An excellent team performance from Orwell on Sunday saw Bryan Geary take a top ten slot in the National A3 Championships, and the club go home with the team classification. Stephen Barry, Bernard English, Mark Holand, Brian McNally, Jamie Busher, and Garry Blair all played their part alongside Geary, who takes us through the race below!

Over 120 riders signed on for the A3 National Champs. The race consisted of two laps of a 55km circuit with one major climb averaging 7% and two little climbs. The lap was relentlessly twisting and turning up and down with exposed and sheltered areas along the course, quite technical and difficult. The back end of the lap was up and down and immensely quick coming home in a tailwind.  

On the first lap, a group of seven went clear. They were given leeway but according to time keepers and race radio were never more than a minute ahead. Bryan Geary and Stephen Barry lined out the peloton on the first ascent of the day's largest KOM but fresh legs meant nothing was yet at breaking point, although plenty of riders lost contact according to DS for the day, John Busher.

Barry attacked on the descent but it proved difficult in forging any sizeable gap into the headwind with a recovering peloton. Because of their efforts, the early breakaway's gap was reduced to 20" but following a hiatus on the flat, their gap grew and went back out to a minute.

What appeared to be the full components of the early break was caught coming towards the end of the first lap but when the peloton went the wrong way, the confusion saw some riders accidentally wind up ahead of the bunch. The information relayed now was that there were two riders with a 2'30" gap on the peloton but with plenty of small groups in between, all of whom were technically disqualified. Confusion reigned.  

It was enough to spur on the Orwell men who took control of the race and sparked the first of their many moves in chase. Brian McNally got to the front of the peloton and selflessly drove the group out  for the opening 6km of the final lap. The pace forced a line out as the hard roads began to take their toll.

Jamie Busher, Bernard English and McNally then took flight in a group of six that forced a line out on the narrow roads of An Gaelteacht as the pace ratcheted. Other well populated Dublin based teams were forced to reign in Orwell's initial drive but English, McNally and Busher continued with a second wave, forcing the peloton into the gutter on the narrow roads of the Mayo-Galway border. Once again the other teams reacted to close the moves down before Stephen Barry gave a clear dig followed by McNally again. Mark Holland was moving to the front with English to aid the blocking but everyone was keeping tabs on Orwell and forced the relentless pace. The Orwell duo were once again pulled back before finally a fourth aggressive move by Busher forced a split which the peloton couldn't respond to and the Wexford native forged clear with four others as they started the major climb of the day with a 30 second lead. 

With Busher and co riding away on the climb, the peloton was nervous and the attacking began in pursuit at the bottom of the climb. Geary jumped onto the earliest move and as this had caused a split, rode across to Busher with another rider. As the two groups joined the Orwell lads rode hard over the climb forcing the move clear of the peloton by 40" as they approached the descent. This proved the move of the day as most of the major clubs were represented. The pre-race favourites couldn't handle the pace on the climb and scrapped to get across on the flat including the eventual winner, Richard Maes, who only joined 5km further down the other side after a hard chase. Orwell now had two riders in a group of nine which was closing rapidly on the early escaped duo with 30km remaining. 

The move continued to work well with Busher possibly the strongest in the break.  With two riders, the others were clearly wary of the Orwell tactics as Geary wasn't as active in the chase. Despite this, the move went clear of the peloton by over a minute thanks to some excellent sandbagging work by Garry Blair, Holland, McNally, English and Barry, clearly hindering any momentum behind allowing the break to expand the time gap entering the final 20km to a 1'30".  

With only 30" now the difference to the exhausted front pair, the race seemed destined to be decided between the nine riders of the break and the front two who continued to hang in front. The time gaps sparked the peloton into action and as reports of the reducing time gap between the peloton and the break were coming through, Geary gave a massive dig on the final KOM, 12km from the finish in the hope of splitting and forcing the hand of the other single man teams. With Busher looking immensely strong, it seemed a perfect tactic as Geary opened up a 20" gap over the top of the climb and down the other side.

However, the move was to prove doomed as two spokes snapped on Geary's back wheel causing a massive buckle and unrelieved brake rub. With no neutral service and an inevitable capture by the peloton following a wheel change, Geary continued with the broken wheel but was quickly reeled in by the small chasing group who in turn snaffled the early break. With 8km to go there was a front group now of 11 who had 30" on the chasing peloton but were in sight as the road widened. 

The peloton's pursuit of the break was an exciting drag race to the 3km to go sign before finally it all came back together. Busher gave it one more dig and was clear with a St Tiernan's and Slipstream rider but with the peloton now travelling at speed, he was swallowed up as everyone readied themselves for a bunch sprint. 

The pace was unrelenting at over 60kph down into the walled finish in Cong. Geary sat 3rd wheel for the final 2km and was joined by Stephen Barry in the final 500 metres who offered a lead-out for the Corkman. With the sprint opening up at 200 metres to go, Barry heard the shout and pulled to the side to let Geary through and directly onto the eventual winner’s wheel. With 50 metres to go he looked certain of a medal but it proved just that little bit too far as he was swamped close home on both sides, 8th his final position.

Bernard English sprinted fantastically well from a blocked in position and finished 12th with Stephen Barry copper-fastening the team classification for Orwell Wheelers finishing in the top 20. Jamie Busher finished quickest of all with the same speed as the winner in the final 300 metres (per Strava) but again found himself blocked in by slower riders on the tight finish. Mark Holland, Brian McNally and Garry Blair were all involved in the reduced bunch sprint, a magnificent performance in getting all seven Orwell riders in the deciding group on relentlessly demanding course. 

The team gathered on the main street of Cong waiting impatiently for any news of the team result. After what seemed an interminably long waiting time, race commissaire Gary McIlroy confirmed Orwell Wheelers as All Ireland A3 Team Champions much to the team's delight. Gold medals and National Race Winner Jerseys were presented at the podium, a thoroughly deserved reward for the efforts of all the riders throughout the day.

Special thanks to John Busher and Grainne Holland who manned the riders for the duration of the race, thankfully their assistance wasn’t required during the race. Thanks to the club for the use of the Club car. Thanks to all the riders each of whom rode superbly well, assisting to the making of the race in a large part. Some of these riders are only novices to the sport but proved they're all on an upward trajectory. A fantastic achievement as a club and a National medal and Jersey at any level is worth its weight in gold. 

Thanks to everyone else for their congratulatory comments. Chapeau Orwell Wheelers!

On stage in the national jerseys (photo thanks to Emma Convey)


We'll cover the results from the Junior champs in another piece shortly.


National A3 Road Race Championships, Cong (16/8/2015)

1 Richard Maes (Killarney CC)
2 Kenny Conlon (Naas CC)
3 Eoghan Connolly (Strata3/VeloRevolution)
4 Aidan Kelly (Bikeworx Celbridge)
5 George Devin (Drogheda Wheelers)
6 James Quinn (St. Tiernan's CC)
7 Kenneth Kennedy (Nenagh CC)
8 Bryan Geary (Orwell Wheelers)
9 Craig Longmore (Lucan CRC)
10 Daryl Kearns (Dungarvan CC)

Team Prize
Orwell Wheelers: Bryan Geary, Bernard English, Stephen Barry