Further along the age categories the seniors have been holding their own, with several big results in the last ten days. The A4s have enjoyed a great week's racing. Earlier last week, in the Boyne GP and St Patrick's Day race, Garry Blair and Brendan Lawless scored two smashing A4 victories, and Paul Kane took 4th in the latter. Lawless then earned his A3 upgrade with 3rd at the Des Hanlon, while Neal Hudson took an unplaced A2 prize. There were also two Orwells in the top ten for the women - Michelle Geoghegan and Brianne Mulvihill.

We've been trying to get this write-up together for the last week and a half, but every time it looked close to completion, somebody else would bag a prize! The club's current batch of A4s have been benefiting from the careful tutelage of Dave Mc - both in the saddle with some Tuesday night training sessions, and via the mailing list with pre-race info bulletins. That's begun to reap dividends this week, two outright wins, along with another two placings.

The Sunday Boyne GP belonged to Garry Blair. After 2nd in Donore last year, and several strong showings in the club league, Blair got that elusive open win in style. He didn't do it alone though, as he tells us himself:

  "Basically Ken O'Neill started the attacks for Orwell opening up a lead of 30 seconds for half a lap and continued to push at the front 'til the end. Finished 10th but he knows he would have been in the points if he stayed off the front.

  "I stayed at the back with Paul Kane. There was a crash on the third lap which I got caught behind. I had to work to get back on to the group, Paul had no luck doing same.

  "I got to the front with about 6km to go and led into the last two tight turns. On the final hill put a bit of pressure on and got a gap of about 20-30metres. Stuck to the task and held it and controlled the gap till the final couple of hundred meters when I just gave it a good turn. Won and was very surprised to do so!"

The win was captured by Kane, have a look at the video and see the gap that Blair had! He's earned his upgrade to A3 now, and we hope to see his strength on display at the front of those bunches soon!

Kane himself has suffered a streak of bad luck - two punctures already this year costing him places in Summerhill and Newbridge, and that unfortunate crash holding him up in the Boyne GP. He finally got that monkey off his back with a fantastic 4th place on St Patrick's Day in Summerhill, his perseverance paying off. The race was just shy of 50km, and therefore Kane successfully avoided any ranking points, giving him some more time to get that victory!

One man who can rest easy for a while more is Brendan Lawless. He was described as "the only one who really opened up for a sprint" in that same race, and was best of an enormous bunch gallop to the line.

Kane credited Orwell with enlivening the race before Lawless' final glory: "it was a very casual paced race apart from a few early attacks from Graham Scanlon, Jules Cantwell, Brendan and a few others. A well deserved win by Brendan who was well placed throughout the race and seemed to take the initiative while others were reluctant to take it up in the run in."

Update: CI later upgraded the race to that of a 50km one, which puts Lawless on 8pts and Kane on 9pts. Very close to the upgrade watershed of 10pts!

Update: we got a photo sent to us by StickyBottle of Lawless' St Patrick's Day finish

Sunday then was the ultimate one day sufferfest - Carlow CC's annual holding of the Des Hanlon. Renowned for its toughness, the club was very lucky to have 2014 Orwell League winner Patrick O'Brien in the driver's seat of the club car behind the A1/2 race, while Valdis Andersons and Stephen O'Shea were supporting the women's contingent. Both proved invaluable on the day with mechanical support required for the women, and nourishing the A riders over their punishing 160km course. It was also necessary when Brian McArdle hit the deck less than 30km in, rendering his bike unrideable - O'Brien was on hand to nurse him into the car, and ferry the bike home.

The first results of the day trickled in thanks via the youth riders, but the seniors weren't long behind, with Brendan Lawless getting on to the A4 podium with a terrific 3rd. That was a direct consequence of some fine teamwork by the A4s, with Dave Mc acting as puppetmaster. 

In no particular order Graham Scanlon, Stephen Barry, Paul Perry, Jules Cantwell, Darragh Boyd, Killian Doyle, Ken O'Neill, Paul Kane, Mark Holland and James Crisp all did work to keep the pressure on the rest of the field, and make sure there was an Orwell man in the running at all times. Lawless was the beneficiary in the end, but it might've been anyone of the above, who came together in proper club spirit to make the most of a long day. Barry came closest after Lawless - finishing in the lead group, but unfortunately outside the prizes.

