Audax Ireland 24 Hour TT:

592km, 24 hours and an average speed of 26.6kph – for most this would be an epic ride but for Dave McLoughlin who once held the Irish 24 hour record at 730km it was, to quote his Strava description, “not great but not so bad either”! However, when you hear that Dave hasn’t had many training opportunities in the lead up to the event – he was last on his TT bike in May and on his road bike in April – you realise what an achievement finishing was let alone his even taking to the start line.

On an event like this one thing that is crucial is to have the right support team with you. Dave couldn’t have done better – with Gen and Fionn Sheridan on his side bringing experience, preparation and dedication. Base camp was set up on a stretch of road just outside Athy and it was to here that supporters from the club would come to cheer, offer support and bring coffee.

The route was a lumpy 44.6km loop between Athy and Kilcullen with 285m of climbing per lap. A lot of it will be familiar to Scott Orwell members as it covered some of the same roads used for the National Championships we hosted in 2016.

As it has been 80 years since the last 24hr TT held in Ireland the “novelty factor” was high and 39 riders entered, the first setting off at 12:01 on Saturday afternoon. The concept was simple – TT format, riders off at 1 minute intervals, ride for exactly 24 hours and cover as much distance as possible. It sounds simple but in fact it is a delicate balancing act – when to stop, how long to stop for, where to stop? Stop for too long and you risk loosing valuable distance, don’t stop for long enough and fatigue sets in and performance can drop.  As rider number 36 Dave rolled off at 12:36.

Lap 1 and Dave was ahead of schedule, setting a nice tempo and coming in on 1:15:32 (which still stands as the best Strava time for the loop). With only 44km done there was no stop at the end of the first lap and on he rolled.

Lap 2 was where Dave had his bad luck for the event and punctured both his tubs! A quick phone call to Gen and she was off to find him on the course with two spare wheels. Not too long a delay and plenty of time to make it up. A call to Lorna Reilly was made and two new tubs were brought down and Fionn was able to get them sorted for later that day.

As the day wore on Dave settled into a rhythm on each lap. At the end of each lap he would stop briefly where Gen had food and drinks ready for him. The lap times were 1:15, 1:28, 1:26, 1:27, 1:30, 1:33, 1:38, 1:51, 1:57, 2:21, 1:37, 1:42. The longest lap (2:21) was in the pitch black early hours of the morning when Dave's hip was really paining him. After a quick nap in a ditch he got a second wind, and on the next lap with the sky beginning to brighten he demanded the TT bike and took off! Dave managed 12 of the larger loops before a 10am cut off when riders were forced to use a shorter loop for ease of timekeeping. 

Between 10am and 12:36 Dave didn’t stop and continued to push on to get as many small laps as possible done. What didn’t help was the hill to the turn on the top of each lap! Dave commented that the one place he didn’t want to finish was on top of that hill and of course where did he finish!

Fighting through the pain in his hip Dave managed 3 laps of the 16km loop -  37:21, 38:02, 42:34 and a half lap of 21:16

Dave hit the 24 hour mark with 592km completed and 6th place overall in the bag.

Dave has commented on the great support he received from the club and how much it helped to keep him going throughout the event. Members arrived in Athy spread out across the 24 hours. Andrew and Stephen Ryan and The Reilly family got the ball rolling. Ryan Fox and his father John from Infinity Cycles in Athy brought a food from the local chipper. Rachel Glendon arrived down on Saturday night to do a shift, with Brian Mc staying overnight keeping Gen and Fionn company. Louise & Gráinne arrived at 7am with very welcome breakfast rolls and coffee, Owen O’Flaherty cycled down to give a shout out. Constant club support and cheers from the sidelines – and it was shared out to other riders too (we are nice like that!).

 

Shannonside GP: With thanks to Eoin Byrne

The Shannonside GP was four laps of a 31km circuit near Athlone. The A2s were set off first with a 1 minute handicap on the A1 group. The organisers had said before the race that the road surface was excellent but warned us of one rough section towards the end of each lap.

