Shay Elliott: the life and death of Ireland’s first yellow jersey
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Ireland’s great road racing champion Shay Elliott, who died in mysterious circumstances at the tragically early age of 36. He was one of the very first English speaking cyclists who made a serious impact in the professional peloton, and his exploits have never been fully appreciated, either in the traditional heartland of cycling or in his own country.
The year after Tom Simpson became the first British rider to wear the race-leader’s yellow jersey in the Tour de France, Shay repeated the feat for Ireland. And more so â€“ for not only did he take the jersey after winning the stage over the legendary cobbled roads to Roubaix, but he retained it for three days until, like Simpson, he lost it in the time trial.
Elliott was also the first from the English speaking countries to win stages in the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a EspaÃ±a (a race in which he held the race leadership for several days and finished on the podium in third place overall) so becoming one of a mere handful of riders to have won stages in all three Grand Tours.
Shayâ€™s career and life were punctuated equally by success and glory, and by disappointment and betrayal, and ultimate tragedy. However he left behind a rare legacy in professional cycling which until now has never been substantially documented. This book seeks to redress that lack.
A decade after his death Ireland produced two exceptional riders, Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche, whose achievements surpassed those of Shay Elliott, but Shay was the first, and will always remain so.