Brian McArdle has been very active in Orwell since joining - both behind the scenes in his role as PRO and on the bike in the open races and in the Orwell Club League - excelling at both and taking the Club League in 2015. Our latest Five minute profile gives us the chance to catch up with Brian's story in the club in the aftermath of the Club League victory, his first participation in the Rás and his continued drive in preparing for a second Rás and in both open races and the league.


Brian in the winning break during a Corkagh Park Club League race in 2013 with clubmates Eric Downey and Diarmuid Collins. Downey and Collins would synchronize their bike throws to the line with Downey edging out Collins.

Age: 31

Years with Orwell: 2016 will be my 7th year with the club

What made you choose Orwell?
Location and timing mostly - they held a membership night just as I was getting interested in joining a club, and weren't far off from my then home in Greenhills. And I'd gleaned from the Internet that it was a friendly and active club.

How did you get into cycling?
I've always cycled for transport - school, college, work. There's always a feeling of freedom and independence when I'm on my bike, instead of stuck on the bus or demanding a lift from my mother as a teenager.

As a cheap student, I refused to pay to take my commuting bike (I think I paid about €20 for it) home to Dublin from NUIG on the bus, so I just cycled it home instead. Through Loughrea, Ballinasloe, Athlone... I even took in some of the M6 from Kilbeggan to Kinnegad, before they officially classified it as a motorway. It took me about 15 hours to cover the 215km on a heavy steel hybrid, with an average rolling speed of just under 17kph. (There was no Strava back then, but I did have a GPS tracker with me as an OSM contributor.) I felt grand the next day, so when the Bike 2 Work scheme came in I invested in a road bike and started cycling for pleasure.

What sort of cycling do you do, and what do you enjoy about it?
Nothing matches the adrenalin rush of road racing when you're feeling good - the speed, the tactical foreplay, digging deep, the break and the chase. Though when the weather's good, I do love getting out and about in the countryside, particularly the Wicklow mountains. I also like how cycling takes you to all corners of the country for various races or events - it's a great way of seeing Ireland, and indeed further afield.

What are your greatest cycling highs/achievements?
I think it would have to be the Rás Dhun na nGall in June 2013. It had been a fun weekend in a rented house with Neal Hudson and Pat O'Brien and their partners Suzanne and Eileen, but on the road Olympic triathlete Gavin Noble had been dishing out the pain. On the last day Pat got in the break and then I sat on Noble while he brought me across. Pat gave up his race to work for me and I ended up winning the stage. It was my first experience of being able to really savour a win, arms in the air.

Nobody ever saw the 'after' moment, when I was upside-down in the ditch! Neal put in a great ride as well to help us get on the podium for the team GC. We all celebrated in style with the prize pot that night, along with some of the St Tiernan's crew - including Martin Vereker, another great cyclist gone too soon.


Brian celebrates taking victory in the final stage of the Rás Dhun na nGall on the Glengesh summit (photograph with thanks to Eymard Brennan photography).

In terms of Orwell, I was delighted to see so many people out in support of Keith Harte in Laragh at the start of October. That really made me proud to be part of the club - seeing the generosity, good nature and sheer number of people who cycled, donated and helped out that day. And it was great to see Keith out and about enjoying himself - he's a hero for staying so positive throughout all his challenges.

Cycling low/disappointment?
On the road, I missed out on winning the 2013 Ian Gallaghar Memorial by about half an inch to a junior whose cleat broke in the sprint. Eddie Lynch positioned me beautifully in the lead-in but I just couldn't seal the deal.

Off the road, Pat O'Brien's loss is still a keenly felt one. He's been by my side my entire racing career, actually from my first ever open race to the peak of the Rás. In 2015 he literally picked me off the ground when I came down in the Des Hanlon, and was instrumental in getting me home safe in the Shay Elliot and Rás Mumhan. That's before I even start thinking about the eight stages of the An Post Rás.

We rode up the Tourmalet together in September before he left me eating dust about 100m from the top, and then suggested we spend our time helping out the other riders instead of ripping the legs off each other. That was his nature, and we were so much the better for it on the trip. I think of him every time I get on the bike, and frequently off of it. I think everyone who knew him knows what a great loss his passing was, but we should be grateful for the time we each had with him.


At the Orwell prize giving in 2014, Brian held the Club Champion trophy after his victory in the Mondello Club Championships with clubmate and friend the late Pat O'Brien. Pat had just won the Orwell Club League trophy after coming second (2010, 2013) and third twice (2011, 2012).

Favourite training route/coffee stop?
I'm not one for coffee stops really - to quote Brian Ahern: "a coffee stop turns a decent spin into two half-decent spins". And I'm more of a tea drinker anyway. I love exploring north county Dublin from my home in Drumcondra, and the roads around the airport and Howth are great for training.

