The first full handicap of the league saw Scratch dominate the placings despite a concerted Limit effort to stay away, with Brian Ahern taking the win from Patrick O'Brien.

A lower than usual turnout meant organisers could safely run a single full handicap race, around the Green Sheds course with its wide rising finish. The advantage given to Limit at the start line was nine minutes over Scratch, and they worked well together to stay away as long as possible.

Scratch were the biggest group on the night, with 13 riders. To Limit's disappointment, they also formed a strong cohesive unit, every member contributing to the furious chase around the back roads of Dunshauglin. They broke the records for fastest lap, with the front finishers recording a 43.7kph average for the entire race.

As Scratch exited the roundabouts after the bell, they caught the small Semi-scratch group, and Semi-limit shortly afterwards.

Limit were still nearly three minutes ahead, but that lead dropped quickly after Dunsany. Malcolm Garland had been acting as an effective road captain, but nothing could stop the inevitable cat and mouse as the kilometres counted down. As people started missing turns, the combined chase groups came past from behind with 2.5km remaining.

All eyes were on Patrick O’Brien for the bunch sprint, the man who had been unintentionally turning the thumbscrews throughout the night. As he launched himself 250m out, Bryan Geary was tight on his wheel. As Geary tried to come around O’Brien, Brian Ahern swung off Geary’s wheel in turn to come past both and take a fast win.

While he’s been somewhat absent from the open scene, Ahern’s class has clearly not been diminished by his lack of time on the bike. He paid tribute to his Scratch peers who rode superbly to get on terms with the front groups.

O’Brien was disappointed to come home second, with the consistently strong David Halpin a wheel behind in third. Geary took a fine fourth, while Gavin Dodd came over the line a bike-length later. Stephen Barry was the only non-Scratch rider to place, a worthy achievement considering how many were in contention in the bunch sprint.

There were great performances all round for the round - the organiser John Lanigan and his marshals ran a safe race with a perfect handicap. Dick O’Brien should be applauded for the juggling he did to make sure there was adequate coverage, and thanks to all the marshals, particularly those who were flexible about their nights.

The Scratch and Semi-scratch groups had to drill it hard to get on terms with the front groups, with Limit in particular should be singled out for pulling out all the stops to keep the chase on. If they can continue with that aggressive spirit, future handicaps will see a plethora of Limit placings.

Next week it’s back to Brittas - usual conditions of 18.50 close for sign-on, check the forum to see if you’re marshalling.


Orwell League R9: Black Bull Road Race (29/5/2014)

1 Brian Ahern (S)
2 Pat O'Brien (S)
3 David Halpin (S)
4 Bryan Geary (S)
5 Gavin Dodd (S)
6 Stephen Barry (SS)