Saturday last was the occasion of the fourth edition of the Orwell Randonée, truly one of the highlights of the Irish sportive calendar. Once again the sun shone on the select group of riders who'd made the cut, as they battled the wind and the tough course to reach the famous cake-laden foodstop. One rider battled harder than most, going so far as to claim the lanterne rouge for himself: Mr Tom Weymes shares his thoughts from the day below.

We will warn you that it's not for the faint-hearted. And probably not for anyone who helped out on the day. Or for anyone who took part on the day.

The Lanterne Rouge's face is red (he'd rather be in yellow instead)
My hard times on the Orwell Randonnée, by Tom Weymes

Some of the Great and the Good of Orwell have asked me to give ‘a glowing account' of my experiences on the Randonnée. Well, I'm sorry, Eileen, but cheerleading is not my job – where I see gross organizational and personal failings I think it's my duty, from my privileged position at the back of the field, to call them. If this ruffles some feathers, too bad – they'll have to take their lumps (especially if they didn't flog round 140 km/2,200 metres on the day).

For a start, there was the weather. It's generally known that Denis Gleeson, like God, can do anything – so why couldn't He have produced a couple more degrees Celsius on the day? Then there was the wind, which, I understand, stopped some of the Orwell hotshots posting personal bests. Well, I feel their pain, but more to the point, since it was obvious from the weather forecast that it would be howling up the Shay Elliott from the Glenmalure side, why on earth were we sent round the Laragh-Rathdrum loop anti-clockwise? OK, the marshalling team would have had to go out the previous night and re-do all the signage, but so what? We could have enjoyed that lovely tailwind illusion of feeling better than we are, and on the Shay Elliott too.

But more fundamentally, there's the matter of the field. Another Orwell luminary, secure in the eminence of his performance, has told me earnestly that ‘comparative analysis is not appropriate or wholesome in leisure cycling'. Ah, but we know better, don't we? Toiling away at the nether end of the winter White group, do we not cast a jaundiced eye at the next most miserable performer and hope that some sort of self-respect can be salvaged from the outing by staying ahead of them? And so it is for the Randonnée. Surely part of its purpose is to make the members feel good about themselves, as in ‘I may not be as fast as Orla Hendron/John Lanigan but at least I'm better than….' [select some cohort from the bottom half of the Randonnée finishers list]. But how can we get this satisfaction if the entire goddam field has passed us at the bottom of Burrow Road? What we need is an affirmative action programme, biased in favour of the performance-challenged – say a quota of entry places reserved for non-Orwell people with a demonstrable record of non-achievement. That way everyone in Orwell can indeed feel good. Someone would still have to be last but so long as it's not me, and they're from another club, screw ‘em.

As to the outing itself – well, yes, the start was on time, the marshals were all there, the road was tastefully decorated (especially at that absolutely lethal spot on the Glencree road – thank you, Seamus, for being there for me). But I have a crow to pluck with the guy who was waving a red flag at the Powerscourt entrance – it scared the bejesus out of me, thinking there was at least a multi-car pile-up round the corner, so that I practically came to halt at the bottom of the dip and was stuck in the wrong gear going up the stiff little hump on the other side.

Then there was the fair-haired fella who pulled up beside me in a Transit van on the Djouce road and offered to – I quote – ‘Throw you up the road a bit'. I thought it was in the poorest of taste. I turned the man down with as much dignity as I could, but the psychological wound went deep, and probably cost me at least –0.1 kph average over the rest of the route. At Laragh I was confronted by a phalanx of four marshals, AND NOT ONE OF THEM FEMALE. Is this the sort of sight we want to be greeted by in the course of a hard day? I think not.

At the food stop, Denis had obviously exercised His powers and done a loaves-and-fishes job, because there was, even at this stage, a mountain of sandwiches which he seemed to think I had a responsibility to shift. Waste not, want not, Denis – easy on the incantations next time.

Once past the food stop the marshals were obviously losing heart – there was a bunch of them, underemployed, at Rathdrum, but they were the last I saw. I'd met Eileen and Gert, full of the joys of a May morning, at the bottom of the Wall, but were they there at the bleak Roundwood crossroads in the grim heel of the evening – were they hell.

The last untoward experience was on the Djouce return road, in the form of a big SLOW written on the road at the TOP of that glorious straight hill leading down to the Enniskerry road. God, were we supposed to have no pleasure in the day at all?? Nanny Orwell! I'm happy to say I notched 69 kph on the way down it, definitely the peak of my day. (And what, you ask, was my average? I think self- revelation has gone far enough. Suffice to say that the max was a neat multiple of the average). And so in due course to St Benildus's, where at 5.30 or so there were still a few lost souls hanging around. The fair-haired man partially redeemed himself by prevailing on the chip van, which was bucking to get away, to dish me up three bangers and a dollop of chips. Shame there was no-one else to swap stories with.

So there you have Randonnée '13 – the agony and the ecstasy. The thing, I feel, definitely has potential – if my legitimate grievances are addressed, I'll keep my options open for next year….

Tom Weymes

Some of the numerous Orwell contingent enjoying their day - clearly Tom isn't among them!

On a less cynical note, the organising committee thanks all participants in this year's Randonnée and they hope you enjoyed it as much as they did putting it together. The feedback has been entirely positive, apart from the wind. Only for that aspect, we were blessed once again with good weather, making for an almost perfect day of cycling.

Of course they couldn't have put together such an event without the invaluable assistance of all the marshals, sponsors and club members who helped bring the day together. Particularly they would like to thank this years charity: the Ross Nugent Foundation, who were fantastic in their support to the event and it was a pleasure to be able to raise funds for a very worthy cause.

We hope the bodies are beginning to heal and look forward to seeing you all at next year's event, the grand fifth anniversary!

Some photos thanks to Fergal O'Sullivan here, and more thanks to Barry Keogh here, with more from Niall O'Sulilvan here.