Early Season Open Races 2024

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4 months 3 weeks ago - 4 months 3 weeks ago #38756 by Dick O'Brien
Early Season Open Races 2024 was created by Dick O'Brien
The new season begins this weekend and the first open races of the year are taking place on Saturday and Sunday. For those of you new to all of this, here's a few notes to get you started.

What’s an open race? Open races are so called because they’re “open” to any Cycling Ireland member, provided they have the right type of licence. To compete, you’ll need an open competition licence. If you’ve already taken out a licence for the year, Cycling will let you upgrade your licence by paying the difference between the two licence fees.

Generally speaking, you can expect at least one open race every weekend in Leinster (indeed the calendar is specifically structured to avoid clashes in one province on the same day.

The full calendar of races is available on the Cycling Ireland website, here .

Entry: You need to pre-enter all races these days (no more entering on the day). Entry is done via Eventmaster. Once entry is open, you can usually find the Eventmaster link on the Cycling Ireland Events page or on the home page of the promoting club. Check the closing date/time for entries. It may close a day or two before the race itself.

Before the race: Do your homework. Try to familiarise yourself with the circuit, how long your race will be and how many laps you’re doing. It’s hard to get a real feel for a circuit by looking at the map but at the very least you’ll know how many corners there are in the lap, see which way the wind is likely to be blowing and get some sense of how lumpy the terrain is and identify potential pinch points (where the road narrows). Take a note of when your race starts. While organisers will usually run a few races at the same time, with a staggered start, in some cases they may hold some of the races earlier in the day, particularly if it’s a short circuit.

Getting there: While there’s a small number of open races that are near enough Dublin to ride out to, most of the time you’ll need to drive. If you don’t drive or don’t have access to a car that weekend, see if you can grab a lift with someone else from the club. WhatsApp or the forum are usually your best port of call.

What to bring: Do make sure your bike is well maintained. It’s a waste of a day driving out to a race only not to finish due to a puncture or mechanical that could have been avoided. Aside from your bike and what you’ll need during the race, it’s a good idea to pack enough food and drink for before and after the race along with extra clothing and a towel, particularly if the forecast is for a wet day. Wear your Orwell jersey and, if at all possible, try to wear the latest version. Races are a prime exposure opportunity for our sponsors and it’s the least you can do to repay their generosity.

Don’t forget your race numbers (which should have been sent out to you in the post by Cycling Ireland by now). They are the primary way to identify you during a race (and at the finish). Pin the numbers to the bottom part of your jersey, i.e. over the pockets, but not blocking access to the pockets. You can always spot the new people with numbers pinned between their shoulder blades or (worse) across their chest. Your numbers need to be visible at all times so don’t put a jacket over them. If you’re wearing a rain jacket or gilet, pull it up at the back so they are visible.

Arrive in plenty of time. You’ll need to give yourself time to find parking, sign on (which involves crossing your name off a list these days) and warming up. Sign on can usually be found inside Race HQ. Once you’ve signed on, get your bike set up and go warm up. Particularly at this time of year, it’s a good idea to wear a jacket or long sleeve jersey while warming up and take it off just before the start. Don’t make the mistake of standing around chatting instead of warming up. There are few things less pleasant than jumping into a race without any warm up. If you can, try to check out the circuit during your warm up. You may not have time to ride of full lap, in which case you should prioritise checking out the finish if you can. If there’s races already on, you may not be allowed warm up on the circuit. Make sure you know where the race is starting from and, if it isn’t from the race HQ, how long it will take to cycle to.

Always pay heed to the instructions of the race organisers, marshals and commissars. The organisers and marshals will come from the host club and are responsible for running the race. Commissaries are responsible for enforcing the rules and act independently of the organisers. They’ll be in a car behind the race and can also issue instructions to riders using motorbike marshals (so if a guy on a motorbike roars at you, pay attention).

Make sure you know what you’re racing for by familiarising yourself with what prizes and points are on offer. Be aware that the number of positions receiving points may not be the same as the number of positions receiving prizes. You could have a race where the top six get prizes but the top 10 get points. Or you could have a race where the top 12 or more get prizes but the top 10 get points. People missing out on prizes because they thought they’d nothing left to race for happens more often than you’d think.

