A great day for the Orwell, with the A4 win for Raffaele Bonadio on his racing debut, and Eoin Ahern making a strong start also with 3rd. Stephen Barry spent the A3 race in a break of two, taking the prime and 2nd place for his efforts, while Sean Murnane won the unplaced Junior prize.

Raffaele Bonadio

It was the Mick Lally Memorial Race in Summerhill. That was my first race of the season, and my first time in Ireland. What they said about this Dublin Wheelers Open Race on February 27th sounds generally like this:

- "The course is pretty much pan flat bar a short but fast desent on the far side to the finish and a stinger of climb going up to the finish. It's only a few hundred metres long..."
- "Not hilly but not billiard table smooth, either"
- "Do not sprint too early"
- "Do not sprint too early"
and again
- "Do not sprint too early".

I was feeling good then; a flat circuit and not too long; a good first one of the season. You follow the group, you do not make stupid actions, you will not suffer too much. This environment is new to yourself, so do what you can and do not over-do. Just finish the race. There will be time for more fun during the season.

I am anxious to make the recognition on the circuit. And anxious to start the race and stop this pre-race pressure. I do not know how people race in Ireland, I do not know my opponents, I have no idea which teams are collaborating and which not, who are the sprinters, who are the finisseurs, who are the long distance puncheurs, I just do not know!

Starting to feel nervous; the best is to mount the bike and dress up. So "mount the bike and dress up! Pin the number, do not think. Just pin the number."

Oh come on, these pins are too weak and I am not able to pin these numbers. I am ruining the Orwell jersey. I am nervous. Why pinning the number before every holy race is always so complicated?

"Take the bike, go for recognition." No, not yet, I first should dress up. It's 2 degrees outside, how should I dress up? The race's gonna start in less than two hours, will the temperature change a lot? Will there be sun? Ok, I take the long jersey. I am sure I will not regret.

I am going for recognition. I am with Valdis, he's pushing strong. What is warming up for him, is struggling for me. It's cold, but not too much. There's no wind (it is probably the first day I have no wind since I moved to Ireland...). I am now on the circuit, it is quite hilly... didn't they say it's a flat bar? Didnt' they say it's smooth?

"Look at this finish here!!!, it's at least 10%!" Ok, it's not long, but... yes, it is long enough when you are sprinting 40km/h. Valdis is giving me advice, after all of them surprisingly he says "Remember, do not sprint too early". I am almost depressed, this steep hill at the finish line is gonna kill me.

We start the race, people are nervous, I can feel it in the air. I am nervous too. It's hot now, I regret the long jersey. This beginning is quite fast, isn't it?, I feel it in my legs. I am not in very good conditions, and I am a big guy, I need long time to warm up.

I lack rhythm, cadence. Every time I need to close a gap I feel pain in my legs. "Pedal with my head, rather than your legs. Think and save energy. You will finish the race. You only have to finish it."

There's a quite flat part, the group is slowing down; I have inertia and no one in front of me, I may try a break way. I do it. It's a little bit of a progression with a 53x13, the road is flat, no wind against me.

Why am I doing it?!?

Didn't I say that I have to think and save energy? Come on, I am being ridiculous!!! Ok, let's calm down. I look back. I have gap, my companions are in the front of the group defending the breakaway, but I am alone. Why did not anyone joined after me? Yeah, I know why: because I am making something stupid. It's at least 20 km to the end. I am doing something wrong. Ok, I will keep the pace, but I won't push too much. Effort under threshold. Downhill is helping me, narrow and sharp curves, the group will be forced to slow down, I take advantage of this.

Just before the finishing of the first lap, the group catchs me; Eoin overtakes me telling me something, I smile, but I do not understand what he says. Blood is in my legs rather than my brain. I am letting the whole group overtake me, I will use this to recover energies and then moveup slowly during the fast part. It's 15 to 10 km to the end, the group now is slowing down, everyone's waiting for the finish, everyone planning the sprint. I will try to make the sprint. "Maybe I shouldn't even try, it's not for me, it's too steep, I'm too tired, it's the first race of the season, too cold for me."

Kilian is my reference point, I like how he moves in the group. He knows where to go and how to move there at the correct time.

Wow, we are almost at the end, better to keep the first positions. No, here I am too up, the group expects me and these other guys to increase the speed, but I do not want to. I'm too up. I go back a few positions.

