Deenside Cup photo thanks to John Busher

IVCA League Race – Curragh

As PRO I usually spend Sunday evening sending out pleas for help in writing race reports.  In an attempt to show that I wouldn’t ask people to do anything I wouldn’t do myself here is an account of my maiden outing with the IVCA (Irish Veteran Cyclist Association) on Sunday! So apologies in advance: it is all about me!

As I drove across the Curragh, through a thick fog at 8.15am on Sunday morning I wondered what the hell I was doing. Out of the fog ahead I just about made out the figure of a cyclist in a yellow jacket coming towards me and I thought about turning around and looking for breakfast instead! But I had made it this far so decided what the heck I might as well keep going and give it a go – If I didn’t get racing soon it would only get harder to start.

So lets get one thing out of way right from the start – yes it is the Vets racing, and yes I have plenty of grey hair BUT you only have to be over 35 to be a woman in the Vets and over 40 for the men. For most of the races the groups are sorted on ability/speed rather than age and there is a huge wealth of racing experience in the Vets so it makes for close, competitive and safe racing.

Two things I noticed as I headed for sign on – 1. How friendly and welcoming everyone was and 2. How many of The Orwell were around.  Diarmuid Collins was flying the flag in Race 1, Race 2 had Orla Hendon, Ciara Kinch, Dave Tansey, Paul Tansey, Damian Long, Yvonne Doran and Arthur Ebbs. I was in Race 3 and I was in good company with Romano Morelli, Barry Redmond and Terry Ryan.

My usual “what will I wear” dilemma was significantly reduced as I realised I had left my knee warmers, base layer and long fingered gloves in the nice warm hot press at home. Thankfully the fog slowly lifted as we warmed up and gave way to blue skies and light breezes – perfect!

The 3rd race off, we faced 3 laps of the 18km course. Boston hill was the main climb of the day but Dunmurray hill on the home stretch is not to be sneezed at either.  I took a look around on the start line and quickly decided that the best game plan would be keep Romano and Barry in sight if possible – fresh from their holiday in Spain I knew this course would suit them and they would also have the race smarts to be in the right place at the right time. My other big decision was to try not to do anything stupid!

Romano and a very well tucked in author;) Photo thanks to Brendan Culleton

The bunch stuck together for most of the first lap until we hit Boston Hill. I was in the front third or so but didn’t realise the hill started just around the corner so found myself boxed in slightly on the left as the road rose up. As I noticed a few people – including Romano – starting to pull away, a space opened to the left of Terry and I put the foot down to bridge over. Over the top of the hill and there was about 20m to the leaders, a guy came flying past me with a shout of “jump on” and who was I to say no! Zoom! Back on the lead bunch, thank you very much!

On lap two I was ready for the climb and stayed with the leaders and out of trouble. I was starting to feel a little guilty that I hadn’t done any work at this point but I also saw how easily any breaks were being reeled in so decided to keep tucked in and remember aim number 2 – don’t do anything stupid!

On lap 3 I realised John Twomey was Marshalling in the middle of nowhere as I heard a shout of encouragement from the side of the road. Quick look to the right, smile and back to concentrating on doing nothing stupid.

On the third time around Barry Redmond decided to stretch the legs and took off up Boston Hill like a man possessed. One or two went with him but by the bottom of the hill we were all back together again.

Only Dunmurray to go now and the couple of small drags before the finish. I wasn’t feeling too bad. I had a quick look around and realised that the lead group wasn’t too big at this stage – could there be a chance of doing ok!? A lad from Lucan and one other took off over the top of Dunmurray.  As we came to the top of the hill I found myself at the front for the first time in the day with the advice of Arthur Ebbs from earlier ringing in my ears – “don’t be afraid to give it a go”.  Ah sure why not! My gap bridging friend from earlier appeared with a shout of “same again” and off we went in hot pursuit. The fun was starting now….

Then bang…

…Puncture!  Game over.