There are often prizes for “first unplaced” rider in their category. That means the prize goes to the first rider in that category outside of the main prizes.  So if you’re in an A1/A2 race and there are prizes for the top 10 and a prize for first unplaced A2, you could have several A2s in the top 10, but if you’re the next A2 to cross the line after the top 10, even if you’re 15th or 25th, that prize is yours. It’s easy to see who is in each category as they have different coloured numbers.

It’s up to you how you approach your race. If you’re feeling good, by all means try to attack and get into a break. It’s your best chance of getting a result. You can either attack yourself or try ride across to a group that looks promising. Establishing a successful break isn’t easy and very much depends on who is in it and what’s going on behind them.

Use your efforts wisely. Every big effort you make is a match that is burned and everyone has a limited supply of matches to burn. So if you’re trying to jump across to a break and there’s half a dozen riders still hanging on your wheel, don’t keep pushing. If it’s not going to work, sit up, save your energy. Similarly, if you find yourself in a break and realise that everyone there is already half dead, save yourself for something better. Nobody is going to notice if you managed to keep a doomed break away for a few minutes longer.

Even if you’re not attacking, you should never be just mindlessly riding around in the bunch. Every race is a learning opportunity and you should try to stay switched on all of the time. Try to work on your positioning and your cornering and consciously make an effort to improve as the race goes on. If you corner poorly, i.e. if you’re losing ground going through the corners, you’ll end up expending a lot more energy than the riders who corner well, because you’ll need to sprint out of every corner to make up for it. Positioning will take a while to master. In order to maintain the same position in the bunch, you need to be constantly moving. Because riders are constantly moving up on the outsides, the people in the middle are being moved gradually backwards. So if you don’t pay attention and just focus on following the wheels in front of you, you can find yourself going from the front to the back.

Get to know your opponents. Watch people in the race and then note the results afterwards. You’ll find that it’s going to be largely the same people you’ll be racing against week in, week out. Knowing who is strong and who is smart will help you identifying the moves to follow. They’ll be watching you too. If you’re new and you’re good, you may find that after a few weeks more people will want to ride with you (and more will be marking your moves).

If you’re struggling, don’t panic. Races will often go off fast and the settle down after the first lap. If you lose contact, don’t immediately give up. The pace of the bunch can vary and you may have some hope of getting back in if there is a stall. If you’re out the back, try to use the cavalcade of vehicles behind to make your way back on. Stay behind one car and move up to the next one if the pace slackens off enough for you to move.

Prize giving: The prize giving usually happens after the conclusion of all the races and will be either in the Race HQ or somewhere nearby. That means if you're an A4 or A3, you may have to wait around a bit while the A1/A2 race is finishing. If you’re in the prizes, do stay to collect yours. It’s disrespectful to the race organisers not to. Try to wear your jersey or another item of Orwell kit when collecting a prize as you’ll likely appear in the photos.

Before you leave any race, do try to thank the organisers. Races rarely make money (and often lose money) and most clubs run them to do their bit in providing a full competitive calendar. Everyone there from the host club has given up their weekend to make your race happen, so please do show your appreciation.

Finally, keep coming back. The quickest way to improve is by racing regularly, every week if you can.  

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Last edit: 4 months 3 weeks ago by Dick O'Brien.

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4 months 3 weeks ago #38757 by Dick O'Brien
Replied by Dick O'Brien on topic Early Season Open Races 2024
And here's some of the races in the first few weeks of the season that you should be considering:

Saturday 2 March
Dublin Wheelers Open Races (aka Mick Lally Memorial)

eventmaster.ie/event/7KJjUyeFdv
3 Races: A1/A2, A3, and A4

The circuit for this should be familiar to people who have raced the club league as it uses the Dorey's Forge Circuit. Another selling point is it's also one of the few open races where it's feasible to cycle out and back from. Start is just after the Summerhill Roundabout with the finish line at the top of Dorey's Forge. 

One of the obvious key points in the race is the short sharp climb up Dorey's Forge. However, don't take your eye off the ball once you go over the top. It's easy to lose position if you don't descend well, particularly the sweeping right hander and you also need to watch out for the subsequent drag back up to junction where you turn left back on to the Summerhill - Dunboyne Road. Strong riders will often use this section to force a move. If you're still in the mix on the final lap, I'd advise moving into the top 10 of the bunch before the final left hand turn to the finish. The road approaching Dorey's Forge is narrow and it'll be hard to move up. If you're in a good position, you'll need to fight to maintain it, which means constant movement on your part, since everyone else will be trying to move up as well. Don't launch your sprint too early. It's a longer effort than it looks. 

