Avenues of Snow on the TT Course
I’ve visited the Isle of Man many times now, sometimes with surfing kit, other times with windsurfing kit, once or twice with kitesurfing kit and yet others with Mountain Bikes. I’ve windsurfed, surfed, kite-surfed and mountain biked all over the island, I’ve done the Isle of Man End2End MTB race twice, but I’ve never been here with my road bike and I’ve never cycled around the TT course either.
On this visit though we had come in Anna’s car and I’d brought my road bike so I had planned to ride the TT course. I was going to do it on Friday but in the end decided to do a shorter 25 mile ride around the south of the island from our accommodation at Anna’s mum house whilst the others had breakfast. Saturday was therefore the day for the TT ride and the weather looked as though it was going to cooperate for a change. Clear blue skies and only a light wind meant that conditions were perfect. It was still pretty cold though so I wrapped up warm with thermal bib tights, a thermal top, a jacket, overshoes, gloves and a buff to keep my ears warm.
We drove into Douglas where Anna and Morgan dropped me off at the start finish line and they headed off into Douglas. I wasn’t aiming for a fast ride, just a leisurely recreational ride around the TT course – Chris Boardman’s 1993 record of 1:23:54 was never going to be under threat – not that I could get anywhere near that even if I tried. To be honest, not many people can even with the added incentive of the £3000 prize that is up for grabs in the Shoprite Cycle For Life event if you do.
I told Anna that I was likely to take somewhere around 2:15 to complete the 38 mile course. Not fast but I didn’t know the route very well, didn’t know where the hills were, was planning to stop for photos here and there and knew that there was a dirty great climb up over the mountain road.
The ride itself was fairly uneventful along nice roads. It undulates a little out of Douglas and there is a bit of a climb out of Glen Helen, but other than that it is fairly flat towards the North of the island. The roads along the western side were however lined with huge drifts of snow that towered over me on both sides where the snow ploughs have cut through them to clear the roads. Who needs high alpine passes when you can ride the TT course on the Isle of Man! It was certainly interesting cycling through these avenues of snow and there were still a few patches of ice here and there on the road. I stopped a couple of times on the way north to take photos but was making good time.
The scenery along here is pretty spectacular as well with rolling hills covered in snow, leading up to the more ominous looking mountains. There was a slight detour around some roadworks in Ramsey, and then it was time to head south and to face the long climb up over the mountain road. It never gets really steep but drags on for a while. Especially at the bottom where the gradient was enough to have me out of the saddle for most of the steeper parts. Once again the road were snow lined and now the scenery really was spectacular with amazing views out across the Irish Sea to the mountains of Lake District. You are supposed to be able to see the kingdoms of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Mann, Heaven and the Sea from the top of Snaefell and on a clear day like today I’m sure all were visible.
It was pretty cold up here though and I’d worked up quite a sweat on the ascent so I didn’t stop for photos as I had a long descent ahead of me and didn’t want to get too cold. The cold also meant that I took it easy on the descent. Not only did excessive speed add to the wind chill, but there were still a few dodgy patches of ice and I wasn’t ever sure what was around the corner. In a few places huge chunks of snow and ice had fallen off the sides into the road and I didn’t fancy slamming into one of those at 40mph so I took it steady and coasted down the mountain and back into Douglas. I crossed the start finish line in a time of 2:05:52, but that did include a couple of photo stops. I’m sure I would be capable of a sub 2 hour time if I wanted to.
I then rode through Douglas to the National Sports Centre where I met Anna and Morgan and we all went for a swim. Morgan played on the slides, Anna relaxed in the pools and I did a short 1600 m swim before chilling in the pool as well.