Riding his Ridgeback winter bike, complete with mudguards and a spare tube, Elliot Baxter completed an escape act worthy of Houdini in Sunday’s Hamper Race.
The tall former Great Britain mountain biker broke away from a good field of riders first time up Summer Hill, Jurby and held on to take the win, assisted in the latter stages by fellow former Island Games mountain biker Rob Sorby.
Each giving a good few years away to the majority of the field, they crossed the finish line outside Jurby Parish Hall five seconds ahead of the rapidly chasing pack, led home by GB senior academy rider Matty Bostock.
Leading female Tara Ferguson, a member of BC’s Olympic development apprentice scheme before stepping up to junior status, edged home ahead of five other women contesting the race, after a brave lone effort in the early stages by Amelia Sharpe.
Having been called off 48 hours before the scheduled start because of a lack of volunteer officials, the popular festive race was given a reprieve on Christmas Eve when a late surge of help came forward.
And what a good job it did as it went ahead in near-springlike conditions with wall-to-wall sunshine, moderate temperatures on ice-free roads without any appreciable wind.
It was as near-perfect you could wish for on a late December day.
The entry was quite good too, with 47 riders assembling for the 11am start.
The race was barely three miles old when Elliot Baxter made his break after two early digs by Tom and Leon Mazzone came to nothing.
On the slight rise of Summer Hill he eased away almost unnoticed at the front and, completing the six-mile lap in a time of 11min 54sec. He had a 24-second advantage over the main group, headed by Conor Davies.
The lead was 20 seconds at half-distance with Leon Mazzone and MotoGP star Cal Crutchlow giving chase.
Crutchlow, determined as ever, had also tried to animate the race with teenagers Will Draper and Matty Bostock in separate shifts, but all it resulted in doing was briefly stretching a splinter group of 10 off the front.
They were then brought back into the bunch and somehow, Ramsey Grammar School teacher Rob Sorby managed to go it alone and bridge the gap to Baxter with a lap-and-a-half to go.
Their joint lead was nevertheless looking quite fragile at 10 seconds. Surely they would be caught on what was a short, fast course?
But the pair showed their redoubtable strength and briefly managed to extend their advantage to 15 seconds at Jurby West Corner with less than five miles remaining.
Knowing he would be strong in the sprint, Crutchlow was trying his all to fire-up the youngsters in the pack and was sandwiched between Nick Corlett and Matty Bostock, with Liam Mazzone, Dan Curtis and Joe Ricciardi close on their wheels.
Slowly but surely they started to reel the two men in black back, but as the lead-cars emerged less than quarter of a mile from the finish it was clear that Baxter and Sorby were not going to be caught.
Approaching the line, Sorby sportingly looked across at his breakaway partner and handed him the victory without contesting the sprint.
‘I did not contest the sprint because Elliot did the vast majority of the work, as I tired on the last lap,’ said Sorby. ‘He did an amazing ride and I just hung in there.
‘It would have been a bit rude to jump in on the line after he had done almost the whole race out front on his winter bike with mud guards!’
The ride was reminiscent of Elliot’s Island Games road race win in a golden week for him at the 2003 Island Games in Guernsey, when he rode off the front on a hilly course to win the road race having already dominated off-road.
Matty Bostock sprinted the last 200 yards hard to grab third by a clear margin of five seconds from Michael Moss, Nathan Hinks and leading over-40 Mark Harrison.
Supported riders Leon Mazzone and Conor Davies were next, followed by Jimmy Bostock, Tom Mazzone, Ricciardi and Crutchlow.
Team RL360’s Amelia Sharpe was the only one of six females in the race to hang on with the lead bunch for the first lap, but she eventually slipped off the back and found herself alone for some time in no-woman’s land.
She eventually linked up with the rest of the women and a couple of men in support, but the gallop to the line went to 16-year-old Tara Ferguson from triathlete Karen Shimmin, with Sharpe third, followed in line by Sarah Jewell, Kate Priest and Laura Morgan.