Orwell Wheelers had a strong representation at this year’s Rás na mBan with the club fielding its own team and a further two riders selected to race on the Leinster squad.

The premier event on the women’s calendar, this year’s edition was a significantly tougher challenge than previously, moving up from three days to five and consisting of six stages run over challenging terrain in South Kerry.

Orwell’s star performer in the race was French rider Nathalie Jeuland, who was guesting for the club. The DN Bretagne rider was unlucky to miss the split on the first stage, spoiling her chances of a high overall finish. However Jeuland bounced back with a number of strong performances in subsequent stages. She netted seventh on Stage 2, ninth on Stage 3, sixth on Stage 4 and seventh on Stage 6.

The Orwell team was led by Orla Hendron who was showing some fine form in the run-up to the Masters World Track Championships. Hendron rode hard all week and put in a typically aggressive performance with several trademark attacks throughout the week.

Charlotte MacDonald, who was riding her first Rás, illustrated again the significant improvement she’s made in a year that has seen her selected for the National Development Squad. MacDonald rode strongly throughout the week, putting down a marker that she will no doubt build on next year.

Fiona Cooke also guested for Orwell. The Marble City Cyclers rider only began racing in the middle of this season and immediately made an impact by winning the third race of the Wicklow Ladies League. Cooke, whose participation was thrown into doubt by a crash in training two weeks beforehand, ably met the challenge with a spirited ride that saw her grow into the race and even go on the attack in stage 6.

Orwell’s Sandra Telford, riding for Leinster, was another whose training for the Rás was interrupted and came into the race still nursing injuries from a training crash. Telford, who has enjoyed a string of top ten finishes in the National League this year, was targeting the intermediate sprints and was unlucky to miss out on two occasions when she finished second in the gallop for the prime.

Also selected for Leinster was Anne Dalton, who has netted a string of impressive results in the Orwell Criterium League and Club League this year. Still in her first season of open racing, Dalton underlined her class by putting in a gritty performance on the hilly stages and finishing sixth overall in the county rider classification, marking her out as one to watch in future editions of this race.

US-based pro Olivia Dillon won the overall for the second year running, putting in a powerful display that saw her win three stages. Dillon got some stiff competition in the shape of Melanie Späth of the Womenscycling.ie team, who took second overall and the County Rider classification. Linda Ringlever of the Dutch Moving Ladies squad was third and won the mountains jersey.