The first of several reports from a busy and successful few days of racing comes out of the west, where Dick O'Brien led home an Orwell crew who took three top ten spots in the TT stage, and subsequently the overall. Tom Blennerhassett repeated his strong showing from 2014, and Brian McArdle marked a welcome return to stage racing.

Eight Orwells made the trip to Westport for the Rás Mhaigh Eo 2 Day, opening with a 90km road race. The club were active and animated the action throughout, with a man in every group that went up the road. Aidan Collins was firing off the front at every opportunity, but it was Dick O’Brien and Diarmuid Collins who were in the most promising group that broke away 20km from the finish, but it came back together before the line.

Before the race began (photo thanks to Sandra Telford)

Neal Hudson timed his break with two Lucan riders well, clocking up some initial KOM points, and then going on the hunt again on the second climb of the day, leaving him tied for 1st in that competition. Brian McArdle nabbed a sprint prime, putting him 2nd in line for the green jersey, one point off 1st. He was first Orwell home, with Jamie Busher not far behind, but nearly everyone coming in the main bunch to avoid losing any early time.

A late start for the TT proved beneficial to the club, as a rising tailwind aided their efforts. Reigning Club TT Champ O’Brien was unsurprisingly top of the Orwell riders, and testament to his amazing power output, came home 2nd fastest overall. Only the eventual yellow jersey winner Daire Feeley was faster. Tom Blennerhassett, previously holder of the club 25TT title and second finisher in the stage last year, also produced a brilliant performance to take 4th on the stage, while perennial second finisher in the TT championships last year, McArdle was just inside the top ten with 9th. Those results also represented the GC positions for each rider.

Blennerhassett and O'Brien warming up (photo thanks to Rás Mhaigh Eo)

Further down the field, many of the Orwell team elected to soft-pedal the TT to save their matches for the afternoon's road stage, but A3 Busher deserves a mention for his 30th spot, just 1'10" off the powerhouse of Feeley

Coming into the final stage, the club had three top ten positions to defend, and Hudson and McArdle in the running for jerseys. While McArdle managed to win another prime, both ultimately came away empty-handed (topless?) in the competitions. While once again the club were aggressive and were constantly sending men up the road to save O'Brien and Blennerhassett's legs, it mostly stayed together for a fast finish into Westport. Liam Rowsome was in the mix in the closing kilometres, but two riders clipped away to take just under 20” seconds on the bunch, with the stage winner Peter Tuohy leapfrogging the top three Orwells to take O’Brien’s 2nd overall position. A second would have made all the difference, as the two were tied on time, but the split went in Tuohy's favour.

After the race was over (photo thanks to John Busher)

Still, with all done and dusted, the club came away with 3rd, 5th and 9th overall, 2nd, 4th and 9th on the TT stage, and a good weekend’s racing in the leg bank. For the Rás contenders, that’s a great outcome, and the envelopes are a handy bonus! In terms of ranking points, O’Brien reaps a huge 10 points toward his A1 upgrade, while Blennerhassett adding 6 to also bring him to 10. Additionally, McArdle picked up 2 to give him a total of 9. Busher can also be pleased with his 10th place in the A3 competition, a sure sign of form and power in the early season.

The use of the club car was extremely useful, and the team were very grateful. Aidan Collins' driving was much appreciated - transporting the club car, four bodies, five bikes and several wheels and bags to and from Wesport. Thanks to Sandra Telford for the assistance - she made great use of the club car doing support (the best-looking in the cavalcade!), booked dinner, fetched sandwiches, and provided invaluable moral support throughout the weekend, while still saving enough in the tank to take top woman in the A4 one day race on Sunday. Racing the same tough course as the men, she held off fierce local competition to finish first woman!

Telford accepting her prize (photo thanks to Rás Mhaigh Eo)

There are plenty more photos on the Rás Mhaigh Eo Facebook page. Thanks to Covey Wheelers Westport CC for a great weekend of cycling!


Rás Mhaigh Eo, Mayo (14-15/3/2015)

Stage 1
1 Henry Cooke (Limerick CC) 2:10:01
13 Brian McArdle s/t
17 Jamie Busher s/t
59 Diarmuid Collins s/t
63 Aidan Collins s/t
64 Tom Blennerhassett s/t
65 Neal Hudson s/t
68 Dick O'Brien s/t
97 Liam Rowsome @7'02"

KOM Competition
1 Cian Suthcliffe (Lucan CRC) 3pts
2 Rob Cummins (Wheelworx) 3pts
3 Neal Hudson 3 pts

Sprints Competition
1 Eugene Murtagh (Lucan CRC) 4pts
2 Brian McArdle 3pts

Stage 2A (TT)
1 Daire Feeley (Team iTap) 09:11
2 Dick O'Brien @35"
4 Tom Blennerhassett @38"
9 Brian McArdle @48"
30 Jamie Busher @1'10"
46 Liam Rowsome @1'29"
61 Neal Hudson @1'38"
90 Diarmuid Collins @2'11"
92 Aidan Collins @2'13"

GC after Stage 2A
1 Daire Feeley (Team iTap) 2:19:12
2 Dick O'Brien @35"
4 Tom Blennerhassett @38"
9 Brian McArdle @48"
28 Jamie Busher @1'10"
54 Neal Hudson @1'38"
77 Diarmuid Collins @2'11"
78 Aidan Collins @2'13"
95 Liam Rowsome @8'31"

Stage 2B
1 Peter Tuohy (Castlebar CC) 2:14:05
16 Liam Rowsome 2:14:24
21 Brian McArdle s/t
40 Tom Blennerhassett s/t
41 Dick O'Brien s/t
55 Aidan Collins s/t
60 Jamie Busher s/t
66 Diarmuid Collins s/t
?? Neal Hudson s/t

Final GC
1 Daire Feeley (Team iTap) 4:33:36
3 Dick O'Brien @35"
5 Tom Blennerhassett @38"
9 Brian McArdle @48"
24 Jamie Busher @1'10"
39 Neal Hudson @1'38" (estimated)
57 Diarmuid Collins @2'11"
59 Aidan Collins @2'13"
78 Liam Rowsome @8'31"

KOM Competition
1 Karl Benson (Castlebar CC) 8pts
5 Neal Hudson 3pts

Sprints Competition
1 Eugene Murtagh (Lucan CRC) 8pts
2 Brian McArdle 7pts


A4 Race
1st Woman
Sandra Telford