The Orwell Stage Race - The Noel O'Neill Trophy

Scott Orwell Wheelers created the Noel O'Neill Trophy in 2017 as a race to recognise and commemorate the achievements of Noel O'Neill. After joining the club in 1955 Noel became the Irish National Road Race Champion in 1965. He represented Ireland at that year's World Championships in San Sebastian that year.

Noel's palmares also includes The Dublin to Birr 3 Day, The Shay Elliot, Sean Dillion Memorial, Tour of the Gaps, Tour of the Slade and The BAR in 1964 and 1965 (Best All-Rounder: for Combined times and placings in TTs and RRs). Noel is a true club legend and it was only fitting that the man himself was present in Wicklow to present the trophy to the 2018 winner and “club legend in the making” Paul Forristal.

After its’ inaugural running in the Phoenix Park as a one day event in 2017 it was decided to go a step further this year and create a Stage Race. Run over 2 days the event included 3 tough, testing stages.

Stage 1: Individual Time Trial over an 11km course

Stage 2: An 80km Kermesse. 10 laps of an 8km loop with a nasty hill to be negotiated on each lap.

Stage 3: 108km Road Race. 4 laps of a lumpy 27km course with a significant climb each lap.

Stage 1:

Stage 1. Photo thanks to Balooz

Reigning under 23 Irish TT champion, Michael McLoughlin of Team Wiggins, took the opening round of the Orwell Stage Race. The 21 year old was hot favourite going into the TT and didn’t disappoint. He took the win from Irish Masters TT Champion Neil Delahaye by 14 seconds with Greg Swinand of Viner-Caremark-Pactimo in 3rd, 29 seconds off the pace of O’Loughlin.

Best of Scott Orwell was Paul Forristal who finished 1 minute and 3 seconds behind O’Loughlin. Freddie Stevens and Balazs Galambos were next home from the promoting club, both level on 14:47 (1min and 17secs down.)

In the women’s race Jennifer Bates was quickest of the 3 entries with a time of 16:12. Lara Gillespie of Scott Orwell was second in 16:32 and Yvonne Doran, also of Scott Orwell, was 3rd with a time of 17:38.

Stage 2:

Noel at the start of Stage 2

Stage 2 was an exciting affair! 10 laps of an 8km loop made for some very fast racing with the peloton splitting and coming back together many times over the course of the race. There were KOH points on laps 3, 6 and 9 and sprint points on laps 4, 8 and 10.

Unfortunately Freddie Stevens weekend came to an early end when his Di2 stopped working early in the race and he had to call it a day.

The KOH points were hotly contested on the 3 laps and each time caused the groups to split even further. Michael McGlynn, Omagh Wheelers and Antoine Le Corr of UCD split the available points between them with Michael picking up the polka dot jersey on count back.

Paul Forristal was determined to see the day out with a jersey for his troubles and went after the Green one with gusto sweeping up close to maximum points on the stage.

It took a long time for any breaks to stick on this Stage but finally a small group stretched the elastic enough that it looked like Michael O’Loughlin might have been dropped and about to loose yellow. As well as Forristal, John Hodge (Panduit Carrick Wheelers) and Antoine Le Corre (UCD), also in the escape was Conor Gallagher (NRPT-Chill Insurance), Cian Sutcliffe (Team Gerard-DHL) and Andrew Chivers (North Down CC).

The climb on Stage 2. Photo thanks to Balooz

Paul Forristal was very active in the break and tried to keep the group away but O’Loughlin showed his strength by riding back across to the lead group with less than one lap to go. They came down the narrow descent together and around the final bend onto the main road like men possessed. As the riders wound up for the final sprint Paul Forristal unleashed the speed that had seen him win 2 stages at the Gorey 3 Day this year and there was no stopping the Scott Orwell man as he crossed the line with his arms aloft. Second on the stage was John Hodge and third was Antoine Le Corre.

In the A3 classification Balazs Galambos of Scott Orwell had ridden a fantastic race, finishing 19th overall and 1st in the A3 category. Just out of the placings in 4th place was Cahir O’Higgins with Colm O’Neill 6th and Shane Toman 7th.

In the Women's Race 2 of the 3 racers pulled out during the race leaving Lara Gillespie to fight it out with the men and fight it out she did! Lara stuck with the 3rd group on the road and was seen leading them over the KOH on several occasions.

In the junior race 13 of the best Juniors in the country had entered including several from the Nicolas Roche Performance Team but it was Cian May of Lucan CC (brother of our own Caoimhe May) who finished the day in White after a brilliant 8th overall place on stage 2. Definitely one to watch for the future!

Paul Forristal winning in style:) Photo thanks to Balooz

Overnight Standings:

Yellow: Michael McLoughlin, Team Wiggins

Green: Paul Forristal, Scott Orwell Wheelers

White: Cian May, Lucan CC

Polka Dot: Michael McGlynn, Omagh Wheelers CC

 

Stage 3:

           Stage 3 underway, Photo by Balooz

Sunday morning brought another dry and windless day to South Wicklow. The early start lead to nice quiet roads and excellent racing! We were very luck to have the support of the local Gardai who provided a lead car, a motorbike and a Garda in Redcross to help with the safety of the event.

