There were some very strong Orwell performances at the Gorey Three Day this weekend, and lots of experience gained by our (mainly) young squad.

With four stages over three days and almost 150 riders, Gorey is a fantastic stage race for A2, A3 and Junior riders, as well as having a strong ladies field. We had a team of one lady rider in Yvonne Doran, one A2 in Cahir O'Higgins and four juniors: David Harrington, Joe-Nathan Matar, Connor Fennell and Daniel Roberts. Killian O'Brien was riding for a strong Leinster representative team. Ivan O'Brien was team manager with Barry Fennell as mechanic.

Stage one had a few lumps, but run in fairly benign weather conditions no break was able to get away and it looked set for a bunch sprint up the finishing hill until late enough when two Newry riders dangling off the front were joined by Connor Prendergast from Galway, who then went solo and took nearly 40 seconds on the field. Curtis Neill (Caldwell Cycles) mopped up most of the KOM points and given the parcours to follow, many thought that was two jerseys sewn up ... how wrong we were!

Killian follows eventual stage winner around an early corner on stage 1.

Unfortunately for Orwell, both Yvonne and Connor abandoned the race after finishing the stage. We were sorry to see them go, but in retrospect it was probably the right call as the racing got much harder from there!

Sunday had a good bit more wind, and a lot more climbing! 70km with 1,000m of climbing doesn't sound like all that much, but with a big hill right from the gun the field split to pieces. From the massively reduced front group, rider 27 went solo off the front ... Killian O'Brien expanding lead from a few seconds to well over a minute as hill after hill was covered. A small group of four riders eventually made it over to him with about 10km to go, and he sprinted a little too early, ending up third on a day when a win was fully deserved, but that's bike racing! He jumped to fourth on GC, a handful of seconds back. Daniel suffered in a grupetto while David, Cahir and Joe-Nathan all rode in the main group of the day, having missed the key early split.

Stage 3 was a 2.4km time trial, with the first two thirds mainly downhill followed by a short but very sharp rise and about 500m at 5%. All into a massive block headwind. The Orwell riders performed brilliantly, with David, Joe-Nathan and Cahir finishing 15th, 24th and 31st respectively for the stage. Killian powered to 7th on the stage to consolidate his GC position, just 6 seconds down. However, with nearly 20 riders within 25 seconds of the lead it was all to play for.

Monday morning brought stage 4 and the threat of awful weather. Thankfully a massive rain shower passed before the start, but strong winds made establishing a break hard, and the final stage looked like it was set for a big bunch leading to the only classified climb of the day, just 10km from the end. Killian was just one KOM point off the jersey (a miscalculation by the organisers meant he only discovered he didn't have the jersey a couple of minutes before the stage start), so knew what he had to do. Lots of riders had a completely free hand, however, and a group of five riders (including Cahir), then five more, then three more went off the front. The bunch stopped riding and soon those 13 riders had over three minutes on the field and the GC was blown apart. Daniel was unlucky to get caught up in a crash and rode on before abandoning just over halfway through the stage. Cahir finished a strong 8th on the day from the break, while Jo-Nathan and David joined Killian in a small group that split from the main field on the final climb to reduce the deficit to the leaders to 1:40, leaving Killian 9th overall on GC, and a single point off the mountains jersey. Cahir (28th on GC), Joe-Nathan (35th) and David (36th) finished the race strongly, while thankfully Daniel just had a bit of road rash after his fall.

Joe-Nathan, Cahir, David and Daniel, with manager Ivan before the start of stage 4.

Huge thanks to Orwell Wheelers for all their support, Joan McMahon for preparing the grub for the first night for us (an army marches on its belly), Cycling Leinster for the use of their car and Joe Daly's for race nutrition and all the parts we might have needed in the case of any mechanicals: thankfully they weren't needed!

Maybe we can drag a few more adult Orwell members to the race next year? It's great fun, and really well organised!