It's a pleasure to have Ciara Ní Fhlathartaigh expanding her vocabulary and exercising her authorial muscles, giving us a gripping account of the penultimate round of the Scott-Orwell Women's Crit League ahead of the final round tomorrow... 

The penultimate gathering of the lovely girls – the Road Race. If I'm totally honest I had to do a bit of googling as Orla H requested that I do a wee note on the 'penultimate round' of the league and I wasn't quite sure what it meant – so for those who have a similar vocabulary level to mine… it means 'occurring immediately before the last one: next to the last'. I plan to use it a lot in social situations in the future – for example 'now lads its getting late …so this has to be the penultimate round of drinks' or 'this is the penultimate pair of shoes that I will buy' …both phrases highly unlikely to be true at any time.

I digress – back to the race and the league's first foray onto the open road. Here we were, almost graduated with four weeks racing experience - unleashed en masse onto the open road. Once again, we lucked out with the weather – someone from the beginner's league clearly has a direct line to the Child of Prague as the evening could not have had better conditions for a road race. Three laps in a square with a small bit of a drag – a perfect course for the less experienced amongst us.

I arrived early and had a supportive pre-race chit chat with Orwell Toni and DID Aisling in the jacks as we donned our cycling attire. The usual 'are you wearing arm warmers/overshoes/vest/leg warmers/gillet/two pairs of socks/what's your under helmet hairstyle' discussion took place – an essential and strangely reassuring part of female race prep. The lovely Louise then very kindly took Muirna and I on a quick recce. Despite her very patient repeated explanations of the route - given my complete inability to retain directions – I filtered the discussion into a succinct 'just keep turning left'.

The B bunch rolling out

The race itself was an enjoyable affair with the B group given a handicap over the A's and plans for teamwork put in place to keep the group ahead. The Orwellians featured strongly at the front with Charlotte doing a superb long stint up the road in the early stages of the race. A valiant and successful chase was then mounted by Ms. St. Tiernan, Ms. Clonard and Ms. Lucan which closed off the gap after a lap. The remainder of the race saw various attempts at attacking, but all were quickly pulled back by the bunch.

Toni kept a watchful eye on the groups adherence to road etiquette by 'politely' letting those that dared to stray over the white line know that they were in violation of the rules of the road and that their actions were duly noted. I secretly questioned her efforts in the race as she managed to recite several verses of the Safe Cross Code throughout the duration of the three laps. Grainne cycled alongside me at one stage to say 'I'm still here and I'm sticking pins in my eyes' thus assuring me that she was still indeed part of the race and following correct procedure.

Coming into the third and last lap, the dynamic changed and the bunch slowed a little as people were holding back in preparation for the last push, which was an incline to the finish line. I had begun to tire and was somewhat relieved in anticipation of the short recovery spell that was on the way… however the Gods were not on my side.

In the distance I could hear a faint rumble and the ground began to shake. The wind seemed to pick up behind us as tree branches began to sway. Squirrels and other small woodland fauna scampered back into the safety of their burrows. The local school called all of the children in from the playground to the shelter of the school bunker. Anticipating either the arrival of a giant steamroller, Godzilla or an earthquake high on the Richter scale… I looked around nervously as the noise got louder and the wind reached its peak… and then suddenly there they were… #holymarymotherofgodrmaythelordhavemercy… the A riders... in all their 40kph, swooping, whooshing glory.

The might of the A bunch crossing the bridge

I was sure a slender, elegant flamingo had gracefully flown by me at one point but in retrospect it may have been Dublin Wheelers Montague in her trademark pink boots and hanglebars on the way to a win. A brave cry came from amidst the B crusaders... 'jump onto a wheel if you can' …as we all scrambled frantically to glue ourselves to anything that shot by, crossing fingers in the hope that it was an A rider and not the local farmer out for a spin to the shop.

I found a wheel and the pace picked up - they were fast, I held, then began to drop off, they slowed, I caught up - then the feicers tore into a gallop for the finish line hill and I shot out the back with my trademark #imnotgreatatthehills move. I could see Orla, Charlotte and Muirna ahead doing a superb effort at the sprint finish with several other B riders. Naoise is always lovely to see given her readiness with racing advice and association with tasty after-race snacks – but I was exceptionally happy to see her this time waving a chequered flag as I went over the line. 

Ciara taking the chequered flag

Afterwards we had the customary chats and race debrief while being wined (ok – not so much wined but tea-ed) and dined by Jen and her very able assistant Naoise – who excelled themselves this week with the delicious beetroot chocolate brownies. Brendan was on hand as per previous weeks taking his customary superb photos and helping to make nice memories for all involved. Huge thanks to the organisers for setting up the race and the marshals for giving up their evening to make the roads safe for the racers. I look forward to the concluding round of what has been an extremely enjoyable league - the TT in Batterstown with post race prize giving and grub in Cafferys pub at approx 8:30pm – prizes for 1 – 6 both A and B group ...and we may also have the penultimate round of drinks to celebrate!

As Ciara mentions, don't miss the final round tomorrow night - all details (including start times) on Facebook.

The whole crew (click through for a bigger version)

Thanks to all those who turned out to help out, marshall, feed and take photos! All photos above thanks to Brendan Culleton.


Scott-Orwell Women's Beginner Crit League - R5: Road Race (3/5/2016)


1 Orla Montague (Dublin Wheelers)
2 Fiona Guihen (Irish Centre for Cycling)
3 Aideen Keenan (Scott-Orwell Wheelers)
4 Catherine McAteer (Garda CC) 
5 Sofie Loscher (Sundrive) 
6 Deborah Madden (Sundrive)

B placings

1 Robyn Crowley (DUCC)
2 Orla Walsh (Scott-Orwell Wheelers)
3 Charlotte Stevens (Scott-Orwell Wheelers)
4 Clodagh Allen (Clonard)
5 Jessica Lamb (St. Tiernans)
6 Muirna Walsh (Scott-Orwell Wheelers)