Last Wednesday's Roche GP was a great success, blessed once again by balmy weather, which made for big crowds and fast racing. Brian Ahern is still returning to form, and opted to stay on the sidelines to shout encouragement as the bunch whizzed past. He gives his view of the evening below.

The Stephen Roche GP is a race like no other. It’s a fast, furious aggressive race where spectators are treated to the sight of pain etched on the riders faces as they fly around in circles through the Meadowmount estate. Sitting in the bunch in a race like this can sometimes feel relatively easy. Then you poke your head of the font, hit the wind and you realise how hard it is.

While the evening’s main event catered for the top Irish riders in the country, underage riders were also catered for, with the emphasis being on fun. One competitor even completed the course on a unicycle! It was fantastic to witness these kids being given the opportunity to take part in the event in front of their family, friends and riders alike.

This race is one of a kind in Ireland. Races like this are common in Holland or Belgium where a town is closed down and riders whizz in and out of housing estates, up and down off bike paths and avoid street furniture. They are super races to watch and it’s a shame there aren’t more of this style of race on home soil.

There were small handicaps granted to the A3 riders and A2 riders over the super fast A1’s. As the A1 riders rounded the back straight of the first lap the first decisive move had already been made as Con Collis (UCD), Chris Reilly (Bohermeen) and John Lynch (Kilcullen) had broken away. They immediately committed to the cause and they had caught the front of the race after only 4 laps.

Meanwhile the remaining A1 riders appeared to be quite disorganised as they battled to get back on terms. The three A1 riders up front continued to ride at a ferocious pace and the main bunch, slowly but surely was thinning down under the pressure. Orwell riders Brian McArdle, Aidan Collins, Liam Rowsome and Gavin Dodd were riding particularly well staying in the front 10 at the head of the race.

Two other A1 riders managed to make the junction as professional rider Mark Dowling (Polygon Sweet Nice) and Tim O'Regan (DID) made a huge effort to get across. The remaining A1 riders only made contact inside the final 12 laps after a hard chase. Mark Dowling would later make a brave move as he rode solo out front for a number of laps. He was rewarded with a prime for his efforts.

With the bunch all together inside the last 8 laps, Eric Downey tried his luck but was unsuccessful. As he was caught Con Collis turned on the pressure and drove off the front followed by Dowling, O’Regan, Reilly and Colm Laverty.

Orwell’s Brian McArdle and Aidan Collins both made a huge effort to get across. They dangled off the back of the leading quintet agonisingly close to making the decisive break but unfortunately they got absorbed by the bunch. So close, but yet so far....

That was the key moment of the race as those five were left to battle out the finish as Con Collis, the former international rower hammered away with a wonderful display of power. He won with plenty to spare over the remaining four breakaway companions who were left to sprint for the remaining podium places.

Collis with breakaway companions O'Regan and Dowling pass the crowds at the finish line

The bunch were sprinting for 6th place and it was no surprise that Aidan Crowley of DID came up trumps there. Crowley rode the recent An Post Rás with the Orwell team and you can expect to see him on the top step of the podium a number of times before the season is over.

The best Orwell finisher was Pat O'Brien who has proven himself to be the hot-shot sprinter for Orwell this season as he finished a fantastic 10th on the night and finished first A2.

Crowley sprinted away from the bunch to take 6th

Halpin leading in the bunch behind Crowley, with O'Brien at left

Dunsany champ David Halpin showed his recent result in Kildare was no fluke, coming home 2nd A3. Darragh Long, riding in the colours of the Nicolas Roche Performance Team rode very well to finish 2nd Junior on the night, despite coming down in a crash midway through the race. He’s made of tough stuff!

Many riders and spectators took to social media to voice their appreciation to Orwell Wheelers for running such a great family friendly event. Races like these don’t run themselves and require a lot of work behind the scenes. Orwell Wheelers would like to extend a huge thanks to everybody who helped make it happen.

All photos thanks to Colm Tobin, St Tiernan's CC, with more on Facebook. See also Dermot Cooney's and Amy Norah-Farrell's.


Stephen Roche GP

1 Con Collis (UCD)
2 Tim O'Regan (DID Dunboyne)
3 Mark Dowling (Polygon Sweet Nice)
4 Chris Reilly (Bohermeen CC)
5 Colm Laverty (Stamullen RC)
6 Aidan Crowley (DID Dunboyne)
7 Stephen Halpin (Polygon Sweet Nice)
8 Paul Kennedy (Swords CC)

Unplaced A2s
1 Pat O'Brien (DTC Orwell Wheelers)
2 Alan Burke (Kilcullen CC)

Unplaced A3s
1 Simon O'Dea (Navan RC)
2 David Halpin (DTC Orwell Wheelers)

Unplaced A2s
1 Ciaran Campbell (Drogheda Wheelers)
2 Junior Darragh Long (NRPT)

First Orwell
Pat O'Brien

Lap 3: Micheal McLean (u/a)
Lap 6: Tim O'Regan (DID Dunboyne)
Lap 10: Alan Burke (Kilcullen CC)
Lap 15: Tim O'Regan (DID Dunboyne)
Lap 20: Mark Dowling (Polygon Sweet Nice)
Lap 25: Con Collis (UCD)


Youth racing sponsored by Joe Daly Cycles

Under 12

1 Will Ryan (Bray Wheelers)
2 Archie Ryan (Bray Wheelers)
3 David O'Shea (Moynalty CC)

Under 14

1 Ben Doherty (Bray Wheelers)
2 PJ Doogan (Errigal CC)
3 Ryan Fitzpatrick (Inspiration)

Under 16

1 James Mulligan (Newry Wheelers)
2 Seamus Synott (Wexford Wheelers)
3 Ryan Byrne (Wexford Wheelers)

First Girl
Ciara Doogan (Errigal CC)