Two races in early September saw two A4 performances of note - one a regular racer, the other almost a complete novice. David Maher got his long-overdue upgrade to A3 with a 3rd at the head of the bunch sprint in Laragh, while Chris Mollaghan made a impression at his first stage race, with 12th in the TT and 5th in the final stage, narrowly missing out on a top ten overall spot.

A twelve-strong contingent of Orwell riders were destined for the Charleville 2 Day, only for the late pullout of Fionn Sheridan, fatigued after a long season. That left eleven to fly the club colours, a hefty delegation! In alphabetical order, the ten in the A2/3 event were Tom Blennerhassett, Cormac Bracken, Jamie Busher, Ronan Grimes, Neal Hudson, Brian McNally, Dick O'Brien, Liam Rowsome, John Sower and David Swift. It fell to a single rider to shoulder the burden of representation in the A4 race - Chris Mollaghan. Also in Cork for the weekend in support roles were DS Declan Quigley, mechanic Brian McArdle, and soigneur Sandra Telford.

Stage 1

The race began with a last minute mechanical for Rowsome, which required a wheel change in the start area - carried out calmly and professional by the team support. The backroom staff also had a chance to meet the enigmatic mountain biker Mollaghan, who - though somewhat green when it came to road racing - was enthusiastic and looking forward to his first stage race.

The team car took a slight detour as the race rolled through Charleville village, but Quigley's motorsport experience and expert rally driving prevented anyone from noticing, as well as providing his passengers with a brief rollercoaster simulation.

Slotting back into the cavalcade not a moment too soon, the club car was called into action as Grimes suffered a puncture. With his wheel quickly replaced by neutral service, he faced a tough challenge to rejoin a fast-moving bunch. Just as he tagged back on, the peloton - chasing a break - took a spontaneous wrong turn, which put Grimes at the front of the chase as the riders did an volte-face.

The break was neutralised until the same gap was re-established, with riders regrouping up the Milford climb. Nine riders pulled out a large gap, clearly working hard and dropping a couple each lap until only five were left - a UCD duo and three juniors, including Eddie Dunbar who took the stage (and later the overall).

As they headed for the closing kilometres, a crash in the peloton strung things out, but all Orwell stayed safely in the bunch. Bracken unluckily started to suffer with cramps, and lost a handful of seconds as he slipped off the back of the main field, but the rest came in together, only losing time to the four leaders.

In the A4 event, Mollaghan suffered a rear puncture due to a perishing tyre, and was delighted to discover the existence of neutral service. He displayed strong riding to rejoin the race, using the cavalcade like a natural pro, then sprinted too early for the line. A daring effort was rewarded instead with a backward ride through the bunch, and he ended up losing time, but a very encouraging ride from the novice on the road.

Some of the A2/3 team after the first stage: (L-R) Rowsome, Hudson, Grimes, O'Brien, Swift, Blennerhassett, Sower

Stage 2

Now aware of Mollaghan's potential in the saddle, the manager and mechanic performed a close inspection of what was underneath said saddle. A front wheel with no quick release, a derailleur caked in several months of muck, a half-functioning rear brake... it was not a pretty sight. The DS was even heard to remark that it was worse than a gate on which a certain rider raced the Ras de Cymru! A full clean and a quick service later, Mollaghan rolled out to the Stage 2 time trial on a borrowed front wheel, with everything else squeaky clean.

With the machine now in fully working order, the engine was able to perform to its full capacity, as Mollaghan's legs flung him down the road in 12th position, less than a minute down on the winner - who was nearly half a minute clear of second place. Only 10sec separated Mollaghan from a top five finish on the stage, but as his first ever TT, 12th was a quality result for the rider. He moved into 40th overall, from 58th.

The A2/3 riders had to wait until the following morning to put themselves to the test, and warmed up as a misty dawn broke. Sower was off first of the field, in dossard #1. Following shortly after was O'Brien, Hudson, Bracken, Grimes, Busher, Rowsome and Swift. Nearly an hour later Blennerhassett took to the course, and finally McNally roughly 30mins later.

