It's a delight to commence the 2014 race reports with a superb win for Aideen Keenan in Monasterevin yesterday, and a fine fourth for Bernard English in the A4 event.

There were Orwell members competing in each and every race, including the Ned Flanagan Memorial headline event won by Robin Kelly (Aquablue). Usually the largest fields of the season, the Ned Flanagan marks the first opportunity for everyone to find out how the form had fared after a hard winter of training, and for many it was their open racing début - including our own Aideen Keenan.

The adventure racer has been eager to start her road racing career, with her partner in Dublin Wheelers encouraging her to give it a go. She's been active in the Orwell training groups over the off-season break, and her determined attitude impressed many. She conceded by the time she arrived at the startline yesterday, she was only aiming to survive and finish upright.

She writes...

“I’d been out for race training with a group of Orwell ladies on the Saturday, so I was feeling psyched on the morning of the race. They never mentioned though that the key to the whole thing was to start with a delicious breakfast of waffles – yum! I had something approaching a plan: try to get around, don’t waste energy on the first half of the race which was into the wind and if I was feeling good, make sure I was in a decent position before Chicken Byrne Hill at around 40k, where there might be some fireworks. So much for the plan… it all went out the window when lack of numbers (eight ladies signed on!) meant we’d be heading out with the A3s. Gulp!

That completely changed the race, which now turned into a frenzied last-woman-standing affair, as the pace of the A3s shelled us out one by one. For some reason I decided to pointlessly shoot off the front after 6k (what the hell was I thinking? solo to victory from 52k out?) and almost burned myself out in the process, but somehow got back onto a wheel once I was swamped. Then I settled down and even started to (almost) enjoy the experience. I hung on, even getting up the crucial drag in the group, but lost my place on the descent and corners around the 42k mark (bring on the crit league!). I didn’t think there were any ladies left, so I knew I just had to try and get going again and not get caught by whoever was behind me. A guy from Killarney CC came up behind me and we started to work together. We got a great rhythm going, sharing the work and with the tailwind bringing us home, we were flying. I had to completely bury myself in the final few kms. I crossed the line about 2.30 down on the A3 main bunch, but was I possibly the first lady over the chalk?… Yes I was - fantastic!

There was plenty of Orwell lime green around on the day. Of the eight ladies, three were from Orwell, all making their racing debut. And there were plenty of Orwell lads there too; among them Bernard English who got a great result coming 4th in the A4 race.

Highlight of the day for me has to be being made to wear a huge sponsors’ t-shirt/nightie for the presentation. Those photos better not see the light of day…

So, a great day and I’m pretty sure I’ve caught the racing bug, though “rule followers” may be disappointed to hear I’m not throwing in the running just yet. I can’t wait for the first ladies race ‘proper’ where we have our own field, though it was a real buzz getting our legs flayed by the A3 lads. A big shout out to all the guys I trained with all winter, and especially the ladies (feat. Eddie) who took us out on Saturday and gave us no end of tips and advice. And not to forget the anonymous hero from Killarney CC who worked so hard with me. I lost him at the finish line and never got to thank him in person. See you on the road, sir!”

Keenan after yesterday's efforts (photo thanks to Caroline Martinez)

A hugely impressive result from the debútante, who will have made herself one to watch on the women's racing scene. Though yesterday's field was smaller than normal, you can only race who shows up, and Keenan had the legs to beat last year's National League winner Anne Dalton (DID Electrical), previously of Orwell. Dalton is cautious about peaking too soon in the season, and we look forward to future duels between the pair.

The A4 race came down to a bunch sprint behind mountain biker Mark McGauley (MAD). Another newbie to open racing, Bernard English put in an impressive kick to take fourth overall, chalking up his first grading points in one of the most hotly contested races of the season.

After doing the club league in 2012, English received an injury that ruled out racing in 2013, and is clearly back with a bang after a good winter's training. However, McGauley snuck away from the A4 pack, and English had to be content to compete for second. If his first ever sprint results in fourth, we'll be very interested to see how he does with a bit of experience under his belt!

We'll be keeping an eye on both Keenan and English as the season progresses, with plenty of Orwell riders bound to be in action in the Trader's Cup next week.


Ned Flanagan Memorial, Co Kildare (16/02/2014)

A1/A2 Race
1 Robin Kelly (Aquablue)
2 James Davenport (South Dublin CC)
3 Edward Barry (Liquidworx)
4 Shane Baker (Usher IRC)
5 Micheal Fitzgerald (VeloRevolution)
6 Keith Foxe (Shannonside CC)

Unplaced A2s
1 Ciarán Hallinan (DID Dunboyne)
2 Robert Staunton (McNally Swords)
3 Noel Thomson (Smart Lamps)

A3 Race
1 Ciaran Kelly (Bikeworx)
2 John Priest (Luan CRC)
3 Daire Feeley (Donamon Dynamos)
4 Donal Daly (Garda CC)
5 Fintan McCormack (Newbridge CC)
6 John Walsh (Carlow RC)

Unplaced Juniors
1 Conor McDunphy (Lucan CRC)
2 Luck McVeigh (Clonard CC)

Women's Race
1 Aideen Keenan (Orwell Wheelers)
2 Anne Dalton (DID Racing Team)

A4 Race
1 Mark McGauley (MAD)
2 Thomas Dougan (Comeragh CC)
3 Niall Whelan (Complex CC)
4 Bernard English (Orwell Wheelers)
5 Paul Woods (Carlow RC)
6 Keith Coffey (Blanch CC)