Sunday 3 March
Seamus Kennedy Memorial (Navan)

eventmaster.ie/event/wkGefPySRQ
4 Races: A1/A2, A3, A4, Women

Another well established season opener. Note that as of last year, it's returned to the old circuit ( ridewithgps.com/routes/41864171 ) that was used when this promotion was known as the Cycleways Cup.

Key point on this circuit is a long 5km climb that comes just after the left hand turn near Slane. It's probably best described as a long drag with a few little kickers thrown into it. Expect selections to happen here. If you're in survival mode, try to make sure you're near the front of the bunch heading into it, so you have some wiggle room to fall back without getting dropped. If splits do happen dig in and keep riding. You'll often see groups come back together again. 


Sunday 10 March
Newbridge Grand Prix

eventmaster.ie/event/jzmQTE0TBz
5 Races: A1, A2, A3, A4, Women

Five races here but note the earlier start time for A4 and Women.

This is one of those races that is harder than it looks on paper ( www.strava.com/segments/971310 ). The first test is Boston Hill, which comes about 6km, after the first left hand bend. It's short sharp brute of a climb, about 1km in length. Grit your teeth and bully your way up. No sooner are you down off Boston Hill but you've then got to face the long drag at Dunmurray which comes immediately after the next junction. It's a little under 3km and while a much gentler rise than Boston, there's a few kickers on the way up. After Dunmurray it's mostly downhill all the way to the finish line. If you're too far back, you'll find it hard to get into contention. 

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4 months 2 weeks ago #38759 by Dick O'Brien
Replied by Dick O'Brien on topic Early Season Open Races 2024
For anyone racing on Sunday, note that the A3 and A4 races are now combined and will be run as a handicap 

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4 months 1 week ago #38773 by Sean O'Kane
Replied by Sean O'Kane on topic Early Season Open Races 2024
Regarding the Newbridge GP, is there anyone who would be able to give me a lift to the A4 race? It begins at 10.

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4 months 4 days ago - 4 months 4 days ago #38780 by Dick O'Brien
Replied by Dick O'Brien on topic Early Season Open Races 2024
Few notes on the next few open races:

Saturday 16 March
Lucan GP

eventmaster.ie/event/Lk0btp3H76
6 Races: A1, A2, A3, A4, Women, U16

Run on the “Green Sheds” Circuit near Dunshaughlin/Dunsany, this circuit should be familiar to anyone who’s race in the club league or the IVCA league and we did a recce on the red spin a few weeks ago. It’s quite a fast circuit with a lot of wide open roads. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy race. With no difficult terrain to force a selection, you’ll instead need to pick the right moment and companions to attack with.

It may be tough to stay away solo or in a small break unless the bunch gets negative, because for much of the race, you’ll be visible to the bunch unless you’ve got a significant gap.

The section between Dunshauglin and the penultimate turn (back out onto the Trim road) is narrower. Advisable to be nearer the front of the bunch going into this section since you may find it hard to move up if you need to respond to any action up front.

After you turn onto the Trim Road, there’s a series of shallow drags heading up to the Warrenstown Arms. They won’t be enough to shed strong riders, but try not to be near the back coming out of the turn since you don’t want to get caught behind people being tailed off.

If you’re a good sprinter, there is a decent chance of a large bunch contesting the finish. It’s a wide road, with a slight uphill kick for the last 200 metres. Timing is key. A lot of people go too early. 

Saturday 23 March
Boyne GP
eventmaster.ie/event/ydyqcP0SVy
3 Races: A1/A2, A3, A4

Anyone who did the Seamus Kennedy Memorial a few weeks ago may recognise the terrain here because it takes in part of that course, albeit on a much smaller 15km lap . Arguably not quite as testing as the Seamus Kennedy course, I’d expect a fast face with opportunities for results because a lot of heavy hitters may be saving their legs for the Des Hanlon Memorial the next day.

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Last edit: 4 months 4 days ago by Dick O'Brien.