On the first lap there were a few attacks in the A2 group. Myself and Garry Blair covered most of these but it didn't seem like anything was going to stick and I decided to conserve my energy for when the catch was made. About 20km into the race, we turned onto a very rough road. I presumed this was the section that the organisers had warned us about. On crossing the start/finish line I saw 28km on the Garmin and was looking forward to a shorter race!

However, half way through the second lap the Commissaire came up to us and told us that the race was stopped. We had a 6:45 min gap on the A1s. We had been sent the wrong way. The race was restarted from that point and we were given another 1 minute handicap. The A1s came across to us in small groups and I started picking out the riders to watch : Ben Walsh, Luke Smith, Dermot Trulock etc. There was a lot of attacking and eventually a group of Trulock, Smith and a Castlebar rider who I did not recognise got away.

Unfortunately I missed it, tried to establish another chase group but the other favourites left in the peleton were well marked and it was too difficult to get a group together. After another half lap the attacks were subsiding and I easily opened a bit of a gap on a short drag. No one chased but 2 riders came across to me. We worked well together and established about a 1min gap on the peleton with the other 3 still a further minute ahead.

We were working very well together and I was nearly sure I had secured a 6th place or better because I knew they would be playing cat and mouse in the peleton. Then the Castlebar rider from the break dropped back and couldn't hold our pace either.

With about 20km to go, I looked back and saw Cathal Purcell and Ben Walsh bridging across to us. They brought some extra impetus to our group and I really struggled rolling up and overs with them. We brought Trulock and Smith within sight but with about 5km to go the games started in our group and our chase was ruined. With about 1km to go I used my momentum to attack the group because I didn't fancy my chances in the sprint. I was closed down quickly and settled for 7th, coming in last in the sprint.

 

Seamus Kennedy Memorial, Dunboyne: with thanks to Anthony Mulholland

He's behind you! Photo thanks to Sean Rowe

Out of the frying pan and in to the fire as they say. Having recently upgraded to A3 and taking 3rd place in my first race in the category at the Moynalty GP, I was looking forward to seeing if I could back that performance up with a strong result at the Seamus Kennedy Memorial promoted by Dunboyne Cycling Club. A little bit about Moynalty first:

I ended up in an all day break (Shout out to Balazs who chased anything that moved in the bunch to help us build the lead!) with junior, Mark Smith of Sports Room Racing who would go on to have a very strong ride in the Junior Tour the very next week. After getting dropped by Mark the final time up the hard hill before the finish, and a jammed chain soon after, I was left wondering what might have been after Sean Landers of Stamullen (remember the name) caught me and out kicked me for 2nd. Still, a good day in my first A3 race and some lessons learned for the next time out.

A good week of training capped off with a decent ride at the Danny O’Shea TT and a few cans at Nick’s 30th (Happy Birthday man!!!) had me feeling good about my form if a little tired. Rest and recovery was the name of the game before Seamus Kennedy. I had a little scout of the course on Strava and didn’t think it would suit me; a flat and fast course, probably a day for a bunch kick. If I was going to have any chance of finishing in the points I was going to have to try and get in a good move and stay away to the line.

Nick Appleby and I arrived to Dunboyne with my rollers and his turbo in the boot, so once we’d registered and had a little chat with some of the other Orwell Wheelers we set about getting a good warm up in before the start. Perhaps too good as by the time we finished, the car park was empty and we were the last to leave for the start. We rolled down the road to where we thought the course was, doubt crept in and we doubled back as we thought we’d missed the turn. We hadn’t, and ended up hammering it out to the start. When we approached I relaxed and thought, “grand, the A1s haven’t started yet”, only for the relief to be replaced with panic as I saw Cahir standing at the front of the bunch and the commissare saying “right, off ye go lads!”. A swift U-turn and we just about made it on to the back without having to chase like mad men! If we weren’t warmed up before, we certainly were now.

