When the Rás is on, sometimes other events can get lost and forgotten. Stephen Barry made it one to remember when he won the Barrow GP A4 race in style, capping a late solo move with a great win! He takes us through it below...

About 50-60 riders including Jules Cantwell, Mark Holland, Daragh Boyd, Shane Toman, Jeffrey Hoare, Kilian Doyle and I descended on sunny New Ross for 4 laps (80k) of a rolling circuit organised by Barrow Wheelers.

The Orwell crew in Wexford (photo thanks to Brendan Lawless)

As our directeur sportif, Dave McLoughlin was absent completing a monstrous 600km audax, it was left to ourselves to determine our own strategy. We concluded a brief pre-race recce and our tactical discussion went along the lines of, "Ehh… it looks lumpy… we might drop a few here if we drill it on this section… it's breezy enough out there... we should try to stay up the front… the fat lads will suffer". Analysis complete, we agreed to attack on each lap and hopefully shell some of the riders through attrition to increase all of our chances in a mass sprint finish – the usual conclusion of an A4 race. Easy.

Our plan was soon in jeopardy as the neutralised roll out took its first victim when Jules, a man who is no stranger to launching solo attacks, got a puncture in the opening few kilometres. A man down, the Orwell crew raised the ante, firing attacks of the front, Mark and I were the first to go with a Bothermeen rider. Perhaps the sight of two Orwell jerseys up the road was enough to prompt the peloton into action as we were reeled in after a few kilometres. Daragh was next to go followed in quick succession by Shane while, Kilian and the rest of us sat up the front to try and neutralise the chase. The peloton was live to our plan and the lads were eventually caught. Lap one complete, it was more of the same on lap two but this time I managed to escape with a local goateed Barrow Wheeler lad for about 6km, we were working well before he had a mechanical leaving me with no choice than to sit up and wait for the catch. Once made, Daragh aggressively went off the front and stayed away for some more miles but the group upped the pace and he was brought back.

Towards the end of the penultimate lap I drifted to the back of the peloton to check on numbers. I reckon we had dropped only a handful of riders – not good but unsurprising as no other team had expressed any interest in doing any racing, it was looking like the fatties might have their day.

As the bell rang for the last lap a rider launched an attack (perhaps the only non-Orwell attack all day) and he got a gap of about 25 metres. I quickly bridged over shouting "let's go!" as I passed him. In so doing I caught a glimpse of his contorted, pained face. Hmm, he won't be much use to me. He sat on for a while and soon enough he was suffering a bit too much. Should I ease up or push on? Time to cut the cord. I looked back and the peloton was only about ten seconds behind me. I was 18km (or about 30 minutes) from the finish. I didn’t have time to mull over it. I committed there and then, it was time to put the head down, drill it, hope someone bridged over and continue all the way to the line. If I got caught so, be it. Plan made.

I regretted my decision in about 2km. Nobody bridged over not only were my legs aching, I was cycling into a headwind – nature's payback. Afraid at what I might see if I looked behind, I upped the effort for the next few kilometres before looking back to see the peloton fading from sight. It was just me, the lead car, the breeze and the odd marshal or local shouting encouragement from the side of the road.

I looked at my Garmin, 12km to go – holy God! Am I just being hung out the front by the peloton? Are they playing games with me? When will the catch be made? I can’t see them but I know they are there. This hurts. I knew I'd have to keep up the tempo if I was to have any hope of survival. Every lump on the road further drained my legs. Weakness was setting in. 6km to go. Keep it going. I glanced over my shoulder, still nothing. I looked ahead at the road going upward. This will hurt. I was at the end of the rope. Time to shift up to a bigger gear. 3km to go, I was pedalling squares, grimacing. A quick glance behind. Arrggh. The peloton were closing. Dammit – they have timed it to perfection. 2km to go and I was on a downhill. I passed a marshal at 1km to go – "It's yours!" he shouted; "it's mine to lose!" I thought. Braking late into the left hairpin (800m uphill to go) I knew this was it. I'd either be caught and end up in top twenty. As I exited the hairpin I could hear the brakes of the peloton entering it. This will be close. Riders were attacking behind me. DIG DEEP. I held them off. Yessssss!!!! My first chequered flag and an upgrade to boot.

Barry realises the win is his (photo thanks to Barrow GP)

Big thanks to all the Orwell lads above who broke up the chase – massive thanks to all an special mention to Daragh who cut short his race to help out some lads in a crash and also Mark who suffered a slipped chain with 800m to go. A real team effort again!

A large trophy on the podium to match a massive effort (photo thanks to Mark Holland)


Barrow Wheelers GP, Wexford (24/5/2015)

A4 Race

1 Stephen Barry (Orwell Wheelers)
2 Peter Gersi (Carlow CC)
3 Daryl Kearns (Dungarvan CC)
4 Paul Bolger (Slaney CC)
5 Darren Davitt (Gorey CC)
6 Michael Walsh (Barrow Wheelers)