The Leisure cyclist of the Year 2014 participation based event kicked off this weekend. Over the next 6 months, Leisure cyclists from Orwell will be taking part in Sportives and Audaxes the length and breadth of the country, earning points in the competition, enjoying their cycling, seeing the countryside and having plenty of tea and sandwiches along the way. We'll try and let you know how they got on.

First up was an Audax, starting close to home in Bray. For many this is the first Audax of their career. Greg Farrell tells us about his experiences.

Ardattin 200 (205!)

Greg Farrell

I'm home and all in one piece. My legs don't even feel stiff 24 hours later. Almost everything held together great, even my bum which I was pretty worried about! Except for one minor problem - my lower back. That was pretty uncomfortable for the last 2 hours! 8 1/4 hours leaning forward is just too much for it.

Colm Egan and Nicole Bork from the club were great support and good company for the day. Colm did the towing and Nicole did most of the navigation. The organisation was fantastic - especially considering it's a fiver entry. I got cake, biscuits, sweets, bananas, sandwiches, mini-danishes, wraps, scones, bars and more at the 4 stops. When I got home, I told my three year olds how many treats I got during my days cycling - they were in awe! This is how I will make them want to cycle...

The crowd was nice. Friendly, good group riders and sort of serious in a nice way.

Weather was OK. About three hours of light rain then dry for the rest but it was never particularly cold. 205 km in 8hr 18min with an average speed of 24.8 kph.

I'm very pleased with it. I'd definitely want to do something about my back before I go and do another cycle like that though. Maybe time for lots of planking, or maybe I need to adjust the bicycle fit a bit to decrease the weight on my hands by shoving my bum backwards a little. Needs tweaking anyway, the last 40k were pretty miserable due to the back and if the last 15km weren't on the N11 I'd probably have stopped to rest my back!

Here's a photo of the three of us from the finish. I took Colm's advice of trying to pretend I was as fresh as a daisy! (L-R: Nicole, Colm, Greg)


Tour de Carlingford, Armagh/Louth (80km)

Stephen Ryan

Remember how back in the depths of winter Billy Parker and Denis Gleeson shared their experience with us on how to prepare for Sportives. And we knew it all. Well it turns out we didn't.

Pride of Place and the first Leisure contenders for the Cowgirl of the Year trophy are Judith Byrne and Aishling O'Connor.

Rule 1: Know where the event is on.

    (1) The TdeC doesn't actually start in Carlingford, it starts about 35km north-west and cycles down to Carlingford Lough, stopping for tea in the town.

    (2) With honourable mention to Garret Connolly and Lynda Haran whose GPS systems gave conflicting directions and meant they just missed the official start and had to chase to get on the back.

Rule 2: Check your bike beforehand

    (1) I can't really be blamed for the mudguard breaking off but the rattle in the bottle cage for the last 2 weeks should have told me something. So there can't have been a surprise when the cage shook itself loose mid ride. Thankfully there was no one behind me at the time.

Mishaps aside it was a pleasant day, in slightly inclement weather although by the latter part of the ride the sun had come out. Bizarrely we seemed to be into a headwind for the day. However a good cycle, in good company and topped off with a couple of pints in Carlingford on the way home it made for a lovely experience. There were about 80-100 cyclists in total of a fairly good Sportive standard and Orwell was well represented with 6 of us there (that I know about) Lynda, Garret, Helen Horan, Judith, Aishling, and myself, together with a few non Orwell friends.

I did learn not to listen to Garret again when he says "let's bridge across” from a group doing over 30k and into a headwind. A fairly flat outward 40k followed by 15km along the canal did little to prepare us for the 20k of steady climbing once we left Newry on the way back. It meant that the legs were well worked as we rolled back into Silverbridge - the start point. Hopefully Judith and Aishling had the sense to leave the hills out and stay on the flatter Newry canal as they did route in reverse. It was a funny sight to see them coming down the road towards us as the peloton went through Newry. They got a good cheer.

At €15 it is one of the cheaper sportives around (especially as it was also £15 for NI riders) and the soup and sarnies at the end tasted wonderful. Here are Garret, Lynda and Helen enjoying theirs.

Soup and sarnies!


If you did Ardattin, Carlingford or any event worthy of the name over the weekend please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to make sure you get your points in the PARTICIPATION based competition.