Last year Sorrento CC bid farewell to our club mate, our dear friend Denis Cummins. Patrick asked me to write a few words to sum up the Sorrento Denis that we knew on the road, so to speak. I have to confess I’ve put this task off many times over the dark days of Winter, but now that Spring has come and Denis’ beloved Paris-Roubaix is coming up at the weekend it’s time to commit some thoughts and memories to paper.
It is a fitting gesture that our Roubaix ride, still in it’s infancy, is named in memory of a rider who loved the concept and the drama of the Queen of the Classics. It will enable all of us to remember and share Denis’ passion and joy of this great race.
Denis was a quiet man on the face of it, slightly reserved but only because he was assessing, evaluating you, and that’s not to mean that in a nasty way, it was just Denis, a highly analytical and sensitive man, but once in his trust he was gregarious and mischievous and always up for a bit of craic. Cyclists by their nature can often be like that, quiet and reserved yet passionate and volatile, stoic and stoney yet obsessive about saddle heights, tyre pressures, and what’s that bloody ticking noise every time I turn the cranks.
Here are a few memories that will hopefully will make you chuckle .
Denis suffered terribly from a well known affliction known as “wind-itis”. He simply could not have his nose in the wind and should he find himself at the front of the bunch, he would quickly rectify matters and disapear down the back of the bunch on the Saturday Spins swapping food recipes with Rose or teaching Linda Irish swear words and learning a few Norwegian in return.
Training all winter and winning the opening TT only to have his car spotted outside the off licence, complete with TT bike on back, going in to get a bottle of wine to celebrate.
His pride in losing so much weight from his heaviest, at one stage he had a “Top Trumps” challenge with Paul Cullinan (yes, can you believe it PC used to be porky), the pair of them digging out old photos from their “fat days” to see who had lost most weight. Who needed Operation Transformation – the pair of them should have been in Woman’s Way or the front cover of the RTE Guide.
His brilliant mathematical brain, ability to calculate TT times / average speeds at will. We always said he should have been working for Paddy Powers calculating spread odds etc.
On that point, Paul Murrays frustration at Denis stopping in Newtown to put a bet on for the Grand National during the Ardattan 200 while we were on target for a sub 7 hour ride.
His brutal sense of direction and inability to remember cycle routes, so much so his training spins were somewhat repetitive, had a track worn from his house to the “Blue Rathdrum sign” on the Glenealy road and back again. He only started to venture further afield more recently with a bit of encouragement.
His constant search for innovation, thinking of new ways of improving his cycling gear.
Some of the more obscure were a TT helmet with a prism / periscope type device so he could keep his head down but still be able to see straight ahead.
Sewing a pocket into the back of his skinsuit for his car key, constantly tinkering with the bars on the bike to get a lower position.
A patented laser device on the front of the bike to indicate if the adjacent rider was half wheeling.
His encyclopaedic ability to recall riders and results from previous classic races.
Keeping us awake till 2 or 3 in the morning planning our strategy for the next days mountain climbs while cycling in Mallorca.
Not too many people can cause PC to limp after a training session up over Glenmalure, …Denis could…
How he would enjoy the BBQ season and relish the challenge to get himself fit and competitive again.
His incredible quick wit. On one occasion in his local, some of the regular “hard lads” propping up the bar thought it would be amusing to shout across and say “hey Denis, we hear you shave your legs, is that true???”. Denis looked, said nothing, paused for effect and as he noticed his tormentor start to giggle in triumph, Denis retorted, “no, that’s not true at all [PAUSE], I wax them!”.
Denis, you were an exceptional club mate and friend, the world is a poorer place that you are not in it. We miss you and will remember you. See you on the road.
Andrew Kavanagh Paul Cullinan