Andrew Potts was one of the many Orwells to take on and complete the Wicklow 200 this year, and he takes us through his around the hills and mountains with the club crew.

What a difference a year makes, last year I was an imposter on a bike being stupid or brave because with only three trips up Sally Gap and a couple of 100km outings I started the Wicklow 200. Last year I enjoyed eating my way around Wicklow with Joe Fitzpatrick as we set the World's problems to right and generally basked in the sunshine of the day and the warm glow of finishing a event that we both though was maybe a jump too far.

This year I felt like an imposter as well, because somehow I found myself leading a light yellow group that included some very serious cyclists. I had obviously said the wrong thing to the wrong person and was volunteered to lead a open group for the W200. Garret said there was a need and that a peloton would quickly form. So he proved to be right and a good solid group did come together at short notice.

Looking at the Met rain radar as I got up at some sick hour of the night left me a little hopeful that we would start in the rain but it would clear and we would have much better weather. So I picked up Stephen Downey on the way and we were both in the carpark in the rain wondering will it be 100 or 200. Everybody is there by 7 and we are ready to roll a little wet from the rain but all pretty optimistic that it will clear. The general plan is get on the road and use the faster Orwell groups for a tow as they catch us. Not much of a plan but it was something to cling to in the way of strategy to get around the course. One puncture later and a drag up the Long hill sees us still together and a Orwell TGV comes by and we jump on and then we are getting free miles to Laragh.

Of course we did have to collect some of our group in Roundwood as Angela does not do mornings and rain, later she said she was expecting a happy kissy-kissy "so good to see you" type greeting rather then the furious, speed train, that was bunny hopping ramps, with a manic eyeballs out "get onnnn" that she Sandra and Martin did get, apologies.

No worries everything good to Laragh but some anxious mutterings about we will blow up if we keep this pace but quickly silenced with a childish chirpy optimistic "it's free miles" and "we don't need this sort of negative energy". A good clip up the misty Wicklow Gap and pretty much together again at the top even though we could hardly see each other. Colm and Emma were there handing out the freshly baked " old family recipe" cake, helping with gear baggage, jackets etc. We quickly reformed with Marie leading the charge down to Hollywood and the garage.This time we are passed by an Orwell diesel train not so fast as the TGV but still oozing power. Once again jump on and its "free miles" time all the way to Baltinglass so many arriving together that the feed station was just to busy but our trusty support car with Colm and Emma was there with cake, goodies, tea etc. the sun was out and it was a very enjoyable break of chat and banter. We were joined by Lucy at this point . Once again there was mutterings of pace pace pace the very sound advice of Garrett in his extensive article on how to approach the W200. It was this same Garrett that was suggesting we grab a tow from his Orange TGV to Sliabh Mann. We let it go and carried on to Sliabh Boy, Sliabh Mann and Shea Elliot under our own steam, well at that stage we had picked up George and Robert and with Pascal and Ronan we had a few power units of our own. Arriving at the "Theatre of Hills and the drama that would unfold on their slopes" Angela was in good form.

Happy Old School Freeloaders waiting for Ronan and Andrew to fix a puncture again (Photo credit to Pascal)

The sun was on our backs, we were in the quite roads of Wicklow everybody chatting and enjoying the day and looking forward to the two big climbs Monica, Marie, Lucy and Angela made short work of them. At the top our support car (so pro) looked after us with water and more goodies, passing riders looking slightly enviously at the spare bike on the roof. After a regroup we headed down the decent where we came upon a women who had taken a tumble. A timely reminder of the dangers we all face and how quickly it can go wrong. Lucy stopped, being a doctor to look after the obviously injured woman and just giving up her afternoon, the most selfless act of the day.

We carried on to Shea Elliot then onto Rathdrum of course Robert lit the afterburners and we flew into the last feed station. Sitting out in the sunshine tea, sandwiches and good company as Warren Cray's group rolled in, which just added to the banter and great atmosphere of the day.

At Rathdrum we picked up a few others from Orwell faster groups, said good bye to George, Martin, Robert, Sandra, and Angela, a garden party was mentioned in Roundwood, all invited, any other spin and we would have gone, it was the 200 after all so we headed on The good break and refuel was perfect for the long down stretch to Avoca and back up the hill. Last year Avoca killed me this year it didn't, I still respect it but it was not the crushing battle that scarred me last year. It was down to Redcross and the run home up a few lumpy tough little bumps that hurt when you have a 180km in your legs, Monica asking " is this the last hill" at every hill. Of course it was Orwell train time more steam train then TGV but for the twenty odd stragglers that hitched a tow we were a God send for the last 30K.

Of course there is always a couple of riders who hide in the train do nothing then pop out in the last K looking for line honours at the imaginary finish line. Old School we were and Paul was having none of it " defend the jersey" so he effortlessly closed the gap to the three pirates and used a better line and momentum to sling shot past them to the finishing sign post. Throwing a empty Orwell water bottle to a 7 year old boy who was standing and clapping all the finishers.

My thanks to Gavin, Paraic, Pascal, Ronan, Niall, Paul, Sandra, Angela, Marie, Monica, George, Martin, Robert, Lucy, Conor, Peter and Noel who ghosted in and out half the day with a bike making the most expensive sounding repair noises. There was one or two others whose names I didn't get, apologies.

Once again my thanks to everybody for their company, making leading a group easy, and for another epic, wonderful day on the bike.

Photo Credit to Angela for telling Warren what to do

PS the events are greatly exaggerated or complete falsehoods but why let the facts get in the way of a good yarn.