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4 months 4 days ago - 4 months 4 days ago #38781 by Dick O'Brien
Replied by Dick O'Brien on topic Early Season Open Races 2024
Sunday 24 March
Des Hanlon Memorial
eventmaster.ie/event/vvercPoSb4
4 Races: A1/A2, A3, A4, Women

This will be the first round of the National Series. For those of you who are new to racing, the National Series is a series of races held between now and July. There are four separate competitions for Senior and Junior, Men and Women, with a leader’s jersey going to the top rider in each category. Our own Killian O’Brien won Junior competition last year. 

The Des Hanlon has rightly earned its reputation as one of the biggest races of the year. After a 25km lead it, you’re onto the race lap, which has four successive climbs and a long descent at the end. If you’re a decent climber, then the Des may well suit you. But the beauty of this circuit is that the climbs aren’t so severe to rule our very powerful riders.

You can expect an attritional race, with the main bunch gradually being whittled down as riders go out the back door. With that in mind, position yourself well, staying near the front of you bunch on the climbs to avoid having to go into the red closing gaps if there are splits.

Just hanging in there in the front bunch won’t be enough to guarantee a good result. Expect a very aggressive race, particularly in the main event. It’s a prestigious race and everyone wants it.

After a day of brutal ascents, the finish is a thrill contrast, a long descent followed by a short, flat run to home. Good bike handling is important here. If you lose a wheel on the descent you won’t have time to work your way back before the chequered flag.

Note that because it’s a National Series race, Juniors with A3 licence can move up a category, into A1/A2. This is optional for the rider, not mandatory. But if you want to earn points for the Junior National Series, you must compete in the A1/A2 race.

If you’re a Junior and unsure what race to enter (i.e. if you didn’t do the National Series last year), I’d advise talking to Ivan first and he’ll give you some advice on what’s best for you.

If you're A4, note that it takes in only one lap of the circuit. There won't be any softening up period. Once you hit the climbs, that's where it may be decided. It should suit riders who did well at Newbridge, so if you were racing there last weekend, you'll know who to watch.

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Last edit: 4 months 4 days ago by Dick O'Brien.

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3 months 2 weeks ago - 3 months 2 weeks ago #38800 by Dick O'Brien
Replied by Dick O'Brien on topic Early Season Open Races 2024
There's a few races on over the next three weekends that aren't too far from home:

Sunday 7 April 
Coombes Connor Memorial Races

eventmaster.ie/event/RmkPFL5h76
3 Races: A1/A2, A3, and A4

Although there are no serious climbs on this one, it's circuit of two halves, starting with narrow country roads, which gives you an opportunity to get out of sight of the bunch but the second half the circuit is wide main roads. With a storm forecast for Saturday, the wind could play a major role in these races. May not be a day for solo efforts. Instead getting into a break with a few other strong riders may be your best chance of success. The Coombes Connor conicides with Rás na nÓg (also hosted by Drogheda Wheelers). If you're traveling down and get to see the youth races, be sure to give the Orwell kids a cheer.

Saturday 13 April 
All-Ireland 3rd Level Cycling Criterium Championships + Support Race 2024 (Corkagh Park)

eventmaster.ie/event/Pxl9sJDhLe
3 Races: Students, A3, Women

Might look like there's nothing on in Leinster that weekend, but this one isn't just for students. There's also an A3 and Women's race, which are both open to everyone. Corkagh Park needs no introduction and if you do the Inter Club League races earlier in the week, you'll have plenty of practice.

Saturday 20 April
Mick Beggan Memorial (Bohermeen)

1 handicapped race: A1/A2/A3/JNR/A4/Women
eventmaster.ie/event/OdVvcpmH0Z

Bohermeen are running a double header this weekend, with a short handicapped race on Saturday and the main event Sunday. These Saturday handicapped races used to be a regular feature race weekends but have sadly died off a lot in recent years. They're usually a lot of fun, with everyone going full gas from the start. Your best chance of a result usually comes from riding hard and hoping that you're not caught by the A1s until relatively late in the race. 

Sunday 21 April
Waller Cup (Bohermeen)

eventmaster.ie/event/0Av3CzqsA1
8 races: U12, U14, U16, Women, A4, A3, A2, A1

Widely touted as the flattest race of the year, this one is always a bit of a drag race and to stay away you'll need to be a bit of a power merchant and probably need company too. In recent years they've introduced a turn off the circuit on the final lap to introduce a short uphill drag to the finish. You'll need to be positioned well going into the final corner. If you're too far back, you won't be able to make up the ground before the finish line. 

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Last edit: 3 months 2 weeks ago by Dick O'Brien.

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