The winners of the first 2014 Orwell crit came from both ends of the spectrun - young rising star Conor Murnane, and experienced Rás veteran Brian Ahern.

It was a fine evening and another record turnout, with 62 topping any crit from last year. With the large groups at the bottom of the categories in mind, Limit were sent off on their own, with the other three categories racing a CP against each other. Brian Ahern got in a good warm-up, pacing the 22 Limit riders around the track. After demonstrating his cornering and pace, before dropping back through the bunch to dispense some friendly advice.

Brian Geary pulled away early on, riding two laps off the front of the bunch and making it look easy. At that point the organisers already had him earmarked for an upgrade, though the bunch reeled him back in. Things stayed mostly together then, with a couple of riders being shelled out the back. After twenty minutes, the pack got the shout for two laps to go, the pace rocketed, and Ahern had to abandon.

A bunch sprint decided the results, with the 16 year old Conor Murnane taking the glory with room to spare over the strong Geary. Behind that pair were the Kaye Mellors, the younger Timothy Kaye Mellor beating his sister Rachael Kaye Mellor, who's heading to Nenagh this weekend as part of the Irish development squad.

Finishing the placings were two newcomers - Arek Pierozynski and Des O'Brien. O'Brien nearly missed out on his points, so we'll take this opportunity to remind all riders who place to return to the finish line after the race to make sure their name was noted.

Winner Murnane is now third overall in the league, with last night's victory adding to his placing in last week's Pine Forest TT. He said afterwards that he was looking forward to the challenge of the upgrade. He's been doing open racing, spending last Sunday with the A3s in Drogheda and successfully finishing in the bunch. Hopefully we'll see him in action in Stamullen this weekend, and with ability like his, it won't be long before the open results are coming in too!

With the large number of Limit riders currently in the league, promotions to Semi-limit were awarded to all placers in that race.

For the second event of the night, Semi-limit were given a generous handicap, starting nearly three-quarters of a lap ahead of the Scratch riders, with ten Semi-scratch men given about a third of a lap. Scratch didn't wait around - the pace was 40kph+ from the gun, as the lesson was hard-learned last year that Corkagh Park is tough work for the chasers.

The eleven riders of Semi-scratch were caught within a few laps, and began contributing to the hunt for SL. Most of the 17 signed-on had stayed together at the front, but couldn't stay away, meaning it was all together for the final two laps. There was a small crash in the bunch at the catch, with one rider coming down, but thankfully landing on a soft surface, and walking away mostly undamaged.

For the last lap, it was Ahern who showed his dominance - breaking away solo and nabbed the win with nobody in sight. A crowded sprint was taken by tester Liam Rowsome, with A1 Pat O'Brien hot on his heels.

Ronan Grimes earned an upgrade to Scratch when he repeated his result from Sunday to once again earn 4th, with Gavin Dodd the last of the Scratchmen to place. David Swift rounded out the points, also getting himself promoted in the process.

Ahern had been worried that his recently acquired status as a father would have diminshed his form, but clearly that's not the case. His stated targets for the year are to get more sleep, not to drop the baby, and to hit Mondello and some of the shorter races with a vengeance. He was also quick to praise the earlier winner - who was one of those Ahern had chatted to in the bunch. He described Murnane as a quick learner and a natural on the bike, showing the mutual respect between these two classy racers.

After two rounds, Ahern is tied with Patrick O'Brien at the top of the table, but it's very early days yet.

Well done to all those who finished their first race tonight. If you found cornering scary, or wish you could increase your pace, the Corkagh Park track is open year round for training, except when it's booked (see the CI calendar) if you want to get some practice in.

We'll be returning there next week for round three, so see you there!


Orwell League R2: Corkagh Park Criterium (10/4/2014)

Race #1 (L)
1 Conor Murnane
2 Brian Geary
3 Timothy Kaye Mellor
4 Rachael Kaye Mellor
5 Arek Pierozynski
6 Des O'Brien

Race #2 (SL/SS/S)
1 Brian Ahern (S)
2 Liam Rowsome (S)
3 Pat O'Brien (S)
4 Ronan Grimes (SS)
5 Gavin Dodd (S)
6 David Swift (SS)