Ed O’Mahony made his Gorey début last weekend, and to hear him tell the tale, it was tough going from before it started, right until the final finish line in Blessington. We’ve lifted his account from the forum for your pleasure! Read on!

I had heard guys saying what a tough race Gorey was and how it set them up for the season, but I decided to make it even tougher on myself by leaving my house late and having to time trial it to Blessington for sign-on. Sign on time was running out when half way up the embankment an Usher van passed me on the road, so I started waving frantically in the hope that he was also involved in the race and would give me a lift. Big sigh of relief when he pulled over and I threw my bike and bag into the van. He told me I was the first Gorey-bound cyclist to see the finishing camera as he was the guy in charge of the finishing line. I thanked him profusely for stopping but admitted that subconsciously I may have wanted to miss sign-on as I felt pretty under prepared; due to exams I had only done my first race of the season 9 days before in round 2 of the thursday night league, followed the night after by the Brendan Carroll Memorial and in both races I was dropped.

The first few kms of the 127km race were easy enough but things started to heat up coming into Hackettstown where Declan Quigley had said the race always splits; unfortunately I was on the wrong end of the split and along with a few others had to chase frantically to get back on. I got dropped a second time, and on regaining contact with the peloton dropped a third time. Where this occurred I'm not really sure as the race was all becoming a bit of a blur to me but I had over 40km to go to the finish. I remember passing the sign for Toome Graveyard and thinking how appropriate. The thought occurred to me that maybe I would also be the last Gorey-bound cyclist the finishing line cameraman would see that day. There was nothing for it but to keep pedalling on and hope there wasn’t a cut off point.

I managed to link up with two other riders when with about 10km to go we were told that there had been a crash on the course and the race halted and we might be able to catch the peloton again. Suddenly 3 tired cyclists sprang into life and shared turns at the front and passing other cyclists. I found my fellow Orwell cyclists standing around the team car and learned that Philippe had gotten into a break with ten others when the race was stopped with only 3km to go and so didn’t mention that I was delighted it had stopped. The car crash was unrelated to the race and the last I heard was that the injuries were non serious thankfully.

After the premature ending of the race a group of us headed back to the house we were renting for the weekend in nearby Courtown; other than Declan "the gaffer" Quigley I didn't know any of the others (Ronan Grimes, Fionn Sheridan, David Swift) although I did know Fionn to see. Declan cooked a mountain of pasta and washed all our kit. That night we heard unconfirmed reports that the 11 guys in the breakaway would be given a minute advantage over everyone else so all wasn't lost to Philippe. Unfortunately for me there were also reports circulating that numbers had been taken of those who were dropped on the stage and they would be suitably penalised.

Stage 2 was a 6km time trial but if but I couldn't help feeling that trying to put 20 or so seconds into some of my competitors was a bit pointless if I could have lost 20 minutes the previous day. Its a bit like putting a cherry on top of a really crap cake or rearranging the furniture on the Titanic. The TT itself was into a strong easterly headwind that would continue to get stronger throughout the day. Afterwards it was back to the house for something to eat and prepare for the afternoons 97km stage. When we went to sign on for stage 3 the results for GC and the TT were posted up and (completely unfairly) I had been given the same time as everyone else in the peloton; yippee Easter Sunday and the resurrection!

After seeing how the first stage went for me Declan told me to get to the front of the peloton from the start, so sure enough when the yellow, green and mountain jerseys were being given out I was right beside the 3 riders, needless to say it didn't last long but anytime there was a slowing of the pace I moved up the peloton before drifting back again and having to do it all again, a bit like snakes and ladders but certainly way easier than trying to chase back on. The stage itself was 4 laps passing through Gorey and taking in the Craanford climb each time where I may or may not have been dropped the previous day. Halfway through the stage it started raining but I was still in the peloton and feeling ok. The pace on each lap was pretty uneven as every time we hit the main road heading towards Gorey the pace slowed as nobody wanted to go to the front into the strong easterly wind which gave me a chance to recover from the previous undulating and frantic pace of the rest of the lap.