Hudson warming up against a misty backdrop

Blennerhassett is more fortunate with the sun; the team car was invaluable for transporting turbos as well as in-race support

When the time were checked at that point, the commissaires reported that Blennerhassett was leading the field! With over half the riders through, and only 65 remaining, his time of 8'32" looked good for a top ten spot. Second fastest of the Orwells was 10TT and 25TT Champ O'Brien in 8'40", and behind him was final finisher McNally with 8'52". The others were all between the nine and ten minute markers.

Ultimately the final result was a disappointment. As the mist cleared and the road dried, a rising tailwind leant itself to increasingly faster times. That meant Blennerhassett's time was only only good enough for top thirty, which is definitely not reflective of his true abilities.

Stage 3

It was left for any result to come in the final stage, and Dick O'Brien lost no time, getting in an early move with three others. They were kept on a tight leash, and reined back in when they started to present a danger. That effort left O'Brien digging deep on the first ascent to stay in contact, but a gargantuan struggle saw him regain the wheels of a chasing group, staying solidly in their company the second time around.

A front group of twelve pulled ahead, with the Orwell lads unfortunately missing the split. A series of mechanicals followed, with Busher needing a quick wheel change and quickly getting back in his group without any assistance. John Sower was less fortunate, hitting a pothole and flatting his front wheel. After being paced back to his companions, he discovered too late that his right lever had become detached from the bars, and he could no longer shift his gears or brake. He made the sensible decision to abandon, with his wife conveniently collecting him.

David Swift unshipped his chain, and got back on just as the race hit the final climb, which then saw him fall out the back of the move. Hudson, McNally, Grimes and Blennerhassett finished safely in the bunch, with Swift being gathered up by the move containing Rowsome, Busher, O'Brien and Bracken, and crossing the line with them.

The lack of results in the main event was remedied by Mollaghan in the A4 race. Back on his original wheel with a new skewer, a boosted confidence level, and a small bit of racecraft saw him take a fantastic 5th in the bunch sprint! A strong spurt in the closing metres went a bit too early, and four riders beat him to the chalk, but nonetheless it remains a fine placing.

Had he finished in the bunch in the opening stage, he would've been 10th overall in the final reckoning. Instead he climbed to 24th from 40th, a great improvement, and a display that surely marks him as one to watch in 2015.

<Picture temporarily removed>
Mollaghan accepts his 5th place envelope

Laragh Classic

A week later, while the women were busy winning prizes left right and centre in the An Post Rás na mBan, the Laragh Classic provided the same opportunity for the menfolk. Organised by St Tiernan's, and only in its second edition, the Classic has the makings of a tough one-day - especially the cobblestone trophy presented to the winner of the headline event.

The club was represented in the A3 race by Gavin Dodd, Liam Rowsome and Brian McNally. McNally came closest to the prizes, finishing 6th in bunch sprint behind 3 breakaways, giving him 9th overall and just outside the points. A disappointing result for a clearly strong rider, especially after his powerful test in Charleville, but next season will no doubt see him back in winning form.

It was the A4 race that provided the spoils for Orwell then, with three likely candidates for the podium in Stephen Barry, Brendan Lawless and David Maher. Maher has written an account of his journey to the finish line:

"The parcours was selective - just outside Laragh village and at the start of each lap, a little stone bridge over the river Avonmore marked the start of a hurting 2.5km drag over a roughly surfaced 5-8% incline. This section shed about a third of the front A4 group on each visit. On the third and final lap, this small road reabsorbed the last stray breakaway into the group of about 15 single-file riders remaining.

"Both Barry and Lawless featured prominently in the early manoeuvres at the front of the race. Lawless looked strong on his retro aluminium bike and was unlucky to puncture half way through the race. Barry attacked repeatedly in the first two laps before tiring a little on the last lap. Saturday hill repeats on the Sallygap the day before a race may be contraindicated.