Was the Ras de Cymru your first stage race and did it get you hooked? What's your favourite stage race?
Yes, that was my first ever stage race, and with the benefit of hindsight, I was extremely lucky to end up in Wales with three of Orwell's modern legends - Dave Mc, Declan Quigley and Pat O'Brien. Between the three of them it was like a five day training camp for me, and I learned everything I needed to know about racing. Just took me a while to get the legs to put it into practice! I'd love to see an Orwell team there again - a few strong A2s and A3s could do some damage there. I can't compete on an A1 licence.

I love kicking off the season properly with Dublin Wheelers' Mick Lally, but my favourite race would have to be the Rás Dhun na nGall, run by the Four Masters club. It's very well organised with a fleet of moto-marshals, and the entire town is celebrating the Melting Pot festival so everyone comes out to cheer on the riders. The course is tough - hilly and exposed - you need to have all your strength and wits about you. And best of all it's only Sunday when you finish the final stage, so you still have the bank holiday Monday free for a hangover.

How do you find competing in the Orwell Club League; you were a strong challenger in 2014 to Patrick O'Brien, finishing second overall while taking a fine victory in the Club Championships in Mondello and in the Hill Climb Champs. This year you won on several fronts - time trials (including the team time trial) and jumps to win the 2014 Orwell Club League ahead of the formidable Murnane duo, what did you enjoy the most about the club league this year on the way to winning?
I only won that TT this year because Dick and Tom had crashed a round or two before it! I really enjoy the TTT every year - Dave Mc's handicaps make it far less predictable, and makes it much more interesting than it would be otherwise.

I was extremely proud to win the league, it's definitely a trophy I'm delighted to have in the cabinet. The Murnanes were strong challengers, and I had conflicting emotions about that - being happy to see such promising youth riders emerge in Orwell, but not so happy to see them out-sprinting me so often! The sheer effort that we made most weeks in Scratch was excruciating this year. We usually worked very well together, and there was no slacking on the pace from anyone who was able, which made it a great workout and savage training for open racing.

Where do you rate your experience of becoming a man of the Rás?
Priceless. I've watched the Rás from the same corner at Cross of the Cage since I got interested in road racing in 2010. I witnessed Orwell clubmates finish in 2012 and 2013, and I knew I had to have one of those caps! I was a little disappointed not to be more active within the race, but it's a whole other level - a step up again from A1 racing. It was a fantastic experience though, surrounded by positive teammates and a superb support crew.

Your cycling heroes/role models?
I mentioned Keith already, but there are so many people when I look around the club... anyone who volunteers on any occasion, particularly those involved in organising or on the committee, but especially those who go the extra mile.

I'll inevitably leave someone out, but the likes of Stephen O'Shea running the CX Champs this year, and playing DS to the Orwell women on so many occasions. Denis Gleeson and JT and all the helpers for the Randonnée, Ann Horan who's been a organising machine over the last year and beyond, Jen Sheridan and Stephen Ryan for their work with the youths and so much more. Orla Hendron - world champion but also champion (in the advocacy sense) of women's cycling in Ireland. The Daves T and Mc - endlessly giving of their time and expertise to the club (and to me personally), while still competing in the IVCA/audax scenes.

And Rachel Glendon for her ability to dedicate herself completely to a goal, and achieve it.

You've been very active on the Orwell committee since joining the club, being PRO since mid-2012, how come you got so involved in the organising aspect of the club despite being such an active racer? (has this solidified your attachment to the club/pride to ride for Orwell?)
I've always believed in giving something back (a favourite theme of Dave Tansey's too), particularly when you're part of any organisation run by volunteers. After growing up in the Scouts, I went back to be a leader for eight years, before my interests moved from hiking and camping to cycling and racing. Declan Quigley, Dick O'Brien and Dave Mc had all taken turns writing the reports before me I think, but work and life had gotten in the way for them after a time and Dave Mc asked me to take it over. I'm not sure I knew what I was letting myself in for at that stage...

However, I had the privilege of getting to know lot of the riders in the club that way and learned a lot about how the club and the cycling scene operates, and I relished writing the reports - particularly for the club league, or for big results. There's a vicarious thrill when an Orwell rider gets a big win or placing, and you're the one who gets to tell the club all about it! Sadly, my day job is only getting busier so I've stepped back from the PRO position, but I'm delighted to be able to say that Eugene is doing a brilliant job of it!


Brian won the polka dot jersey at the Newry 3 Day. In this photograph Brian is in the move which crested the two climbs on the final stage. Brian took the first KOH and came second here on the final KOH securing the polka dot jersey (photograph with thanks to Toby Watson).

Any particular favourite races and plans for 2016?
Hopefully another tilt at the Rás, win a stage or two. The Suir Valley 3 Day is on my radar as a great race that I've survived well in before, but I didn't get a chance to do this year due to a wedding clash. I've another seven weddings to get to this year, but I'm hoping they don't have an impact on my fitness and targets!

Tell us something we don't know about you already?
hmm... I'm a terrible cook. And I mean terrible. I have ended up in hospital after eating my own dinner.

 

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