Skane Wheelers inaugural running of the Kilmessan GP took place last Sunday on a typical April rainy day. The course had changed from previous years and it was billed as a more challenging circuit.

Three of Orwells finest (Brendan Lawless, Jamie Busher & Odhrán Connors) and myself lined up for the A2 race to complete 6 laps of the 19km circuit. At the start line the PA called the A2’s forward and announced that the A1’s would be racing with us as there were only 22 A1’s, including Orwell big hitters Philippe Boudarias and Ronan O’Flynn. Much to my disgust I turned to Jamie and said if I had know this in advance I would have stayed home and watched Flanders, after I experienced a proper ass-spanking in Kerry by the A1’s the previous weekend. The PA announced that there would be a 5-minute handicap for the A2’s and that the race would now be 7 laps (133km) as a long race was desired due to the upcoming Rás next month.

The A2’s set off, some lads were active and keen to get something going. Jamie pinged off the front and got a gap with a few others only to be chased down by lads riding across to the break, sitting on the back and unwilling to ride through. Brendan and Odhrán gave some digs but again lads were going across and dragging the peloton with them.

At the end of the first lap up the drag to the finish I moved up and rode across to a few lads, and to my surprise we got a gap, there must have been a lull in the peloton. There were 8 of us out front, a good mix of clubs represented. The Longford and Tiernan's riders that placed first and second in A2 in the Orwell organised Hammond TT the previous day were present and both strong riders. There was also a lad who was constantly roaring profanities (which was a good source of comedy for the next couple of hours), and a few others who kept their heads down and got on with it. We rode fairly steady and the laps started coming down.

There was a bit of a difference of opinion in the group as some of us were keen to crack on at a faster pace, whilst cries and whimpers of “steady” were coming from one or two, so we kept it together with some of us doing extra turns. A six man chase group of A2’s were attempting to get across including Brendan Lawless, and got very close within 20 seconds but eventually got swallowed up by the A1’s. In the meantime you could sense the catch was looming, as there was a lot more moto marshals swarming around our breakaway all of a sudden.

Brian in the break with Damien Shaw, Philip Lavery and Mattel Ciggala (photograph with thanks to Keith Maguire)

With 2.5 laps to go I turned around to see and an Asea rider there and I think Aquablue’s Greg Swinand who said “hi guys” sporting a cheesy grin. My interpretation of this was lads you’ve had your bit of fun, now go to the gutter! Longford & Tiernan's and I continued to drive the pace at the front. Coming up to the finish with two laps to go, some attacks were launched, Ro Killen (Lucan) had a go, as did Anthony Walsh (Aquablue).

The tall A2 rider who changes clubs more often than I change bib-shorts on Mizen to Malin last year, now riding for DID Dunboyne (previous clubs include Carlow, Bray, and SERC), put in a impressive dig, almost too good as no one could go with him and left out front to fry. He was reeled in by the collective and then on the second drag Italian Matteo Ciggala attacked with the Longford guy from the original break. A Stamullen A1 went after them, and then I followed, we were quickly joined by Shaw and Lavery.

We worked hard initially to establish a gap. Not sure what happened the Stamullen rider but he disappeared so I’ll assume he spontaneously combusted, and then on the main road the Longford rider popped after putting in some big turns. For the next lap the remaining four of us rode steady taking turns. Then on the last lap just before the turn to the main road Shaw attacked and rode away fairly effortlessly, to go on to take the win, it was visually very impressive. Lavery and I tried to reel him in for a couple of minutes but at best the gap was holding, and not coming down.

Thereafter for the last 12k I decided that to get fourth in this company would be a big result so drove the pace, as was fearful of what was coming behind. I was flicking my elbow a lot like a wounded pigeon trying to take flight but not getting much help from my two passengers. Coming up the drag to the finish I was snaking from one side of the road to the other hoping someone would lead it out but nobody was forthcoming.

With about 150m to go Lavery jumped from behind and won the sprint for second comfortably, my effort at a sprint was fairly pathetic, even though I had Bernard English roaring me on, but luckily the Italian had already smouldered into charred cannelloni securing a 3rd place finish for me.

Overall it was a great event. The new route is a great addition to the calendar and Skane wheelers did a great job in their first year running the event.

Also congrats to Monica Marconi who came a brilliant second in the women's race.

Brian McNally takes third place (photograph with thanks to Bernard English)