"With about 5km of the 64km course left, a final attack of four riders broke away with the two strongest staying clear to contest the win about 100m clear of the chasing bunch. Descending a steep left to right curve and 1200m from the Annamoe finishing line, I found myself near the front of this group. 300m to go and having to work on my own for the first time in the race, my legs just held out to take 3rd at the finish. Stephen Barry, despite all the early hard work, came in not far behind in 12th position. Brendan showed great courage, fixing his puncture in a ditch on the side of the road and completing the full course."

Maher on his way to 3rd (photo thanks to St Tiernan's)

That superb podium spot at the head of the bunch sprint gives Maher another 6 points to add to his tally of 4 from 5th at the Roundwood GP, taking him to the magic total of 10 - earning him the title of top A4 at the end of the season, and a ticket to A3 for 2015! Congratulations to him on a well-earned upgrade!

That nearly wraps up our open racing reports for the year, with only the women's National Champs and Leinster Track Champs to be covered. Stay tuned!


Charleville 2 Day, Cork (6-7/9/2014)

A2/3 - Stage 1

1 Dunbar,Eddie KAA O'Leary Stone Kanturk 2h02'53"
27 Rowsome,Liam ORB Orwell Wheelers B 2h03'54" @01'01"
37 Hudson,Neal ORA Orwell Wheelers A 2h03'54" @ s/t
40 Swift,David ORB Orwell Wheelers B 2h03'54" @ s/t
51 Busher,Jamie ORA Orwell Wheelers A 2h03'54" @ s/t
53 McNally,Brian ORA Orwell Wheelers A 2h03'54" @ s/t
68 Blennerhassett,Tom ORC Orwell Wheelers C 2h03'54" @ s/t
73 Grimes,Ronan ORB Orwell Wheelers B 2h03'54" @ s/t
87 Sower,John ORC Orwell Wheelers C 2h03'54" @ s/t
98 O'Brien,Dick ORA Orwell Wheelers A 2h03'54" @ s/t
103 Bracken,Cormac ORC Orwell Wheelers C 2h04'32" @01'39"

Stage 2
1 O'Reilly,Paul UTA UCD Team A 07'51.46"
27 Blennerhassett,Tom ORC Orwell Wheelers 08'32.81" @41.35"
37 O'Brien,Dick ORA Orwell Wheelers 08'40.78" @49.32"
49 McNally,Brian ORA Orwell Wheelers 08'52.48" @01'01.02
74 Rowsome,Liam ORB Orwell Wheelers 09'13.56" @01'22.10
82 Hudson,Neal ORA Orwell Wheelers 09'20.01" @01'28.55
100 Swift,David ORB Orwell Wheelers 09'32.51" @01'41.05
101 Busher,Jamie ORA Orwell Wheelers 09'32.77" @01'41.31
103 Bracken,Cormac ORC Orwell Wheelers 09'35.35" @01'43.89
120 Grimes,Ronan ORB Orwell Wheelers 09'54.49" @02'03.03
121 Sower,John ORC Orwell Wheelers 09'56.54" @02'05.08

GC after Stage 2
1 Dunbar,Eddie J O'Leary Stone Ka 2h10'51"
26 Blennerhassett,Tom 2 Orwell Wheelers 2h12'26" @01'35"
33 O'Brien,Dick 3 Orwell Wheelers 2h12'34" @01'43"
46 McNally,Brian 3 Orwell Wheelers 2h12'46" @01'55"
66 Rowsome,Liam 3 Orwell Wheelers 2h13'07" @02'16"
73 Hudson,Neal 2 Orwell Wheelers 2h13'14" @02'23"
84 Swift,David 3 Orwell Wheelers 2h13'26" @02'35"
85 Busher,Jamie 3 Orwell Wheelers 2h13'26" = s/t
95 Grimes,Ronan 3 Orwell Wheelers 2h13'48" @02'57"
96 Sower,John 3 Orwell Wheelers 2h13'50" @02'59"
103 Bracken,Cormac 3 Orwell Wheelers 2h14'07" @03'16"

