Former Irish champion passes away

By Shane Stokes

Irish cycling is in mourning following the loss of 1954 Rás stage winner Mick Christle earlier this week. He was the brother of former organiser Joe Christle and an accomplished competitor, riding strongly in the Rás and also taking the Irish road race title.

"Mick was a very amiable guy, but also one with steely determination who was physically and mentally very strong," said FBD Insurance Rás director Dermot Dignam on Wednesday. "He won a stage in the Rás, finished fourth overall in 1961 and also finished equal first with Paddy Flanagan in the Irish road race championships. The two were so close that they couldn’t be separated by the judges, so they shared the title."

Christle had a strong role in coaching riders, including Dignam. "He was way ahead of his time as regards coaching methods," he continued. "He had us doing cross country running and weight training right through the winter months, and also set up a training camp in a house he had restored in County Carlow. It was used by big groups of riders at the time and was an important part of the scene."

In his excellent book "The Rás - the Story of Ireland's Unique Bike Race", author Tom Daly wrote about Christle: "Mick Christle was Joe’s brother and one of his right-hand men. A stalwart of the Gate cycling club and of the Rás organisation, he was fiercely loyal to Joe, the NCA and the republican cause. He began competitive cycling in his twenties, having previously played hurling for Dublin. Physical training and exercise were a daily ritual - he was interested in physical fitness for its own sake. He organised winter training sessions, including a specialised cycling training camp in Carlow. He was always very fit and well prepared.

"Equally important was his approach to racing - he was very mentally strong and focused. Dermot Dignam much regretted that he had not come under Mick’s influence sooner in his racing career, and John ‘Jacko’ Mangan, who won the Rás in 1972 and raced for a decade in France, attributed much of his success to the mental strength he absorbed from the Christle circle, especially Mick. O’Hanlon also acknowledged Mick’s contribution to the crucial development of his mentality [as did Seamus Kennedy].

"Mick Christle was a congenial and popular character, but his convivial nature masked a shrewd and wily cycling brain. He disliked ostentatious riders and delighted in outwitting them. He was one of the great ‘fixers’ of the Rás, always planning and plotting, and excelled at organising strong riders not thought to be in contention to slip away in seemingly harmless breaks. They often turned out to be otherwise."

Indeed much of the impetus and organisation behind the legendary 1961 break, which paved the way for Tom Daly’s win, is credited to Christle.

His removal will take place on Friday evening, with the remains being brought to the Adam and Eve church on Merchants Quay for 5 pm. Funeral mass will follow at ten o’clock on Saturday, with the burial then taking place in Kilmessan cemetery in Co. Meath. May he rest in peace.

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