEdit

Grand Tour general classification results
Race 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
  Vuelta a España DNF 4 9 3 DNF 1
  Giro d'Italia DNF
  Tour de France 34 38 29 48 15 7 5 4 DNF 46 9 30 DNF 43
Major stage race general classification results
Race 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
  Paris–Nice 40 12 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 43 57
  Tirreno–Adriatico 19 32 25 7 6 50
  Tour of the Basque Country 1 6 1 1 17
  Tour de Romandie 10 DNF 23
  Critérium du Dauphiné 29 DNF DNF 15 47 21 DNF 28 29 DNF
  Tour de Suisse 1 4 4 DNF 16 18 1 11 9 35
  Volta a Catalunya 12 1 2 1 5 DNF 9 24

Classics results timelineEdit

Monument 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992
Milan–San Remo 4 27 5 2 7 1 4 5 5 1
Tour of Flanders 26 15 8 21 2 14 2 2 4 18 73
Paris–Roubaix 19 12 1 3 1 13 16 15 29
Liège–Bastogne–Liège 20 11 10 1 4 12 20 5 1 37
Giro di Lombardia 34 1 17 1 2 23 24 10 1 58
Did not compete
DNF Did not finish


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  8. ^ J. Burns, G. Main, D. Nixon, P. Nugent and A.Owen
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  11. ^ Walsh, David (1986), Kelly, Harrap, London, ISBN 0-245-54331-7, p66
  12. ^ Kelly and Pollentier often shared hotel rooms. The consequence was that Kelly's Dutch improved and Pollentier began to speak English with an Irish accent.
  13. ^ Magowan, Robert, and Watson, Graham (1987), Kings of the Road, Springfield, UK, ISBN 978-0-947655-20-4, p68
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  26. ^ "Hunger" an autobiography by Sean Kelly published by Peloton Publishing
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  31. ^ Litsky, Frank (10 May 1991). "Kelly Trying to Recover Ground Lost to Injuries". New York Times. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  32. ^ Abt, Samuel (17 July 1991). "Illness forces entire PDM team to quit Tour". NY Times. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
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  35. ^ "Sean Kelly Palmeres". Jean de Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  36. ^ "Cyclingnews December 13, 2001 Hamper Race". Cyclingnews. Retrieved 4 July 2007.
  37. ^ Kelly spent much of his life on the continent living in Belgium.
  38. ^ British dialect word for a lavatory.
  39. ^ Magowan, Robin, and Watson, Graham (1988), Kings of the Road, Springfield, UK, ISBN 978-0-947655-20-4. pp70-71
  40. ^ Kelly recounted these facts while commentating for Eurosport on stage 17 of the Tour 2010
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  42. ^ Procycling, UK, March 2006
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External linksEdit