The Manx 100 was this year’s main event for me. I’d chosen not to do any 24 hour solo races but still needed a target event that would provide a decent challenge. With over 100 miles and 16,000 feet of climbing, the Manx 100 ticked all the right boxes. The run up had been as good as I could have hoped for. Fitness wise I felt like I had a 100 mile race in the legs, for once the bike wasn’t in the local bike shop having last minute repairs, the B&B was booked, the ferry was booked and we were all set to go. Happy days.
Technically, this was my first race overseas in that we had to get a ferry over to the Isle of Man. The journey over was entertaining in that with 100 or so competitors traveling over there were plenty of other riders on board including fellow team member Phil Simcock. With an early start of 6:30 am on the Sunday, a relatively early night was in order. Waking up on the Sunday and leaving the B&B the weather looked perfect.
Following the pre-race briefing we were off. Not a half mile in and I heard some cursing in front of me as, whilst climbing a short stretch of the tarmac run in, Phil snapped his chain. That didn’t bode well for him. As we turned off the tarmac to start the race proper, we were faced with the first of many climbs. The course was to turn out to be like nothing like I’d done before. The terrain and trails covered was so varied from fast grassy descents, super technical rocky sections that seemed to extend on forever, trail centre style sections, wooded sections through the plantations and of course plenty of massive climbs. Aside from providing excellent riding, the scenery is stunning. You’re up in the hills yet at points you also have a back drop of the Irish Sea. In short, this course has it all.
It was on one of the technical rocky descents that I could hear a rider catching me. It turned out to be Phil. He’d managed to fix his chain and, hanging on his wheel, I started to pick my speed up again and press on. Unfortunately, half an hour or so later as we turned a sharp left to climb, his chain snapped again. Game over for him I thought. Once his chain had snapped twice surely it wasn’t going to last the distance? Anyway he waved me on so I pressed on again. Perhaps 30 minutes or so later Phil appeared again. He was flying and rode on to get up to second place only to crash and have to pull out of the 100 mile race and complete the 100 km route instead. Not a great day out for him but he seemed pretty philosophical about it after the race.
Pre-race I’d hoped to come in the top 10 but had in mind that a top 20 finish might be a more realistic target. There were quite a number of fast guys from the mainland turning up and no doubt a number of local riders who would have the advantage of local knowledge. Off the start line, I could see perhaps a dozen guys or so in front of me and through the course of the race I hadn’t seen riders passing me as such. There was the usual toing and froing as you passed people, then they passed you and so on and so forth. I was starting to think that a top ten finish was looking on the cards which was a far more attractive prospect than top 20 and provided added motivation to press the pedals harder.
Largely the ride was going well for me albeit I was a little scrappy descending in sections as might be expected when you start to tire. The climbs were starting to get tougher on the legs but, bar nutrition issues requiring a few darts into the bushes, things were going well. Aside from anything the bike was holding together and, over this course, one of my major concerns was breaking something and losing time. That or making a wrong turn and losing time that way. From the start, my Garmin had been stuck on an endless cycle of a route calculation error. This required me to tap the screen to reset it at the end of each cycle to see where I was. I must have tapped that screen 1,000 times or more by the end of the race!
Needless to say, as the race went on fatigue started to set in. 100 miles feels like quite a distance when you’re doing it at race pace. I could see that I still had about 2 1/2 hours to go when things started to become a little less enjoyable. This is when you have to start telling yourself that everyone else is also starting to hurt and it’s just a question of keeping on keeping on. Fortunately, the last third of the course was a little less demanding physically. As is the norm, you seem to gain some energy from somewhere in the last hour as you feel the end is in sight. With a few glances over the shoulder to ensure no one was going to catch me in the last few miles, I got to the final checkpoint and finish line to find I’d placed 8th overall. Result! I was very happy with that.
The Manx 100 is without a doubt an excellent event and is a must for anyone who wants a full on, technical and physical challenge. It’s well organised and the whole event has a great atmosphere and feel to it. Being held on an island seemed to add a sense of adventure to the weekend. I’m sure I’ll be back next year for the Marathon Champs due to be held there for the first time.