As many as 1,700 riders could line-up for the start of the Manx Telecom End2End Mountain Bike Challenge on Sunday morning.
The ever-popular event has this year attracted competitors from the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Israel and Australia alongside a strong Manx contingent.
Defending champion, local firefighter Elliot Baxter, will be hoping to add to the five End2End victories he has already achieved.
Nick Craig, the Englishman who has won the event four times and is one of Britain’s best ever off-road riders, will be returning after finishing second last year.
A puncture wrecked the Scott UK rider’s plans in 2012, but despite giving away a few years to Baxter he is as strong as ever.
Last September, new resident Ed Perry caused quite a shock when he finished third on corrected timing, despite starting at the head of the main field some 30 seconds behind the seeded riders.
The former GB junior mountain biker will be up for it again and will no doubt push Baxter and Craig hard from the off.
Others to look out for include Isle of Man team riders from the recent NatWest Island Games in Bermuda, Leon Mazzone and his former Ramsey Grammar School teacher Rob Sorby, together with southside joiner Paul Kneen.
Last year, Mazzone was runner-up in the under-16s’ race to St John’s. The rider who beat him then, Nick Craig’s son Tom, will again be competing in the u16s and aiming to repeat his 2012 success over a course that covers roughly 40km of the full 75km from Point of Ayre to St John’s.
Top TT rider Conor Cummins, a keen mountain biker, will be riding in the colours of Team Manx Telecom and has produced a YouTube video with some tips on how to ride the End2End.
Signing on for the event takes place at Noble’s Park pavilion community room in Douglas on Friday between 5pm and 8pm, and on Saturday from 2pm to 8pm. The Saturday session includes a pasta party – those riders who attend the Friday signing on session will be given a voucher for Saturday’s pasta party.
Riders must sign on personally at one of these sessions, there will be no signing on at the start and no-one can register on a rider’s behalf. Under-18s must bring a parent/guardian to sign the disclaimer. Those unable to attend either session due to work or other commitments may be able to sign on earlier by prior arrangement if they email firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Honeybone, End2End committee chairman, thanked event sponsors Manx Telecom for their support and said it promised to be a fantastic day.
‘We have around 1,000 local riders, with the rest from off-island.
‘The course has been improved this year with a new all-weather section through Aarasey Plantation. It’s about one mile long and work has been going on since March.
‘The committee is very grateful to all of the volunteers who have given up some of their free time to work on the project. Thanks also go to J. Qualtrough and Co, Wilson and Collins, OMS and AV Craine who all helped with the project.’
The new section is fast and quite steep towards the end, so organisers are advising riders tackling the End2End to get in some practice on it before race day if at all possible.
The Manx Telecom End2End Mountain Bike Challenge starts at 10am from Point of Ayre, with the leaders likely to reach the finish at Cregneash in under three hours.
Live video streaming of the start and finish, plus some locations along the course, can be viewed at www.eyespywebcams.com and Manx Timing Solutions will have an online leaderboard during the event for the top 100 riders.
Residents living on the course are requested to make sure that their vehicles are not parked along the route on race day.
Certain roads will be closed or one-way for a short while. For more information go to www.manxe2e.org
There will be a full report in next week’s edition of the Manx Independent.