I became an avid fan of cycling, especially the ‘Grand Tours’ during the eighties in Long Kesh. The mental toughness of these fantastic athletes was nothing short of magnificent, and was a wonderful example of not giving up – something that resonated with a lot of prisoners.
Delgado, Sean Kelly, Greg Lemond, Laurent Vignon, 5 time winner Bernard Hinault all got our interest, but Stephen Roche’s victory in 1987 was especially unbelievable and reinforced my interest in the sport.
A funny story from the year Roche won was at the finish of stage 20 – a monumental stage traversing the Col du Galibier, Col du Madeleine and finishing at La Plagna – Roche, after finishing second to Delgado, collapsed and lost consciousness for a period of time. When he was revived and asked if he was ok, he replied, ‘Oui, mais pas de femme toute de suite (yes, but I am not ready for a woman straight away!)’ Classic.
After Wiggins, Chris Froome became the main man in the sport and his hiatus coincided with my attempt at painting.
The above painting, guided by the photographic image I used to copy, was my first attempt at painting a face, arms, legs etc. I gave it to a 72 year old cyclist who was over the moon with it.