Once I’d caught my breath I set about moving up towards the front and seeing if anything was going to go up the road. A few moves went but nothing stuck and we were all together coming over the line for the first lap of four. In the second lap, a junior came flying around the bunch with a blistering attack and quickly gained a good gap. One lesson I had learned from Moynalty was that the junior wheels aren’t bad ones to follow so as the bunch stalled I pushed on and joined him up the road. We worked well together and took the gap out to 35 seconds over just under 25km. It was to come to nothing though as we were reeled in on the next lap and almost immediately moves started going off the front.

I took some time to recover and once I could see a group forming ahead and working well together I had a feeling it was going to stay away. I made a big move in an attempt to get across without dragging the entire bunch with me. A few guys followed the wheel but we had a gap and eventually made it to the front of the race where I took some time at the back to catch my breath, much to the chagrin of a few others. A few km later, after refusing to do any work until all three of the Lucan guys in the break did some work, I started to roll through and all fourteen riders were sharing the workload, building our gap on the bunch over the final lap to 45 seconds by the time we hit the drag with 3 km to go. Having just done a turn I rolled down the pack only to see Sean Landers of Moynalty fame attack over the crest of the hill and begin to pull away. I was feeling good but got boxed in so was forced to stay put and wait to see if I could get across once I had some room. With the pace slackening and guys starting to wait for the sprint I made a few attempts to get up the road but was marked out every time so resigned myself to a sprint for 2nd. One of the NRPT juniors lead it out which was handy and from third wheel I managed a decent sprint, and a respectable bike throw if I do say so myself, to take 2nd in the kick and 3rd on the day just pipped by Liam Hanley of Lucan.

Bike throw secures third place! Photo thanks to Sean Rowe

Although I felt I could have been in with a shout of taking the win had things gone differently, I was really happy with the result and an upgrade to A2 after just two races in A3. I’m equally looking forward to and dreading racing in the A1/2 bunch which I have a feeling is going to be a whole other world of hurt. As Greg Lemond said, “It doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster” or as Peter O’Toole (formerly of Orwell) put it, “Welcome to Hell"!!

 

Irish National Cross County Nationals: (taken from www.irishxcnps.ie)

Emma in action, photo thanks to Richard Cowan

Banbridge Cycling Club hosted the 2018 Irish National Cross-country Mountain Bike Championships on Sunday 22 July at Castlewellan Forest Park in County Down. This is the 5th year the club has been running mountain bike events in this part of the popular forest park which includes a mixture of grass field start in front of the castle, fire roads, trail centre sections, natural sections, bomb holes and technical descents.

As this was the national championships, a UCI santioned race, the day was focused on the championship categories, starting from Under 12s up to Juniors, with the women racing in one category and the men racing in the 4 age categories. The first race of the day was for the Under 12s which took place on a separate course starting and finishing on a fire road climb. The riders had 4 laps to complete. The boys’ race was a very close affair with the top four riders wheel to wheel each lap. Reuben Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club) kept his cool to take the win with Daniel Scott (Island Wheelers) second, Oisin May (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) third

Racing then moved to the main event field in front of the castle. The start line was close to the lake side with the riders heading up the grassy climb, snaking around the trees, past the finish line with the new gantry, to the top of the rise where the riders then heading across the front of the castle and down three flights of steps into the forest itself.

The next races were for the Junior men, Women, Under 16s and Under 14s. Erin Creighton (XMTB) proved to be the strongest rider in the Under 14 girls’ race as she finished well clear of Hannah Mullin (Trail Demons CC) with Annie Roche (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) third. Among the Under 14 boys’ it was race favourite Luke Murphy (Killarney Cycling Club) who lived up to the hype to take a clear win with Scott Roberts (McConvey Cycles) second and Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers) third. Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers) was in great form to finish 4 minutes ahead of Caoimhe May (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) in the 3 lap Under 16 girls’ race. Miriam Draper (MBCC) finished third with Stephanie Roche (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) fourth.

The Women’s race attracts UCI points and saw a field of 9 riders take part over 4 laps. Last year’s winner and veteran of mountain bike racing, Ciara Macmanus (Summit Mountain Biking) put on another fine display to take the win. Emma Convey was the sole entry from Scott Orwell Wheelers and finished in a very respectable 7th place.

Caoimhe giving it all
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