Lawless provided us with an account of the day:

  "On the way down to the race with Steve Barry I learned that Orwell had a game plan for this race, based on an email from Dave Mc. The aim was to get any or all of Steve, myself or Paul over the line with points and an A3 ticket, we were sitting on 7, 8 and 9 points respectively. The plan involved Orwell cycling very aggressively for the first 30km on the exposed flat, both drilling the pace and launching attacks, and if we kept our men at the front this might be an advantage coming into the hard left on to the first climb which was on a narrow road. On this lovely sunny day it was great to see the lads throwing themselves at the race from the outset, with Orwell very prominent. There were great gutsy attacks firing out the front from Jules and Daragh in particular but I think everyone had a go. Graham and Ken were riding very well too and threw some impressive digs. It was good craic!

  "Then the climbing started, and it was just miserable. Steve came into his own at this point and was very aggressive, with sudden injections of pace that had the field in terrible trouble, God knows how quickly riders were being shelled out the back. I know Jules lasted very nearly to the top, and Paul as far as I know narrowly missed getting a good wheel on the crest. I was right at my limit at the top and just about held a wheel coming over the crest to get into what looked to be the final group of ten riders, only Steve and myself left from Orwell.

  "This group cooperated fairly well but was caught by a chasing group of ten to give us the final bunch coming down to the line in a gradual 16km descent. There was a roundabout then 150m uphill incline and 150m flat, I started my sprint maybe a little early coming out of the roundabout and was caught with perhaps 25m to go. Steve who had been man of the match up to that point did not have his sprinting legs on the day, and was rightly disappointed not to place after such a great performance in the hills. I am really happy with the race, it was so exciting, and even more so because for the first time I remember Orwell were out there as a team in an A4 race, with everyone encouraging each other, and loads of banter before and after.

  "That's me up to A3 now - I bet those A3 lads are s**tting it!"

3rd place in the toughest one day race of the calendar is a very worthy finish, and a great sign of form and ability. Given that he also earned his total points for the upgrade in less than a week, we're expecting Lawless to feature in the A3 results before long. We've a selection of photos of riders from the A3 and A4 categories below, thanks to Brendan Lawless..

Podium of the A4 race (photo thanks to Sean Rowe)

There was another impressive ride in the A race from Neal Hudson. Sticking in with the front group on climb after climb, Hudson only lost contact on the final lap as Dowling attacked and the big guns started turning the thumbscrews. He dug in to stay ahead of the chasers, and powered through to the finish to claim the final unplaced A2 prize. A fitting reward for the hardman Hudson, who had unfinished business with the Des from previous years.

For the women, Orwell had strength in numbers, with eleven taking to the start line. The tough circuit tore the field to shreds with riders being shelled on every climb. Two Orwells hung audaciously, staying inside the top ten for the climax - Michelle Geoghegan took 7th, her best result placing since her return to the domestic scene this season, and Brianne Mulvihill earned 9th - the first of many excellent finishes we predict. Aideen Keenan scored 2nd for the DID Electrical  squad, another consistent performance, and that victory salute can't be too far off now!

Well done to all placers and finishers in Carlow - it's a truly testing day out, and completion is almost a prize in itself! And it's fantastic to see the team spirit on the road, and the club spirit in the support following the racers. With no races in Leinster this weekend, the next set of updates will be coming from the club league and the annual Easter extravaganza. Get up the road!

Some of the Orwell at the startline

The view from the cavalcade in the women's race (thanks to Valdis Andersons)


Boyne GP, Slane (15/3/2015)

A4 race
1 Garry Blair


St Patrick's Day Race, Summerhill (17/3/2015)

A4 race
1 Brendan Lawless
4 Paul Kane


Des Hanlon, Carlow (22/3/2015)

A1/2 race
Unplaced A2s
5 Neal Hudson

A4 race
3 Brendan Lawless

Women's race
7 Michelle Geoghegan
9 Brianne Mulvihill