PBP rider number & start time: U018 @ 20:45 on Sunday 18th Aug

Writing a personal profile gives one an insight into one’s own life.  ‘Diametric’ comes to mind; I entered full time work at 17, married Marian at 23, went back to college at 40, and took up cycling again at 60 – some of my life’s high-lights.

Marian says, joking, I hope “I’ve heard of a golf widow, but never knew there was such a thing as a ‘cycling widow”.  We both are looking forward to a ‘special holiday’ abroad after PBP.

When not cycling I like to cook, and as you may guess take/edit videos and pictures.  Only if there is any time left after being with the 5 grandchildren.

My love of cycling began back in the 60’s, as a young lad of 12, when I got my first road bike; a lovely Raleigh 5 speed.  We used to call them racers.  I won it after completing a sponsored walk organised by The Evening Herald newspaper.  I rode it for three years to school and on cycle trips around North County Dublin, with the Loraine Cycling Club.  A cycling club famous for one of its members - Liam Horner.  Yes, the same cyclist who has a monument on the climb up to Glencree.

45 years later and 45lb, at least, heavier another bike entered my life.  Followed by one more, another, and yet another.

In Jan 2015, I applied for a try out spin with Orwell Wheelers C.C. The reply was:

“Thanks for signing up for your first Orwell winter spin on Sunday 01-02-2015 @ 09:30.  Based on your past experience we ask you to join the Beginner White group. The leader for this group is:Denis Gleeson”

Reading then - that email, I got, the ‘Beyond here be Dragons’ feeling.”

"Beyond here be Dragons" refers to dangerous or unexplored territories.  It was used by map makers of old where they put illustrations of: dragons, sea monsters and other creatures on uncharted areas of maps - where potential dangers were thought to exist!!!

That lurking dragon feeling surfaced at times as I faced into many Orwell cycling adventures.

 So, on that dry Sunday morning, in Feb 2015, I set out on the white spin to Greystones with a group of 10 other first timers under the leadership of Denis and Paul Mullen.  In the café Paul asked us to re-introduce ourselves, after were took off our helmets.  Denis gave us lots of advice about group cycling - including saying ‘everyone needs at least two bikes: a summer one and a winter one’.  I would have to wait a few more Christmases for the second one to arrive.

On that cycle I didn’t meet any dragons, but I did meet, an old school buddy, Lorcan Lynch; we were in Primary School together in the 60’s.

Over my 5 years in Orwell I have: made many new friends. For life, I hope!  And I have had lots of fun and been to many off the bike parties and socials.  Leisure cycling gives you the opportunity to chat as you cycle.  These chats are always interesting, often humorous and at times can be very personal when people listen and share stories about the highs and lows of personal and family life.

There are 13 of us going to take on the Parish Brest Paris challenge; however, there should be 14.  Earlier this year Anna had to forgo the PBP mission to go to America to take on a much more important mission; that of caring for her daughter Sara.  Sara is now back at work, and we believe has made a full recovery, made possible I’m sure with the caring support of Anna.

During the Summer of 2016 Ann Horan suggested to me that I might enjoy being on the Orwell Committee and pointed to the position of Leisure Rep.  Being on the Orwell Committee, as Leisure Rep, gave me an insight into the wide range of activities that the club offers, e.g. the Youths/Juniors and Adult Racing.  There has been amazing support from the committee for all the work of the Leisure Committee (Alan, Dee, Bryan, Clare, Evan, Ken, Rachel, Triona and Valerie)– a great of bunch of creative people, always looking for innovative ways for the club members to have fun, keep fit, be safe and challenge themselves at a personal level.  It is always a great joy to work with this merry bunch of cyclists.

The long audax cycles, training groups and the sportive weekends away are the places where people hatch, plot and make plans to make leisure cycling even more adventures, challenging but most of all fun and enjoyable.

Over my years in Orwell; members have encouraged me to ‘go for it’, e.g. Dave Mac, for the 2019 PBP. Louise our Pro, in 2017 for the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive which includes the iconic Torr head climbs, and Gerard and Rodney for my first W200 in 2015.

In May of 2013, on my new hybrid bike which I got from Santa Claus, I completed my first 60 km cycle.  It was my sixtieth birthday and it felt marvellous.  60 kms is after all the distance from Dundrum to Arklow, for many non-cyclists this it is a challenge yet to be faced into and achieved.

I could never have imagined that 6 years later I would find myself and 12 other great clubmates, again facing ‘Dragon Territory’ preparing and facing into the 1,200km Paris Brest Paris challenge.  Please keep us in your prayers.

Four final things:

I want to thank Marian for all her continuous support over all the years.

I feel so lucky to have rediscovered cycling and especially to have been introduced to Orwell CC.  Thanks to Kevin Connaire for that.

Our Vice President George often says “Orwell is a club with a big heart, and a place for everyone”.  How true that is.

Finally, I take this opportunity to acknowledge the generosity of the past and present members who have given, and continue to give, their time and talents, so freely, to make Orwell Wheelers the club that we know as “Club of the Year 2018” and every year.

Cheers, Leonard