Isle of Man End2End 2012 – Race Report

Isle of Man End2End

Isle of Man End2End

I hadn’t really intended to do the Isle of Man End2End MTB Race this year. I’ve been concentrating on Triathlons instead and have therefore hardly been out on a Mountain Bike at all. However, we had been invited to a family wedding on the island on Saturday Sept. 8th and the Isle of Man End2End was on Sunday Sept 9th so it seemed like a good idea at the time to sign up to it.

My brother Jay thought the same as well so decided to meet us on the island as well. I’ll post more about the rest of the weekend elsewhere, but after a good couple of days on the Isle of Man, Sunday the 9th rolled around – Race Day!! It was a bit of an early start for us so that we could get the car loaded up and drive to the Point of Ayre for around 9am. It was looking pretty windy on the way up and when we got there it felt pretty chilly on the exposed coastal plains of the northern end of the Isle of Man. Jay and I got ready and we soon headed over to join the throngs of people getting into the queues to start the race. With a mass start of 1700 riders it is always quite a spectacle but also a recipe for disaster. The top 100 seeded riders got a bit of a head start this year and they were soon followed by the rest of us. I nearly ended up with the top 100 seeded riders myself due to a bit of a mix up with names and dates of birth by the organisers – I put them right though and started back in the main pack with Jay.

Anna and Morgan were on the sidelines taking photos. It wasn’t long before it was 10am and the countdown started. 3,2,1,GO!!!! The people at the front were off, Jay and I had to wait a few minutes before we actually set off, but with electronic chip timing this year our times wouldn’t start until we actually crossed the start line.

The first 12 miles or so are on closed and semi-closed roads. I soon left Jay behind as I moved forwards from pack to pack. With a vicious headwind, one that was set to be with us all day long, I’d draft in a group for a while and then head off to catch the next one when it came in sight. This way I moved up through the field pretty well. When we hit the first of the trails I’d managed to average around 17 mph which isn’t too bad on a MTB, especially as I was taking it pretty easy.

Last time I did the End2End, the first climb was a procession with no choice but to get off and push as that was what everyone else was doing. This time I was able to ride it all. It wasn’t fast but it was better than walking and I did have to track-stand now and then as people walking in front of me were blocking my way or as other people spun their back wheels and fell off. I just plodded on slow and steady without putting a foot down.

Up on top of the hills the wind was blowing a hoolie but I soon settled into a nice easy rhythm and continued on making good progress. I didn’t push myself and took it easy on the climbs knowing that it was a long way and that I have a triathlon to race in next weekend – no heroics here today. As usual the sign-posting and marshalling was excellent and I was soon at the first checkpoint at the bottom of the Brandywell Descent where I met Anna and Morgan. Apparently I was only 30 minutes behind the leaders and everyone else going through were taking it seriously with people out ready to hand them water bottles and supplies as they flew past without stopping. I on the other hand nonchalantly rolled up had a chat as if I was out for a Sunday morning ride – which I was.

I was soon back on my bike though and heading off to St John’s, the next checkpoint and halfway mark. Anna and Morgan waited for Jay to come through at Brandywell, which he did, about 10 minutes before the 1pm cut off point. They had planned on meeting me at Eary Cushlin as well, but by now I had made it past St John’s and was going well. I’d cleared a few of the tricky parts without so much as dabbing a foot so now had it in my mind to make it all the way without putting a foot down, except of course at feed stations. I was feeling fine, my legs were good, there had been no sign of cramps and my bike was holding up well too. That was more than could be said for the weather though. The further south we went, the stronger the wind got, the thicker the mist became and the wetter everything was.

I passed through St. Johns at around 12:45pm and the third checkpoint at Eary Cushlin at around 1:40pm so Anna and Morgan missed me here and headed off to the finish line. I’d been quite looking forward to the climb after Eary Cushlin up towards the Sloc as last time it was lined with spectators who parted as you made your way up the climb, ‘Tour de France style’. Unfortunately as we climbed, the mist was terrible, visibility was down to a few feet, it was blowing a gale, freezing cold and very wet. Funnily enough there were only one or two supporters along with a few hardy marshalls up here. Not to worry though I was feeling good so started to put the hammer down a little now and started flying past people on the climbs. Passing people so well made me feel even beter so I pushed on a little more.

Meanwhile behind me, Jay was making painful progress and was just hitting the cut off times at the checkpoints. He learned at one of them that the deadline for the finish had been extended by 15 minutes due to some hold ups on the course earlier in the day so he now had until 5:15pm to finish. I was soon on the final descent to the roads at the south of the island and then the final climb up towards Cregneash. I knew this was coming and was well prepared for it. A few people had been drafting behind me on the road into Port St. Mary, but as soon as I hit the hill, I looked back at them and then but the hammer down. I’d been saving myself for this and flew up the hill picking off people all the way up. I lost count after overtaking 25 riders, all of whom seem to be standing still… Now I was enjoying myself! I crossed the line somewhere around 2:45pm giving me an official time of 4 hours 42 minutes and 15 seconds which was good enough for 176th place.

The leaders and likes of Nick Craig who has won it for the past 4 years finished in a time of around 3:20, 45 minutes slower than usual but that was due to the extra few miles due to a detour at the beginning, some extra climbing and of course the incessant headwind. I was 5 minutes faster than last time so I was pleased with that. Jay finally rolled in just after 5pm with a time of 7:02. Just within the final cut off time and he didn’t have much left in him!

All in all it was a good day out. The course was good with plenty of variety, the marshalling and organisation was top notch and I felt as though I performed well, although I wasn’t pushing myself so it was all pretty easy. Jay seemed to enjoy it as well, although I don’t think he started to realise it until the next day once he could move again!

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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