The Secret Diary of a New A1, Aged 38½: “I’ve been duped”

Posted on: April 2nd, 2019

The line-outs have been long and the intensity has been savage; life in the A1 peloton proving a real challenge for the newly upgraded Dublin cyclist Mark David Heather.


The hammer has been down and “the sensations” have not been great for our man, who’s having his arse handed to him as a new A1.

But he’s dogged and the towel won’t be coming over the top of the ropes any time soon.


By Mark David Heather

Orwell Wheeler out of Clontarf, Dublin

Well, I was tricked I tell ya. Properly hoodwinked. Duped. That’s how I’ve felt so far in the 2019 season.

After getting promoted to A1 last August at the less than tender age of 38 years, and with only two seasons racing under my belt, I thought I had this shit in the bag.

I’d done some Mondello handicapped races as well as some mass start A1-A2 races and it was all fine.

I even thought to myself; ‘I might get some points in A1 this year’. Well, I got that wrong.

It turns out the difference between and A1-A2 race and an ‘A1 only’ race or A1-A2 handicapped event is night and day. It’s a total smash-fest from the very beginning.

All my power numbers are up on last year. I’m hitting power personal bests left right and centre every time I ride. I’m getting better and better physically. And I’m getting absolutely hammered.


Finishing in Clonard, having lost contact with the A1s and finishing just ahead of the next race ends (Photo: John Hammer)


My first race of the year was at Clonard; same as last year. I’d placed 6th last season but this year instead of sprinting for a win, I was dropped.

Not just dropped from the lead group, nor from the chase group; but from the group after that.

I blamed lack of racing and recovering from a chest infection; ‘on to the next one’, I said to myself. But at least there were a few new power PBs.

I missed the Lucan GP the weekend before last but headed to the Boyne GP.

There was a peloton (if you could call it that) of 21 riders. Several of those were Continental pros, others have previously been Conti riders and then there was tubby old me in the middle of them. 

I got my ass whooped again. This time I blamed a bad night’s sleep. But, again, at least there was one new PB with my power readings.


Living with Lindsay: Mark David Heather has said starting with the A1s in handicapped A1-A2 races is a lot different to starting with the A2s. Living with the likes of Lindsay Watson going full throttle in a scratch group, such as in the recent Killinchy GP (above), has been a new way of life on the bike (Photo: Sharon McFarland)


So up came my third race of the year at the Killinchy GP, just last weekend. I’d ridden the A1-A2 handicapped event last year and got 7th place.

I was itching to get back, especially being that I’m stronger now. I drove up the night before and stayed over to ensure a rested body.

And I felt great that morning, also getting a decent warm up – albeit on a bike I haven’t ridden in three years.

From the off it was ‘bang’; out of the gates like a greyhound. The only difference being that I was chasing was my own rather than a win or even a placing.

The eventual top four were hell bent on pulling back the two minutes on the A2 group within what felt like 5km.

I lasted a lap and a bit, in a 10-lap race, before my legs shut down. And then I limped back to the car. I’ve decided to blame the bike. There were no PBs this time.

I knew it was going to be hard. But this hard?

I’m extremely motivated to improve and I’m sure I will as the season goes on.

In the meantime, I tip my hat to the guys that consistently rip the races apart and feature week in and week out.

There’s a saying, “it has to be seen to be believed”. But I don’t think that saying is appropriate to describe racing with these guys.

Instead, I’d say: “It has to be inflicted upon you to be appreciated”. It really is another level.