The opening round of the 2014 Orwell League saw some super fast times set for the Pine Forest course, with Eric Downey resuming where he left off for the 2013 league - at the top.

The night was marked by a huge turnout for the league, with over 70 riders for the lumpy time trial. That’s a higher attendance than any round last year, and a great indication of the competition to come.

With last year’s top time set by Liam Rowsome coming in at 8’50” (we never confirmed Dave Mc’s report of a mythical 8’10”), the times set last night appear simply phenomenal. While there was a slight tailwind, that should not diminish the times at the top of the table.

Last year’s overall league winner Eric Downey returned to set the fastest time, with a confirmed course record of 8’09”, putting nine seconds into his nearest rival, Patrick O’Brien. 3rd overall and also 3rd for Scratch, Tom Blennerhassett suffered an unfortunately timed puncture at the start line, but still managed an impressive ride to improve on his 2013 time by over twenty seconds. He has the selfless Aidan Collins to thank for a spare wheel, with Collins registering a DNF to help his club mate.

Rounding out the Scratch run at the top of the table was Brian Ahern in 4th, with the last placings in Scratch then going to Neal Hudson and Philippe Bourdarias in 8th and 10th respectively.

Dick O’Brien came home top of Semi-scratch, and put in a storming ride to take 5th overall with 8’38”. The first of a quartet of SS strong men in the top ten, O’Brien is on target for a great performance in the Gorey 3 Day. A3s Brian McNallyDavid Swift and Ronan Grimes were all hot on his heels though, with all four finishing within seventeen seconds. McNally has only recently been upgraded to A3 after his Des Hanlon result, while Swift has added another feather to his cap, showing he can test as well as he climbs hills.

The next of the SS challengers were another twenty seconds back - with 18th and 19th placed Barry Dace and Bernard English soaking up the remainder of the points. English will hopefully take that result as a vote of confidence in his legs, while it's great to see Dace back on the road after his CX results last season.

Semi-limit was topped by first year senior Fionn Sheridan with a time of 9'05", which will surely see him bumped to Semi-scratch, while a similar fate will possibly befall the other dark horse of the night - Garry Blair bursting out of Limit to finish 12th with 9’02”. Both of these riders were clearly punching above their weight last night, and deserve to have their results highlighted.

The other Semi-limit placers in order, were newcomer and triathlete Alan Duggan, David Maher, Colum Bradley, Owen O’Flaherty and Julian Moore.

Limit points went to Stephen Barry, Chris MollaghanKen O’Neill, Paul Burgess and youth rider Conor Murnane. Five of the six Limit placers were riding their first ever races, and on this form none of them are likely to remain in Limit for long.

First of the women was Ned Flanagan champ Aideen Keenan,  who's time of 9'44" is the third fastest ever for this course, bettered only by top internationals Mel Spath and Sandra Fitzgerald. 25 TT champion Monica Marconi was next in at 9'55", joining a very select crew of women to have broken the 10 minute barrier, and Charlotte MacDonald rounded out the podium with a time of 10'27".

Full times and overall results at the forum. Next week we're in Corkagh Park for round two - see you there!


Apologies this is so short and rushed, I'm on holidays! All results are provisional, as they're taken from a small screen! -Brian