Following on from Cong and Charleville, the A3s were ripping it up at the Laragh Classic, securing a bronze Leinster Champs medal for Jamie Busher, and another two places in the top ten for Bernard English and Brian McNally. Busher tells us how it went below!

The Laragh Classic is the final instalment in the Irish racing calendar and brings down the curtain on a long road racing season. This year the event doubles up as the Leinster Championships which adds an extra bit of spice to an already - as the title says - "Classic" race. St Tiernan's CC host the event and this year the A3 race is dedicated to the memory of Martin Vereker who passed away late last year at a very young age. Martin was a top cyclist and competed with many of the riders who would battle it out in this years race. Given the race rolls out from a valley in the centre of the Garden of Ireland it was always going to be tough assignment. The race is 3.5 laps of a 25km circuit which contains some very difficult climbs and extremely technical descents, the climbs coupled with the narrow twisty descents provides no respite.

In the build up abysmal weather conditions are forecast and unusually the Met Eireann team deliver on their promises and incessant rain greets the riders at race HQ. Riders are coaxed from their cars to prepare for what is sure to be one of the toughest races of the year. The Orwell A3 lineup is Bernard English, Brian McNally, Jamie Busher, Paul Perry and open race debutant Eoin Byrne. McNally is a veteran of the event having finished in the top 10 in all previous editions and offers the team an insight into the race.

The race reluctantly rolls out of Laragh in pouring rain and is introduced to the first climb within 2km, straight away riders are into oxygen debt and jostle to keep position over the climbs for what is sure to be a nervous descent. With driving rain and poor surfaces the race snakes its way down the descents in a single line. The poor conditions are neutralising the race to a certain extent and the majority of the race is still together as its makes its way through Laragh to commence the second lap.

A KOH and sprint prime on the second lap results in a frenzied chase up the climb and cracks are starting to appear in the peloton. With the increased intensity and conditions worsening riders are now falling off the back of the peloton at an increasing rate. The descents are proving almost as difficult as the ascents and demand huge amounts of concentration. As the race passes the finish line to begin the third lap a significant portion of the peloton are no longer present however all Orwell are there.

On the descent into Laragh for the third climb Orwell are on the front and there is a sense that the peloton is now beginning to feel the effects of the race. All Orwell riders are climbing well and make it over the climb for the third time in the front group which is now much reduced in numbers. On a draggy section after the climbs and with 30km remaining Busher launches an attack and is followed by McNally, the move is closed down by the chasing peloton as it lines out. A second attack by Busher is then joined by English and a small gap is established.

With 61km complete and 28km remaining the peloton allows the Orwell riders some breathing space and immediately Busher and English get down to work. Once out of sight Busher and English set about increasing the advantage on the back section of the course swapping turns with 100% commitment. This proves to be the move of the day and the Orwell pair grind out an advantage of over 1'30" coming into Laragh.

With both riders on the rivet and burning legs there is one final ascent to contend with. With 15km remaining and English suffering from cramp he decides the best tactic is take the climb at his own pace, bids Busher farewell with a flurry of encouragement and both riders take the climb solo. Back in the peloton a small group escapes in pursuit of the two Orwell riders out front, whist McNally and Byrne are marshalling things ensuring no organised chase is established in the peloton.

With 80km complete and English still battling away solo he is gobbled up by a group of three riders that escaped the peloton. Bray, Swords and Itap are represented in this small group and working together they edge closer to Busher who is still out front solo with only the lead car for company. With approximately 5km remaining a solo Lucan rider and eventual race winner latches onto the back of English's small group and powers through in pursuit of Busher. With only 4km remaining and alone out front Busher is still leading the race and glances over his right shoulder to catch a glimpse of an approaching rider, Lucan is making rapid progress and suddenly the dream of a race win is disappearing as the effects of the breakaway effort are showing. Lucan comes past like a train and Busher is unable to grab the wheel.

Meanwhile cohesion has ended in the small chase group and English is having his own battle as the riders attack each other. The Bray rider is the first to escape and manages to overhaul Busher in the final kilometre whilst the Itap rider comes past with less than 500 agonising metres remaining. Busher rolls over the finish line exhausted to secure 4th spot and a Leinster bronze medal . English wins the duel with a McNally Swords rider but loses out to a Trinity rider in the closing stages and finishes a fantastic 6th.

Back in the peloton McNally suffered a crash but manages to remount, compose himself, forge his way back to the lead bunch and contend the bunch sprint. A much reduced bunch of approximately 25 riders make that finish together and McNally grabs 2nd in the sprint and 10th overall to continues his excellent run in what surely was one of the toughest races of the year. Junior Eoin Byrne in his open debut put down an outstanding performance to stay with he lead bunch throughout the race in biblical conditions. All riders are shattered but happy to have given everything in the final epic race of the season. With three Orwell riders making the top 10 it rounds off a great year for the Orwell A3 race group.

Busher with his bronze medal and the rest of the Leinster podium

English receiving his prize

In an equally tough A4 race, Stephen Rowan earned his upgrade and a trip straight to the top of A4 rankings with a prominent and hard-fought 3rd place behind a solo winner. Ken O'Neill also saw his season-long efforts bear fruit with a solid 7th.


Laragh Classic, Laragh (13/9/2015)

Martin Vereker Memorial A3
1 Conn McDunphy (Lucan CRC)
2 Stephen Murphy (iTap)
3 Ian Murphy (Bray Wheelers)
4 Jamie Busher (Orwell Wheelers)
5 James McFadden (DU)
6 Bernard English (Orwell Wheelers)
7 Phil O'Flaherty (McNally Swords)
8 James Quinn (St. Tiernan's CC)
9 Ciarán Handley (McNally Swords)
10 Brian McNally (Orwell Wheelers)

Unplaced Juniors
Sean Moore (Barrow Wheelers)
Fionn Jordan (Slaney CC)
Cian Sutcliffe (Lucan CRC)

Conn McDunphy (Lucan CRC)

Special Sprint donated by Jurys Inns
Stephen Murphy (iTap)


A4 Race
1 Damien Donlon (Swords CC)
2 Noel Kelly (UCD CC)
3 Stephen Rowan (Orwell Wheelers)
4 Eoin Ahern (UCC)
5 Anthony Dunne (Donadea)
6 Colm Dillon (Comeragh)
7 Ken O'Neill (Orwell Wheelers)
8 Mark O'Duffy (Killarney)
9 Neil Wilkinson (VCB)
10 John O'Regan (U/A)

ParcelZone KOM
Damien Donlon Swords CC