Changes to E2E route could prove tough
SIGNIFICANT changes to the route, coupled with underlying amounts of water from a summer of discontent could make this weekend’s Sleepwell Hotels-sponsored End to End mountain bike challenge tougher than ever.
Thankfully, this week’s relatively settled weather will have helped some of the areas dry out slightly, but the damage was done early with the island’s wettest June to August period in living memory.
The official entry of 1,684 is bound to include a lot of non-starters, but the fact that people can now sell their entries if they so wish means that the big no-show of two or three years ago has gone and the likelihood is that between 1,550 and 1,600 will probably make the start at 10am from the Point of Ayre.
The first 14 miles of the 42-mile distance is on tarmac, and can often turn into a mass-bunch road race as riders jockey for position before the route goes off-road.
And that will be the best part of two miles earlier than normal with a sharp turn off the TT Course on the Ramsey side of Ballaugh Bridge, through the private farmland at Ballamoar and up, via the farm tracks, to the marshy moorland leading onto the steepest part of the Druidale climb.
Riders will cross the road there and head down into Ballaugh Plantation, to be followed by a tough pull out of the trees back up in the direction of Druidale Road again, turning south-west towards Black Mountain and Slieau Dhoo. The route then rejoins the original route before the rocky descent to Brandywell Road.
The run over Glion Gill should be fine, but there is likely to be another tweak to the route to avoid the wettest part of Beary Mountain before the lumpy Dowse track and the relatively smooth descent to Ballacraine.
It was rumoured that Slieau Whallian track was to be dropped this year, but that does not appear to be the case. Thankfully the Battle of the Somme in Arrasey Plantation should be avoided this year as the bulk of the route through there will be on fire roads.
The climb up Glen Rushen Pipeline track will be a slog, as will the trek along the sodden fields to the plantation. The climb from Eary Cushlin to Point 1119 is always tough as fatugue and cramp take their toll, while the final off-road stretches at the side of the Sloc and Ballarock will be a welcome sight for many, especially as the latter will hopefully be a tad smoother than normal after Dept of Infrastructure work there over the winter.
Hopefully, the fields on the final descent won’t be as wet as the first year they were used in 2007, while the final ascent to Cregneash will be a tough finale for every man, woman and bike.
It’s likely that the early changes to the route will be compensated by the slightly easier runs over Beary and Arrasey, but the double whammy at Ballamoar and Ballaugh - while avoiding the dreaded Ballacobb - is certain to prove tough for the middle/low-markers, perhaps causing many to miss the cut-off at St John’s that accounted for almost 10 per cent of the entry last year.
As for picking out a winner? Well it would be hard to discount Englishman Nick Craig for a fifth consecutive victory, but Elliot Baxter is again leading the local challenge hoping to better his disappointing fourth place last year behind Craig, Neal Crampton and Mat Clinton (both of which are back for more).
Lloyd Taggart finished an amazing fifth last year but is unsure if he will ride as he is contesting the final round of the British Fell Running Championship in Wales the day before. Other Manxies to look out for include Rob Sorby, Paul Kneen, roadie Chris Whorrall, Kale Hawkins and the irrepressible Julian Corlett.
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Weather for Isle of Man
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: East
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west