Eoin is well positioned as well, we exchange a few words, he's feeling good for the sprint. We are at 2 km from the end. There's a guy 300 meters in front of us and the group is slowing down, he's gonna go too far; is anyone going to do something or are we all gonna stay here watching him win?

I'm sure someone will do it. Yes sure, but when? "Come on guys, he's gonna go too far."

Ok, I go up to the group, I push for 20 seconds, finally there are others pushing after me, people are now ready for the sprint and the group has taken speed again. I take a breath. I am around the 10th position, now I only have to keep position, and be careful.

"Be careful: do not stay too close, if someone one is gonna slow down you are gonna be slowed down, but do not stay too far, someone will take your position!!!"

I choose a good wheel, a guy in front of me is recovering positions; we are passing a bunch of people on the left. One of them moves suddenly right, I have to avoid his stem moving my body. But wow, I didn't touch my brakes, I am not losing inertia, and I still have a few people in front of me: I can see the finish line and I am still covered from the wind. Now, I should push now. The guys in front are slowing down, I have to do it now. There's a hole there. Go there. Push. A few seconds, my rear wheel is jumping. I am being an idiot, always the same mistake. "Concentrate, move your body back, release the power on the road, not on the sky". I am pushing. I look right; I know I have no one on the left, but there's a black shadow coming up from the right. He's gonna overtake me, I know it.

"Just look down the road and push, doesn't matter. Push!" A few seconds, and I look right again, I am not listening to brain; but this time I can see he is still there, half a wheel behind me.

I know I just have to push till the end; he has reached his speed limit, I have reached mine. I'm not gonna slow down.

It was long, a long steep sprint. I remember they said "Do not sprint too early". I could not avoid it. I had to do it, when it happened. There was no other chance. But they were right: it was long and hard, it was painful.

I crossed the finish line first. It was the first time in Ireland. It was the first time ever.

It was beautiful.

Bonadio takes the sprint with Eoin Ahern taking third place(photo thanks to Darragh MacManamon)

This moment of (A4...) cycling glory is the first one of my life (and probably the last), so please let me do this:

"Thanks to Orwell Wheelers all, especially Valdis, Dave, Killian and Eoin, without their support this couldn't have happened.
Thanks to my colleagues in Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, which do not get offended when I refuse invitation for one more Guinness.
Thanks to Kata that is sleeping when I come back from training every (late) evening. Thanks to my Dad that bought my first bike (and many others following too).
And last but not least, I dedicate this victory to my nephew Milo born just a few days ago!"

Mick Lally A3 Race Report by Stephen Barry

A field of about 80 A3 riders raced three lap circuit comprising 65k. Team Orwell Scott was made up of I Conor and Sean Murnane, Freddie Steevens, Brendan Lawless and Brian McNally.

Five kilometres from the start, I unexpectedly established a break with a rider Waterford cc had imported from Germany. Some pain later and we had created a 30 second gap. Simply put, lap one hurt like heck. Eyes streaming. Heart pounding. Racing.

Crossing the line to begin lap two and we’re told we had 45 secs. We were then joined by a UCD junior and A.N. Other. A.N. Other wasn’t helping out having missed more than a couple of turns. 'I... need ....a break' he grunted , 'You're in one' came the response. Silence ensued. The chord had been cut. Goodbye A.N. Other. Our now 3 man break quickly gained composure with every man working honestly. Three was better than two but three became two once more when the unfortunate junior from UCD punctured out half a lap later. He cursed, we cursed. Self doubt returned. Another time check - still at 45 secs with only half the race complete. This is suffering.

Crossing the line onto the last lap my rear derailleur stopped working. By the beard of Zeus - I was now stuck in the 13 and the front derailleur was also giving me guff. More cursing. The German said nothing. Perhaps thinking my misfortune was soon to be his.

We kept working, continual up and overs, out of the saddle, back in the saddle. repeat. 15 k later and we were Onto the trim road for the last time. 10k to go and we were about a minute up. One more corner. 4K to go. Road marking 2k to go. Germany starts easing up. Words were exchanged. He regained honesty quickly. 100m to the finish . He attacked - he won. Huge thanks to team Orwell and to McNally et al, who ruthlessly controlled the peloton thereby allowing the two man break to succeed. Pint please.

A smiling Stephen Barry crosses the line in second place, happy with an upgrade to A2(photo thanks to Darragh MacManamon)

Conor Murnane taking a fine fifth place (photo thanks to Darragh MacManamon)