I started to walk towards the finish, about a km and a half away wondering how the rest of the race had unfolded.  At the point when I decided I should really have brought my saddlebag with me I was rescued by Paddy Davis who arrived bearing a spare tube and pump – my hero!  Thanks to Damian Long for also circling back to make sure I was still alive;)

It turns out Romano came home in 5th with Barry just behind him in 6th. Would I have made it into the top 10 – I like to think I might but who knows. What I do know is that I really enjoyed the race and I that I will definitely be back!

Photo thanks to Brendan Culleton

Deenside Cup, Castlecomer.

The womens race also doubled as round two of the new Women's Intermediate League and saw Breda Horan and Monica Marconi line out for Scott-Orwell Wheelers. It was a tough race with the win going to the inform Jennifer Bates of Team Gerard-DHL. Monica finished in 6th place and picked up some valuable points.

The Women's race sprint finish. Photo thanks to John Hammer

Neal Hudson was just out of the points in the A1 race. He finished 11th overall. Photos of the race show Neal looking comfy in the lead group throughout the day and doing a fair bit of work... either that or he knows how to work the camera;)

In the A2 race the best result was a fine 4th place by Barry McMahon who was in contention in the bunch gallop for 2nd but just beaten on the run in.

Barry McMahon picks up 4th prize. Photo thanks to John Hammer

The Deenside Cup A4 race thanks to 3rd place winner Nicholas Appleby

I looked forward with trepidation to the Deenside Cup, tales of misery and woe from the Glenmagoo climb ringing in my ears.

A motley crew of six Orwells lined out with Peadar Corbally, Garrett Connolly, Jonathan Coffey, Eric Davis, John Wade and myself making up a strong representation.

The A4 group ready to race

We were fortunate enough with the weather, racing mostly in sunshine with a hail shower on the second pass of the climb helping to keep things cool. The first lap was your typical A4 fare, a

few early Hail Mary breakaway attempts and the usual bellowing to ride after them offered some light entertainment before the feared Glenmagoo Climb.

It was pretty rough in fairness. A 6km leg sapper with a sneaky false flat which lures you into a false sense of security before slapping you in the face with some more elevation.

The first pass of it was slightly reserved, the pace was aggressive but people were mostly trying to suss it out before an incredibly daft crash caught a few people of and the pace picked up.

(The bit in between was like one of those Tour stages that you have on in the background with the sound off, but without the chateaus.)

The second time up it was more frenetic, attacks were going off left right and centre and the surges in pace was shelling riders before a breakneck descent back down into Castlecomer. I tucked into John’s wheel before the final few bends, dropping down the hill like a couple of stones.

At this stage John and I were in contention to do something in the final, barrelling into Castlecomer and shuffling for position in the bunch for the sprint. The tension in the bunch rose as already frayed nerves were pushed to their limits. 500m fell to 300m and 200m as riders began to open up their sprints. I had enough in the tank to cross the line 3rd as John pushed across just outside the points in the top ten.

Nick and John sprinting for the line

And finally from Castlecomer the A3 race thanks to Michael Hanley - who is fast becoming our regular race reporter!

These shorts were made for racing...

The race was on Sunday. But the real victory was on Saturday night. Breda and I were invited round to dinner at Phil’s house. A sumptuous Japanese meal was prepared. Five courses, countless flavours, one full belly. This was not my usual race preparation, but how it was worth it! I woke up a little uneasy the next morning, rich food and a late night did not mix well with an early start. Breda was racing, so I could just tag along and decide how I felt when I got down there, without feeling like I had wasted a journey. At the very least, I could offer support in the women’s race, fulfilling my fantasy of becoming a directeur sportif for the day: “Come on Breda! We can stop at a cafe if you are cold! This sport is sh**!

Preparation has become something of a ritual now, it’s very prescriptive but following the same steps helps me avoid mistakes that distract from the racing. The day before I will check the bike and pack up the green box with all of the items on my list (I can give you a copy if you like, it’s very handy!). Cycling kit, bottles, food, post race clothing, numbers, license and cash. It’s great and it stops me doing stupid things.

