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by Sean Lacey


Date: Saturday 15th September
Distances: 1, 2 or 3 laps (37.7, 75.4, 113.1 miles)
Entry fee: £35, £45, £55
Start: TT Grandstand, Glencrutchery Road, Douglas
Catering: Hot and cold drinks at start, water and food at both stops
Feed stops: 18 miles, start / finish
Participants: 48
Timing: electronic tag worn on wrist
Signs: yellow signs with black arrows & marshals on key corners

The Ride:

This is an event I had been looking forward to for a while; not having managed to sort out a European ride this was my second best option. It's overseas, right? It also provided the perfect opportunity to take the family away for a couple of days break.

The ride was on Saturday, which gave the time to head back to the mainland if you needed too without making the weekend a chaotic rush. We packed up early on Friday morning and had an easy drive to Liverpool to catch the ferry.

Unfortunately, when we got to Liverpool it was sunny but blowing a gale. We checked in on time but the ship, already in the dock, was bucking and swaying in the rough Mersey waves and as a result boarding was delayed initially, then slow going as they carefully timed getting vehicles on in the calmer moments. This didn't bode well for me, I don't travel well on boats and it was my daughters first time.

Needless to say, the crossing was a bit choppy to say the least, I'll spare you the details but I was somewhat lighter and green by the time we docked in Douglas, and Abigail's first experience of a ferry crossing was no better!

Waiting For The Ferry

Douglas Harbour

Back on dry land we had time to explore Douglas a little and gave me time to make sure the bike was in tip-top shape and my clothing and supplies were ready.
This is the first running of the event, the brainchild of Laura Stone and Joe Mearns, Directors of Greenrock, inspired by the early cycle races on the island which died out some time ago. Run on the current TT Mountain Circuit, riders had the option of 1, 2 or 3 laps of the 37.7 mile route.I had already done two events in the last few days, one only two days before, the mammoth Cyclothon, but not one to shy away from a challenge I had signed up for three laps.

Morning View

The start and HQ, at the TT grandstand was only a couple of miles from my B&B so a reasonably leisurely start made a nice change. Signing on, other riders drifted in as the start time of 8:30 got nearer. Numbers were down on what Laura had hoped for but it was a decent turnout nonetheless and ensured everyone got to chat to some extent. Hot drinks and snacks were available for a last minute top up before riders were set off at 30 second intervals onto the course and it wasn't long before I was out.

signing on
Signing On

Preparing To Go

I had driven the TT circuit previously on my last visit to the island in the TVR, but it was a few years ago and at speed you don't really take too much in. The initial few miles take you out of Douglas and into the Manx countryside, heading through rolling farmland before trees take over as you climb the first of two hills on the course up to Sarah's Cottage. This section is really pretty with streams and small waterfalls dropping down through the forest and lush greenery.

Back out into the rolling farmland and towards the small town of Kirk Michael. Out of the village we headed over Ballaugh Bridge, famous for the images of motorbikes literally flying over the hump and onto the midway feed stop located outside the Wildlife Park at Sulby. Timing for the event was by way of a token worn on your wrist, which was held against a timing box at both the start and here at the feed (if you wished to stop). Plenty of water was available for top ups, along with bananas, cake, chocolate; the usual fare for a smaller sportive.

On the road again and continuing north to the coastal town of Ramsey. This signalled the start of the serious climbing section of each lap with a trip over Snaefell. Initially steep for the first two miles, with spectacular views over Ramsey and the surrounding coastline, it eases off as the road runs along the spine towards the summit and location of the famous Bungalow and Electric Railway stop, 5.5 miles into the climb. Although this spinal section isn't steep, it is exposed and with the sea only a mile away it gets a bit blustery, making it hard work. The first lap over it was manageable, and the sight of Hailwood's Height marks the end of the climb and the start of the descent. Unfortunately today, the wind was in our faces which was a struggle going up and pushed against you on the way down, cutting tops speed records on the fast open drop back down past Creg-ny-Baa and on into Douglas and the start / finish.

View From The Start Of The First Climb

Exposed And Windswept

Each time through we were required to dib our tokens to mark the lap time and had an opportunity to top up bottles and stomachs before heading out for the next lap. Other than slightly less fresh legs, lap two went as before only this time the wind had really strengthened on the mountain, making the ascent particularly difficult. A few of the 1 and 2 lappers were pushing their bikes up into the wind and I did see one poor soul ring in for the broom wagon; it was severe at the highest point. Slowly but surely I pushed through it and took a ten minute break back at HQ before heading out one last time. A couple of riders due to ride three laps dropped out here after the experience on the mountain top, unnerved by the sidewinds that threatened to put you in the ditch, expecially on Windy Corner which really lived up to it's name!

Snaefell Summit

The Bungalow

Off once more, my legs were really feeling the week's miles and it was at a reduced pace that I got round. Fortunately (and probably to the lament of the ones who dropped out early) the win had dropped to a lighter level than even the first lap, which actually made the climb on tired legs a pleasure, especially knowing the mega descent was coming up.

Steve Elliot, Still Smiling Three Laps In

In to the pits for the final time and under the gantry, each rider was greeted by Laura personally along with a few friends and family. Hot drinks and more food waited as everyone was presented with a certificate and a detailed breakdown of their lap and split times if they stopped at the feed station.

A final nice touch was a get together at a Douglas pub in the evening, with a chance for everyone to talk about their day and the challenges of the ride over a beer or two. More of these please!

post ride
Post Ride Get Together

The event itself was slickly run, and the Isle of Man is a fantastic location to ride. If you are a fan on the TT then riding the course at a slower pace and seeing the detail of the landscape rather than at a blur is fantastic, and even if not the history and kudos of the race along with the beautiful scenery make riding the circuit an experience. The roads (on the TT circuit at least) are in immaculate condition and regularly resurfaced, and with a big local cycling scene the local motorists are generally far more considerate than our mainland drivers.

Perfect Tarmac

Courteous Drivers

Greenrock are planning to run the event next year and as mentioned it would make a great event to take the family to, and even spend a few extra days on the island riding the network of beautiful country lanes off the circuit. Well done Laura, Joe and team!

Strava ride data: 

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