Going up Craanford the third time however I was beginning to feel the strain when coming to the top of the hill I saw Dick just up ahead of me so I busted myself to get on his back wheel hoping that he would again show his great tt ability from that morning and we would reconnect with the peloton. Then a Lucan rider came past so I jumped on his wheel thinking the 3 of us could work together but when I looked back there was no sign of Dick. Myself and Lucan made it back onto the group before we hit the main road.

As I went round the corner I saw a Kanturk rider who had come down in a bad way and was lying on the road moaning loudly, I didn’vt see him fall but I saw the look of horror on the face of some of the onlookers who did. I lost the wheel in front but when I looked behind for someone to come through there was no one behind me. Oh no, not this again. The cavalcade passed me but I couldnt get a draft on any of them until. Slow down you b*****ds!! Thankfully a Wexford Saltees Fish team car had mercy and pulled me back to the peloton which again had slowed facing into that wind, without that I would have never got back on facing into that wind. I felt like jumping off the bike and thanking them personally but realised that would be counter productive to their efforts. I got dropped again going up Craanford for the last lap and as I struggled I saw one of my housemates David in a van, I hoped he was alright having seen what happened to the Kanturk rider along with one or two other fellas go off into ditches. Thankfully it wasn't an accident, he just got frozen on the bike which in the conditions wasn't surprising.

On the last lap going east I saw an Orwell jersey an another rider up ahead so put the effort in to catch up with them and we could all work together. It was Fionn so I shouted at him to get on my back wheel and we could all work together. Even though I had been dropped with about 10km to go I felt surprisingly good and when the third rider slowed right down I went to the front, when I next looked back I'm on my own again but its only a few km to the finish. Crossed the line feeling pleased with myself, had I finished in the bunch I'd probably have been as happy as the stage winner. Phillippe was again up in the points (7th) while Jamie was also up there.

Went out to dinner that night with the rest of the Orwell team, in fact that was my second dinner in about 2 hours as Ronan and myself had cooked up some pasta on getting back to the house. Along with the riders and manager, Sandra and Emma were also down in Gorey to help out.

Stage 4 and back to Blessington. Listened to what Declan said about the course as pretty much everything he had said re the race and tactics so far turned out to be true whereas my ability to read a race is only slightly better than Chewbacca’s ability to read and recite the complete works of Shakespeare. Unfortunately with the rolling start through Gorey I didn’t manage to get near the front and the pace was fast from the start. Before we even hit the first climb I was finding the pace tough to handle. Before the half way point I had been dropped. Thankfully Fionn's mother Jenny and sister Naoise were bringing up the rear and gave me a tow before leaving me off when they saw another Orwell rider up ahead who I thought would be either Fionn or Dick so was surprised to see it was Ronan. As it turned out both Dick and Fionn stayed with the peloton the whole way to Blessington, Fionn even managing to go on the attack a few km from the finish. Philippe was again in the points while Jamie was also up there. Chapeau to all!

I meanwhile saw most of the stage through the back windscreen of Jenny's car while her daughter made sure that neither I nor Ronan lost contact with them along with one or two other stranglers who joined us. Had it not been for them I would probably still be out on the course. I punctured at Russborough which I was actually kind of happy about as it gave me a legitimate reason to stop, unfortunately Jenny & co were way too quick with the wheel change. When I crossed the finish line I was relieved and delighted.

Sincere thanks to all who helped out, Emma, Sandra, Declan, Jenny and Naoise, without all of ye a hard race would have been so much harder. Lastly thanks to Jamie and his Dad for bringing my TT bike down to Wexford, it was very much appreciated even though it made little or no difference to my overall position!


O’Mahony second from left, with teammates Ronan Grimes, David Swift, Philippe Bourdarias, Fionn Sheridan, Dick O'Brien, Sandra Telford (photo thanks to Emma Convey)