Isle of Man End 2 End Race Report by Phil Simcock
Hoping for an Indian Summer after a wash-out of the majority of the race season, I took the ferry over to the Isle of Man to compete in the End 2 End race. This is a 45 mile mountain bike race, starting at the North of the Island, crossing all the big hills in the middle and ending up at the South end. This is the fourth time I have competed in the race and each year my results have improved. After a 14th place finish last year, I was looking to break in to the top ten this year.
Preparation for the race had gone well and surprisingly the weather had been dry for the whole week preceding the event, which should mean a reasonably dry course. The forecast for the day was not good with rain expected and a strong head wind had developed overnight – joy!
The start of this race is different than any other MTB race I have taken part in. It consists of 15 reasonably flat miles along the quiet roads in the north of the island, all ridden at breakneck speed. As with previous years, the pace was very high with 1600 riders fighting for position on narrow roads. Mountain bikers are not renowned for their ability to ride safely in a bunch, so I headed to the front to keep out of the way of erratic braking and swerving manoeuvres.
Soon enough, we reached the off-road section, which had changed from previous years to avoid damage to a section of moorland, taking us through areas of private land. This added two new brutal climbs in the mix as well as some fantastic new downhill singletrack.
I reached the top of the first climb in about 15th place and was feeling strong. The wind on the tops was tough but it was the same for everyone. This new route meant we would also remain high up on the hills, exposed to the headwind for longer. By the time we worked our way to the first feed station the crowd that had gathered was huge. The cheering always gives you a buzz and pushes you along for the next climb.
The previous drag into the headwind had taken its toll as I was riding on my own and I was caught by a group of four riders who were working together. I latched on to this group for a few miles and recovered. There pace started to slow after a few more climbs so I made the decision to break away on the next climb to avoid getting caught in their pace. The break worked and I managed to put a reasonable distance between us, as I approached the half way mark at St John’s.
The climb out of St John’s is long and technical and I knew I needed to keep up the pace if I was to work my way in to the top ten. So I pushed as hard as I could and managed to catch a few more riders and leave them behind. The next section undulates through areas of plantation last year I started to tire at this point. However, this year I had trained harder over longer distances, so I still remained strong jumping another few places.
I passed the last feed station and ascended into the mist of the final few climbs. After a few arguments with gorse bushes, I made it down to the final road section. This race finishes with a brutal climb on the road and the previous year I was completely spent and had been overtaken within the last 200 metres. This year I was determined to avoid that and still feeling strong I saw a rider a few hundred metres away – game on! I pushed hard on the climb, caught the rider and then passed him with a few hundred meters to spare.
I’d completed in 3hrs 38mins which was 14 minutes slower than last year. However considering the change to the course and the headwind, I was happy with that. I also broke into the top ten with a 9th place finish and was 3rd in the vets category – happy days!
A great day out and the final part of my training plan for something much bigger. Watch this space for details!!!