Orwell Wheelers entered a team for the Youth Tour of Scotland, one of the most exciting youth racing events going, this year. While our boys were disappointed not to get an entry, we did send a strong team of four girls over to Perth: Áine ReillyRhiannon DolanMya Doocey and Hannah Hayes.

Here's what happened ... thanks to Áine for such a detailed and interesting report: plenty to learn about riding as part of a team, rather than just for yourself, in this one!

This year was my first time in Scotland for the Youth Tour of Scotland. It was amazing to get to race at such a high standard with the best 76 female riders in all of the UK and Ireland.

Orwell had brought a strong team of Hannah Hayes, Mya Doocey, Rhiannon Dolan, and myself. We went over on the Thursday beforehand after driving up to Belfast and taking the ferry across. The journey was long and we got caught in lots of traffic but it was lots of fun.

We rode the courses on Friday and went to the accommodation in the Strathallan  boarding houses. The accommodation was nice, with each of us having our own bedrooms and having kitchens to use.

The racing began with a short 1.6km prologue. The course went down the road up a hill, before turning around and riding back down the hill to the finish. It was a bit cold, but it was dry and not too windy.

The first stage was the Forteviot road race. It was long, with 5 laps of a 6.63km lap with plenty of climbing. The weather was good, thankfully! I did fairly well on the tough circuit and when I got dropped stayed with multiple groups. I started out with only one or two other riders but as the race went on I caught and dropped many more and worked my way up. I was in a group of 2 other riders and myself coming into the sprint finish.

After watching the boys race we had a good dinner, then the stage 1 podium presentations. After that we had a Kahoot between all the teams run by Scottish Cycling’s Young People’s Panel, which we had lots of laughs in. Sadly, it was Cycling Ulster’s girls team that won.

Sunday began with the St David’s Team Time Trial. It was done on a flat 6.9km circuit. Thankfully it wasn't too windy. The team time trial went well. We all worked together and finished as a group side by side. We were very happy with how it worked out.

The Stage 3 was St David’s road race, and was longer than the Forteviot, with 5 laps of the same circuit used for the TTT. It was a fast race due to the flat course but I stuck with the group longer than I had for stage 1. I found a nice group of riders, which expanded and decreased throughout the race, and which included my teammate Rhiannon. With Hannah in the group ahead, team tactics came into play and Rhiannon and myself did minimum work in our group, as keeping her ahead worked well for our team GC.

Towards the end of lap 4 there was an attack which Rhiannon followed while I helped keep the group off her. Rhiannon managed to get away, while I stuck with the rest of the group. Halfway through lap 5 there was another attack, which I followed. The three of us sprinted against each other for the finish.

After this race we went back to Strathallan to relax before dinner and podium presentations.

On Monday we had the Kermesse, with 10 laps of a 2.55km circuit. It was a narrow technical course with an extremely steep hill into the finish. The race was incredibly fast due to the long downhill and short uphill. It was hard but an amazing finish to the weekend and great fun.

We went back to the accommodation afterwards to shower and pack up before having fun watching the boys race and heading home. We stopped for chips on the way to the ferry and had great fun on the way back.

Thanks to Lorna and Gen for all there help throughout the weekend and to Orwell Wheelers for helping us go.

Rhiannon talks more about the atmosphere and logistics of an amazing weekend

Thursday 31st of March

It was an early start, as we met at 8.30am with some of the team having already driven 3 hours to meet us, for a drive to the ferry. Packing everyone and all their bags, bikes and wheels into the two cars was a bit tight but after we had packed and repacked everything at least twice we were away.

We drove the 3 hours to the Larne ferry and were given bags with our Orwell kit, hoodies and jackets. Everyone was in a great mood, excited but also nervous for the racing to come.

After a 2 ½ hour ferry trip and a long drive we arrived at our hotel in Perth. Everyone’s legs were stiff after the driving so we took the rollers up to our rooms and did a quick spin out before dinner. We headed to the restaurant next door for some food and then after a quick trip to the shop for some essentials (chocolate milk) we went back to our rooms to get some sleep.

Friday 1st of March

Everyone was in good form on Friday morning with the promise of a hotel breakfast. We ate our fill and then brought our bags out to the car. The bikes had spent the night in the hotel rooms with us and it was a mission trying to get the bikes down to the ground floor, with us insisting on all 4 of us and all 4 bikes taking the lift at the same time.

We drove out to Forteviot, the location of the next day's racing, and did a recce of the 6km course. The course was beautiful, everyone was amazed at the landscape but also at the height of the hills we had to climb the next day!

There were a few other teams out scouting the course and we were all feeling very pro.

After we had eaten and changed out of our kit we drove around the second course which would be the site of stages 3 & 4, the team time trial and the St. David road race. 

In the afternoon we drove to Strathallan School. It was unbelievably posh and after we had signed on, received our numbers, time chips and wristbands we received our room allocations. We were staying in the Thornbank dorms and although the rooms were small we had plenty of space for all our stuff and a kitchen with a kettle to make tea.