This stage was tough! There are no two ways about it, even sitting in the lead car was tough;)  Very little of the course was flat, only the main road stretch from the Tap Inn to the Beehive Inn and that was raced flat out almost every time. The rest of the route was either up and down and raced on quiet, technical roads. The KOH was brutal and climbed 4 times. Antoine Le Corr ,who had missed out on the climbers jersey the day before, was a man on a mission and lay down an early marker to all that he wasn’t finishing day 3 without it! The Frenchman climbs like he is dancing on pedals and wont be in A2 much longer.

The descent from the KOH saw a few try to break away and at times it was difficult to stay ahead in the car such was the skill and bravery of the riders. But the leaders were determined and no breaks stayed away for long.

Another failed breakaway attempt, photo by Balooz

There were sprint prime points available on each of the times across the finish line and such was the form of Paul Forristal that he had the Green Jersey wrapped up by lap 3. By this time yellow Jersey wearer, Michael O’Loughlin had called it a day and Paul was also the virtual Yellow Jersey on the road. Could he keep it?

As they came on to the main road for the last time only 8 riders remained in the front group – Forristal, Le Corre (UCD), Hodge (Panduit Carrick Wheelers), Sutcliffe (Team Gerard-DHL), Keogh (The Sports Room Racing), May (Lucan CC), Gallagher (NRPT) and McCarter of Donegal Bay CC.

With less than 1km to go things started getting very cagey and at one point all 8 riders stopped pedalling completely almost coming to track stands in a came of cat and mouse. It was Forristal who cracked first. He took off with a huge burst of acceleration and held off the chasing 7 for about 500m but he couldn't hold the lead and the pack reeled him in and surged again for the line. Darrgh McCarter looked to have the stage but a very fast finishing Le Corre meant the win had to be decided by the photo finish. Darragh McCarter took it by a hair!

Going for it! Photo by Balooz

At the end of the 108km stage, the top eight riders were covered by just seven seconds. There then followed a much bigger gap, of 1:37, to the next man home; Neill Delahaye (Fixx Rouleurs).

Paul Forristal finished the stage in 8th place and took the overall win by 26seconds from Cian Sutcliffe of NRPT.

In the A3 race it was a clean sweep for Scott Orwell Wheelers with Balazs Galambos taking 1st, Cahir O’Higgin 2nd and Colm O’Neill 3rd. Shane Toman finished in 7th.

In A2 Ronan Grimes of Scott Orwell Wheelers finished in 8th.

In the Women's Race Lara Gillespie was the only woman to compete in Stage 3 and she gave it everything, lasting 3 of the 4 laps. Lara was given a 10 minute head start and managed to stay clear for the first lap before settling in with the third group for the remainder of the race. Well done to Lara for giving it a go in some very fast company!

Link to Full Results: Orwell Stage Race Full Results - Google Docs

Overall Final GC:
1. Paul Forristal, Scott Orwell Wheelers
2. Cian Sutcliffe, Team Gerard-DHL
3. John Hodge, Panduit Carrick Wheelers
4. Cian May, Lucan CC
5. Conor Gallagher, NRPT
6. Antoine Le Corre, UCD
7. Darragh McCarter, Donegal Bay CC
8. Cian Keogh, The Sports Room
9. Neill Delahaye, Fixx Rouleurs
10. Paul Kennedy, Newcastle West CC

Noel O'Neill presenting the trophy to Paul Forristal

Overall Jersey Winners:
Yellow Jersey - Overall GC: Paul Forristal, Scott Orwell Wheelers
Green Jersey - Overall Points: Paul Forristal, Scott Orwell Wheelers
Polka Dot Jersery - Overall KOH: Antoine Le Corre, UCD
White Jersey - Young Rider: Cian May, Lucan CC

Overall A2:
1. Antoine Le Corre, UCD CC
2. Caolem McCarter, Donegal Bay CC
3. Thomas McCabe, Ardee CC

Antoine Le Corre and Noel O'Neill


Overall A3:
1. Balazs Galambos, Scott Orwell Wheelers
2. Cahir O'Higgins, Scott Orwell Wheelers
3. Colm O'Neill, Scott Orwell Wheelers

Balazs Galambos and Noel O'Neill


Junior Overall:
1. Cian May, Lucan CC
2. Conor Gallagher, NRPT
3. Shay Donely, NRPT

Cian May and Noel O'Neill


Women Overall
1. Lara Gillespie, Scott Orwell Wheelers

Lara Gillispie and Noel O'Neill

THANKS:

Events like these don’t take place without a lot of background work with support from club mates and sponsors. There are a few people and companies who we would like to thank for their help.

To all the members and friends of Scott Orwell Wheelers who gave their time to run the event, marshal on one or even both days we say a massive thank you.

To Paul at the Beehive Pub for giving up the car park, feeding us so well and for opening at 8am on a Sunday so we could use the toilets.

To the Gardai and the ambulance crews in Code Blue – we are glad you weren't too busy!

To John and his invaluable crew of Moto Marshals – we couldn’t have done it with out you.

To Ronnie Brannigan for the Photo Finish equipment and expertise - it proved very necessary on Stage 3!

To Aidan and VeloRevolution for sponsoring the Jerseys

To Murphy and Gunn for supplying 2 amazing BMW vehicles. I can personally vouch for the comfort of the passanger seat!

And finally to Stephen O’Shea, David McLoughlin, Genevieve Sheridan and Ronan Fox – this event could not have happened with out their tireless work and vision. Chapeau!

Stephen, Dave & Gen. Ronan was off taking down signs!

 

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