It’s 8:30 on a Sunday morning. It’s already 20 degrees. I’m sitting in the middle seat in the front of a big white van. Nick Appleby to my left in his rolled up jeans, deck shoes and long sleeve Orwell top, taking in the fresh air from the open window & sipping his second coffee of the morning. I'm wondering how he’s not sweating? John Wade is to my right, driving said big white van that he had rented for the weekend to help his girlfriend move up to Dublin from Cork. The van became our sweaty little team bus for the day. Bikes strapped down in the back and plenty of room to change in privacy and have a baby wipe shower after. The glamour!

Nick was racing his first A3 race after his recent upgrade and John and I would be in the A4. We discussed “tactics” on the way down. John and I decided to just try and stay out of trouble towards the front of the pack and see if we could do something in the finish. Nick meanwhile was feeling a little apprehensive about his first A3 race, which is very understandable.

We got down to Wexford nice and early, and after getting a few funny looks turning up in the van, we breezed through registration and set about getting ready. The mercury was rising by the minute (you know it’s hot when you’re sweating in the shade with just your cycling shorts on) so the priority was plenty of water and covering up with sun cream. We all opted for the two big water bottles, which proved a good move. After the lads had a good laugh at me forgetting twice to pull up the straps of my bibs before putting my jersey, we rolled out for a very short warm up (too short as it would turn out) and then down into Bunclody for the start. The A4 race was 3 laps of a sporting 25 km course with a 5 km run in. The A3s would do 4 laps and the A1/2s 5. Each group would be brought on to the course by the lead car and we were told the neutral start ended at the 80 km to go sign.

John & Monica in the A4 Race, photo thanks to John Hammer

We got going and straight away I wasn’t feeling great! The lads at the front were chasing the lead car hard and I was feeling pretty second hand. I looked down at my Garmin - 180bpm! We were only moving a few minutes and I was already about to go into the red (longer warm up next time). Eventually the pace settled, and settled some more, and more. “Has anyone seen the 80 km to go sign?” cried one, and then another. We had probably passed it ages but no one had noticed. Things eventually got organised and the pace lifted.

After giving myself some time to find my legs and get used to the 25 degree heat in the middle of the pack I slowly worked my way up into the top 10-15 riders and decided to try and hold my place there for as much of the race as possible. Just far back enough to not end up riding on the front and far up enough to hopefully stay out of trouble. There were still a few dodgy moments as can often be the case, but things were civilised for the most part. I spent most of the first two laps drinking lots of water, thinking about the finish, and how I’d get in position after the tight left-hander with 5 km to go. After a brief stint off the front having found myself there by accident/fluke. I retreated back into the first few wheels and looked around for John to see if we could try something. After some spectacular miscommunication and ended up loosing heaps of positions, we decided to keep our powder dry and wait for the finish.

On the 3rd and final lap, a Navan rider went off the front and a few tried to follow. The chasers were mopped up fairly quickly and the Navan rider was left to dangle out the front at about 40 sec for a good 10 km as the pace fluctuated.

Anthony waiting for the right moment! Photo thanks to John Busher

After taking the tight left-hander with 5 km to go I was in 5th wheel and in a great position to do something in the finish. The heat was taking its toll as guys started to cramp and drop off the back while a Blanch Wheelies rider and a few others were driving it hard on the front. After the Navan rider was reeled in with 3 km to go, the pace went up again and I fought hard to stay in contention until the road kicked up for the final time with 600 m to go.

It was at this point that Barry Greene, whom I had met just before the start, appeared off my left shoulder and slotted in on the wheel in front of me. A DCU rider attacked on the right and it all went off from there. Guys were going backwards and others were fighting for wheels. Barry accelerated and I followed as two others made a bid for the line. Trying to be patient but getting a feeling that there would be no space to start my sprint any later, I went with 150 m to go - around the left - and found myself gaining on the two leaders. As I passed them and the effort started to bite I was waiting for other riders to come around me but they never came.

Photo thanks to John Hammer

A quick glance left and right and I realised I was going to win! I didn’t really know what to do but managed to get a hand in the air as I rolled over the line. Barry, who I had to apologise to for using as a lead out man, came in 8th and John in the top 15.

After handing up bottles to the thirsty A1/2 group we spun back into town and freshened up in the team bus…. eh sorry….. van. The win, along with my 4th two weeks ago meant I hit the magic 13 points and an upgrade to A3 which I am both happy and nervous about in equal measure.

Photo thanks to John Busher

All in all a great day for Scott Orwell Wheelers with Monica Marconi finishing 1st women in A4, Barry 8th in A4, Cahir O’Higgins 8th in A3 and Eoin Byrne 4th in A1/A2. Whoop!

Monica takes first woman placing, photo thanks to John Hammer

Over some lovely sandwiches and cakes after the race, Nick mentioned that Eddie Tobin was a big personality in Irish cycling and had been involved in getting the Tour de France to Wexford in 1998. I remember seeing the peloton fly down the N11 that summer and wondered more about Eddie. After a bit of Googling I discovered that he was an absolute legend. Described as Enniscorthy’s “Mr Can Do”, he was highly respected in the cycling community as a racer and official, ran the Fleadhanna Cheoil of 1999 and 2000, and the Special Olympics, as well as running a successful printing business. He sadly passed away 41 years young after competing in a local TT. Big thanks to Slaney Cycling Club for putting on such a well run, safe and enjoyable race. I’d like to think Eddie Tobin would have been proud!

Eoin Byrne finishing 4th in the A1/A2 Race - awesome result! Photo thanks to John Busher