A gorgeous evening in Mondello for the Club Champs saw Brian McArdle solo to victory, with defending champ Darragh Long coming in ahead of Brian Ahern at the front of the bunch.

Fifty riders turned out for the Club Road Race Champs, held for the first time in Mondello - courtesy of John Lanigan. The closed circuit meant no marshals were needed beyond the race organisers Damien Long and Eddy Lane, and with the sun beaming down on the tarmac, it was a perfect evening for racing.

The riders at the start line (photo thanks to Eugéne Dillon)

A small Limit group of eight were given a minute over thirteen Semi-limit riders, with ninety seconds further before twelve Semi-scratchers set off in pursuit. Another ninety seconds to the biggest group of the evening, seventeen Scratch racers hungry for the win. The race length was set at an hour and two laps.

The first three groups merged into one peloton of thirty, holding the Scratch chasers at a minute for much of the race. A couple of riders were unfortunate to suffer punctures, with one victim being Aideen Keenan - a serious contender for the women's prize.

With two large groups circling each other on the circuit, negative tactics were seeing moves being shut down. League leader Pat O'Brien, Eric Downey, Darragh Long, Neal Hudson and Liam Rowsome were all looking strong and trying to escape the pull of the pursuers, but it was only when Scratch got within sight of the head of the race that Brian McArdle made a successful break, bridging across alone to the front.

The chase stalled for a lap, as McArdle made his way through the group and broke away solo as the clock ticked toward the hour. With two laps to go, he had a 10-15 second gap as the Scratch riders made the catch of the other categories, to make it one big bunch. Fionn Sheridan made a brave effort to jump across to McArdle, getting within 100m before he was swallowed up again.

In the end, McArdle held off all others for a superb solo win, with plenty of time to raise his arms aloft on the line. Behind him, Long used the sprinting prowess that won him the trophy last year to take 2nd in his NRPT colours. Brian Ahern took a classy 3rd - he was reportedly at the back of the bunch entering the final hairpin, but shot up the inside with a marvellous display of bike handling and power to overtake everyone bar Long - the two former champs filling a very worthy podium.

Last year's league winner Downey took 4th ahead of Corkagh Park winner Rowsome, with A1 sprinter Philippe Bourdarias feeling the effects of the hard pace, but holding on to take the last of the points.

McArdle comes home for the win (photo thanks to Eugéne Dillon)

Long at the head of a stretched out sprint (photo thanks to Eugéne Dillon)

McArdle was delighted with his win, the highlight of a season which had a delayed start thanks to a broken collarbone - lest anyone forget! Following a series of silvers in the champs events, a gold seems just reward for his strong showings in the league. He'll be looking forward to riding the Hill Climb with no pressure.

First the league returns to Black Bull for the penultimate road race, followed by the Team Time Trial. Pat O'Brien still holds an unassailable lead at the top of the rankings, but there's still some sorting to be done for the prizes presented in the Blue Light next month.


Orwell League R17: Club Road Race Champs, Mondello (24/7/2014)

Men's Medals
G Brian McArdle
S Darragh Long
B Brian Ahern

1 Brian McArdle (S)
2 Darragh Long (S)
3 Brian Ahern (S)
4 Eric Downey (S)
5 Liam Rowsome (S)
6 Philippe Bourdarias (S)