After we had settled in we did a fire drill and made friends with the other team that were staying in the rooms down the hall before making our way to the canteen for dinner and then the theater for a quick welcome meeting.

Saturday 2nd of March

We were up early on Saturday at 6:30 to do antigen tests and get ready for our first day of racing. We put on our Orwell kit and warm clothes and walked to the canteen for breakfast. Breakfast was great! The canteen had everything, from pancakes to omelettes and porridge. 

A quick drive to the race start: it all looked very professional, with teams warming up on their rollers, a camera crew, motorbike riders and team vans driving past. 

Soon enough we began warming up for the first race of the day, the 1.3km prologue individual time trial. The course featured a steady drag and a U turn but we all felt that it was a good course to start off on.

The time trial was over quickly and after a cool down we had something to eat and began recovering for the next race.

Stage 1 was a road race on a roughly 7km course. Everyone was nervous as it was a very hilly course. We set off at 12:00 and there was a great atmosphere with spectators all along the course cheering us on. The course was great: the steep climbs and flowing descent into the finish made for some great racing. 

After the race I had the good fortune to be interviewed by the camera crew (which made it into the official video) and although I had only finished and was still trying to catch my breath it was still unreal to be in front of the camera talking about how the race had gone. 

[You can watch the amazing video here]. 

After dinner we took part in a Kahoot quiz organised by the Scottish youth commission. It was great fun but unfortunately our lack of general knowledge prevented us from getting any prizes for that.

Sunday 3rd of March 

Sunday's racing was a short drive away at St.Davids.

Once we were suitably warmed up, we took our places at the start line for the beginning of stage 2, a 6km TTT. Everyone was on edge as the starter began the countdown and we were held up because we all wanted to do our best for the team. 

The course was relatively flat and we felt we worked well together, taking 30 second turns on the front and then drifting back. Once we finished everyone was happy with how it went, and as we had almost 4 more hours until stage 3 we went back to the car to recover and relax.

By stage 3 we were all definitely feeling the previous races in our legs but we were ready to go again. 

The next road race was held on the same course as the team time trial which was good as we were already familiar with it. The racing was fast and it was great, although a little scary to be racing in such a big bunch of riders. 

On the way back to the school everyone was tired but already sad about only having one day left in Scotland. After dinner and getting our bikes and gear ready for the next day we headed back to our rooms for a well needed early night.

Monday 4th of March 

Monday morning was a little more relaxed as the 4th and final stage was held on the campus of Strathallan School. 

After breakfast we went to the start and after a warm up and a few laps of the course we were off. 

The course was fast and flat until the very last finishing climb. It was steep, about 500 meters long and packed with spectators cheering and shouting their support for riders. 

We completed 10 laps of the course and then, almost as soon as it had started, the Youth Tour of Scotland was over. 

Packing all our bags and wheels in the car and leaving our timing chips back everyone was feeling very nostalgic about the amazing few days we had in Perthshire.

We unfortunately couldn't stay for the prize giving as we had to be sure to make it on time for the Ferry but we said goodbye to all our new Scottish friends and got their numbers so we could stay in touch and started our journey back to Ireland.

On our way to the ferry we were treated to chips and milkshakes which were definitely a highlight of the trip!

The Ulster and Irish teams who were also at Strathallan with us were also on the ferry home and we had a great time chatting and having the craic. 

We arrived back in Ireland at around 10pm and the drive home was definitely a lot quieter than the one had been on the way up. 

It had been an amazing trip, definitely a brilliant experience for my first time racing abroad.

A huge, enormous thank you to Genevieve Sheridan and Lorna Reilly who brought us on this incredible journey and took such great care of us, making sure that we had everything we needed and thinking of everything.

Another huge thank you to my teammates Mya, Hannah and Áine for being such great fun, it wouldn't have been the same without you all.

Teammate Hannah says:

The youth tour of Scotland was an event I've always wanted to do. I'm very grateful to Orwell for giving me the opportunity to guest ride with them for my last year as a youth rider.

I learned so much from the weekend. Including how to ride in a group of 70+ girls. I also enjoyed being on a team with such a talented and fun group of girls. We had great fun both on and off the bike.

Over the three days of racing I got to experience the many different courses and events that were hosted including my first ever team time trial.

This would not have been possible without without time, care and attention from both Lorna Reily and Genevieve Sheridan. We even managed to make friends with a few Scottish girls over many cups of tea in the beautiful Strathallan school.

Mya adds:

I had a great weekend racing for Orwell Wheelers at the Youth Tour of Scotland. It was a great experience racing in such a fast bunch with some of the best riders in the UK and Ireland. I learned a lot and made some great friends along the way. It was really fun being part of a team and taking part in a team time trial also. Thanks so much to Jen, Lorna, Orwell and of course my teammates.

Huge thanks to:

  • Jen Sheridan and Lorna Reilly: it's a huge project and committment to take a team all that way, ensure that everything has been thought through, and look after all the eventualities while over there.
  • Aidan Hammond for giving the girls specific Team Time Trial training. It's a special skill, and not one that most riders will have done before.
  • Orwell Wheelers for supporting this fantastic adventure.