Stage 3
1 Dunbar,Eddie KAA O'Leary Stone Kanturk 2h02'12"
23 Hudson,Neal ORA Orwell Wheelers A 2h04'58" @02'46"
28 McNally,Brian ORA Orwell Wheelers A 2h04'58" @ s/t
42 Grimes,Ronan ORB Orwell Wheelers B 2h04'58" @ s/t
52 Blennerhassett,Tom ORC Orwell Wheelers C 2h04'58" @ s/t
63 Rowsome,Liam ORB Orwell Wheelers B 2h09'37" @07'25"
72 Busher,Jamie ORA Orwell Wheelers A 2h09'37" @ s/t
88 Swift,David ORB Orwell Wheelers B 2h09'37" @ s/t
95 O'Brien,Dick ORA Orwell Wheelers A 2h09'37" @ s/t
99 Bracken,Cormac ORC Orwell Wheelers C 2h09'37" @ s/t

Final GC
1 Dunbar,Eddie J O'Leary Stone Ka 4h13'03"
20 Blennerhassett,Tom 2 Orwell Wheelers 4h17'24" @04'21"
34 McNally,Brian 3 Orwell Wheelers 4h17'44" @04'41"
47 Hudson,Neal 2 Orwell Wheelers 4h18'12" @05'09"
55 Grimes,Ronan 3 Orwell Wheelers 4h18'46" @05'43"
70 O'Brien,Dick 3 Orwell Wheelers 4h22'11" @09'08"
81 Rowsome,Liam 3 Orwell Wheelers 4h22'44" @09'41"
89 Swift,David 3 Orwell Wheelers 4h23'03" @10'00"
90 Busher,Jamie 3 Orwell Wheelers 4h23'03" = s/t
98 Bracken,Cormac 3 Orwell Wheelers 4h23'44" @10'41"

Club Team Overall
1 O'Leary Stone Kantur = 12h42'09
8 Orwell Wheelers A @ 15'58"
13 Orwell Wheelers B @ 22'24"


A4 - Stage 1
1 Delaney, Eoin (Lucan CRC) 2h33'28"
58 Mollaghan, Chris (Orwell Wheelers) 2h34'00" @32"

Stage 2
1 Cassidy, Ian (Fixx Coffee) 08'12.10"
12 Mollaghan, Chris (Orwell Wheelers) 09'02.35" @50.25"

GC after Stage 2
1 Cassidy, Ian (Fixx Coffee) 2h41'40"
40 Mollaghan, Chris (Orwell Wheelers) 2h43'02" @01'22"

Stage 3
1 Gollogly, Declan (Newry Wheelers) 2h35'53"
5 Mollaghan, Chris (Orwell Wheelers) 2h35'53"

Final GC
1 Cassidy, Ian (Fixx Coffee) 5h17'33"
24 Mollaghan, Chris (Orwell Wheelers) 5h18'55" @01'22"


Friends First Laragh Classic, Laragh (14/9/2014)

1 Keith Gater (Aquablue)
2 Sean McKenna (UCD CC)
3 Damien Shaw (Aquablue)
4 Eoin Morton (UCD CC)
5 Ian Richardson (UCD CC)
6 Mark Dowling (DID Dunboyne)
7 Joe Fenlon (Aquablue)
8 Greg Swinand (UCD CC)
9 Joseph Breheny (UCD CC)
10 James Davenport (South Dublin CC)

Unplaced A2s
1 Gary Sheehan (C4SC)
2 Keith Hughes (Bikeworx)

A3 Race
1 Ian Cassidy (Fixx Rouleurs)
2 Conor Crowley (Wexford Wheelers)
3 Craig Arrigan (South Dublin CC)
4 Sean Grimes (DID Dunboyne)
5 Fintan Ryan (NRPT)
6 Marc Houlihan (iBike)

A4 Race
1 James McFadden (DUCC)
2 Derrick Evans (SERC)
3 David Maher (Orwell Wheelers)
4 Michael Healy (iBike)
5 Mark Fitzsimons (Kilcullen CC)
6 Andy Fay (u/a)