Stupid things like taking a pair of socks that were ripped in half and meant for the bin. Stupid things like taking Breda’s shorts instead of mine. Stupid things like having my pre-race drink instead of a dry mouth. Yeah, that’s right, all the above happened. Nothing is quite as terrifying as taking your shorts out of the green race box and seeing the shocking pink women’s chamois staring back at you. A size too small, the discomfort was only felt during the warm up. Once the race began, I didn’t need to worry again about the pink chamois or that half my socks were missing.

Ken, Paul Kane and I were the only Orwell in the A3 race. A wave of new talent has meant that we are now blessed with a wealth of talented A1 and A2 riders. Outnumbered by Lucan and Tiernan’s riders is a constant reminder that the real racing is to be done in the top tier of Irish cycling. Gotta keep chasing the upgrade, gotta get some points on the board. Maybe today would be a good chance.

Ken in the break, thanks to John Busher for the photo

I missed Ken go up the road early on. I wish I hadn’t as it would have been fun to ride in a break. The bunch rolled on until the first bit of drama at 18km: a crash out of nowhere and a rider fell sideways on top of me, then landed on my back wheel. I couldn’t tell if it was new women’s chamois or my back wheel, so I asked Janet (Paul Kane, occasionally referred to by me as “Janet”. Why? Type “Kaner” into your phone and tell me what you get…) to investigate. Just a small wobble, nothing to worry about.

We hit the first climb. Finally, a chance to get up near the pointy end. Nope, backwards I went. Ok, maybe these guys are just fast? But as they quickly became fast and not so skinny, I thought that I must be having a really bad day. No, it’s my wheel, oh well that’s ok! The wheel was now rubbing against my brake blocks, so I quickly unhooked the brake and made my way back up the bunch. Down to just the front brake, that’s ok, just try not to stop in a hurry.

The rest of the race went pretty well, I was up near the front and eventually in the front group once it started fracturing on the second pass up the climb. This was all really positive, but I could feel the wheel bobbing around behind me. What if I need a replacement? Could I ride Breda’s bike as well as her chamois? In for a penny I guess…


The last lap, a junior from Lakeside Wheelers came up alongside me: “Eh, you know your wheel is looking really bad?”. I assured him it was ok, but the final pass up the hill was hard and I was struggling a little to keep up. Dig in, just dig in and finish in the bunch. We careered down the far side of the climb and I found myself in the top 15 or so riders coming into the line. As the sprinters sharpened their teeth for the final 200m, the bunch narrowed in around me, like waves rushing around and over me. Should I sprint? What if my wheel pops out? Wait a minute, you can’t sprint even with functional wheels, so don’t bother. Breda said to me afterwards that I “looked to be in a really good position and then just sat up”...not the heroic image I had pictured, but it would do. Another race finished. Tick.

I checked the wheel when I got home, hoping it would be a quick fix with a spoke key. Disaster, the spokes had pulled through the rim and cracked it in two places. A reminder that while it is incredibly fun, you should never really race with anything you can’t afford to replace.

The unofficial cup presentation in Deenside!

Club League Round Up thanks to Brian McArdle

Ronan O'Connor must've been watching last week's A race as he emulated Paul Forristal to build a significant advantage over the entire field and come in with a hefty gap at the finish. SL swallowed the last of the remaining Limit riders with only a few laps remaining, with a few riders jumping and getting a small gap in the final couple of laps. The splintered sprinters were lead in by Conor Murphy while Paul Tansey galloped in at the head of the bunch.

1 Ronan O'Connor (L)
2 Conor Murphy (SL)
3 John Wade (SL)
4 Dave Murnane (SL)
5 Dmitri Griffin (SL)
6 Paul Tansey (SL)
1 Orla Hendron (SL)
2 Yvonne Doran (SL)

The catch was made in the SS/S race after about 15mins, making one giant bunch for much of the race. Nobody got much of a gap, but a small group made it count at the close with Paul Forristal making it 3 from 3.
1 Paul Forristal (S)
2 Brian McNally (S)
3 Valdis Andersons (S)
4 Eoin Ahern (S)
5 Bryan Geary (S)
6 Neal Hudson (S)