Cycle Road Racing has a rich history in the Isle of Man commencing in 1936 with courses usually featuring the Motorcycle Tourist Trophy (TT) Snaefell Mountain Circuit. The Manx International Cycling Week came to an end in 2003 though the TT Circuit was used for a National Road Series race won by Ian Bibby (NFTO) in 2016 (part of the Spring Cup as it was known then), and was the venue for the 2017 British National Championships when it was won by Steve Cummings (Dimension Data).
In 2019 the Manx International was reinvigorated as a stage race and is now planned to be held on a biennial basis.
The four stage, three day race was held on the weekend of 2nd-4th August opening with a 50 lap 1.1km criterium circuit on the Friday evening, with a 7km hill-climb on the Saturday morning followed by a 15-lap kermesse using the 4.25 mile (6.8km) Billown Circuit as used for the ‘Southern 100’ motorcycle races, in the afternoon. Sunday featured a road race over three laps of the classic 37.73 mile (60.7km) TT circuit.
To match the stage challenges for sprinters, time-trialists and climbers, the Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team selected for the event were Matthew Bostock, Jacob Hennessy, Ryan Christensen, Callum Macleod, Dan Pearson, Max Stedman and Ollie Wood.
Favourites for the overall classification included Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) who came fourth in the recent Tokyo 2020 Test Event, local rider Mark Christian (Wiggins Le Col), and the previous week’s winner at the South Coast Classic, Jacob Scott (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling).
It was also the final qualification race for the Tour of Britain although places had been finalised the previous week, and the penultimate round of the National Road Series.
Stage 1: 50-lap 55km Criterium
The criterium was based on a circuit through a new business park in Braddan on the outskirts of Douglas with super-smooth roads and fast sweeping bends, and passing by the rather splendid Cycle 360 sponsor’s bike shop and café building.
On a warm and sunny summer’s evening the racing was fast and furious as expected with many attacks, but with small breaks only gaining a few seconds advantage before being brought back by the peloton.
Callum Macleod joined a group of five riders which probably made the most meaningful break of the evening. It came to an unfortunate end with a crash bringing down four of the riders with Dylan Kerfoot-Robson (Vitus Pro Cycling) suffering a broken collar-bone and Fergus Robison (Zappi Racing Team) also out of the race injured. Conscious of the cornering risks, Macleod was keeping his distance and managed to cut inside the fallers.
Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes wound up the pace over the closing laps with six of the team’s riders heading the peloton. However Vitus Pro Cycling were also very active bringing Ed Clancy into the mix where he exploded into action over the last couple of hundred metres leaving the rest of the sprinters in his wake.
Bostock snatched second place from Jacobs (SwiftCarbon) on the line with Wood in fourth place and Stedman in fifth. It was a promising start for the team with the win just eluding them.
Bostock picked up the white Under 23 leaders jersey and the red Manx leaders jersey in recognition of his efforts.
Stage 2: 7km Hill-Climb
The parcours for the second stage was in stark contrast to the first, with a climb up the Sloc northwards from Colby in the south-west of the isle with many changes of pitch including a steep downhill section at the mid-point, and rearing steeply upwards towards a lung-busting crescendo.
The field started in reverse order on GC and having lost 13 seconds in the splits on the last lap of the previous evening’s criterium, it was Ed Laverack (SwiftCarbon) starting from 52nd place who took a substantial lead in a time of 13min 26sec with half of the riders having completed the climb.
Paul Wright, a 21 year-old New Zealander (Zappi) starting from 40th place being seven seconds down, ran him close with a time of 13min 29sec, and headed the leader-board on GC at that point.
Local rider Christian (Wiggins) starting from 17th place put in a storming effort of 13min 22sec to take the stage and GC lead. Shortly afterwards Holmes (Madison Genesis) just managed to edge the lead by a single second. Pearson recorded 13min 39sec to give him 5th place on the stage and GC with Stedman four seconds adrift to give him 7th on the stage and GC.
Stage 3: 103km Kermesse
The Billown Circuit near Castletown in the south-east of the isle is flat with a race-track surface making it exceptionally fast. With only light winds, the conditions were ripe for a bunch gallop.
Colman got away early in a five-man break that survived until the penultimate lap, but with the peloton being policed by the whole Madison Genesis team on behalf of Holmes, it’s advantage was restricted to one minute. Hennessy made a late bid to bridge across to the breakaway, but with the peloton winding up the pace over the last few laps, he was soon brought back into the fold.
Wood was leading out Bostock on the left-hand side of the road as the mass sprint gathered momentum. However, on the right-hand side of the road Vitus Pro Cycling were working hard again for their sprinter Ed Clancy and he took another convincing win, this time by nearly a bike length from Tom Mazzone (Spriti Tifosi).
With Clancy dragging a few others along in his slipstream on the opposite side of the road, Bostock finished in 8th place with Wood in 22nd.
Stage 4: 181km Road Race
By Sunday the weather had cooled considerably in Douglas with a southerly wind and a threat of rain throughout the afternoon. The race started brightly enough with Christensen making it into the seven-man break which went away at the first KOM climb on Creg Willys Hill, with Christensen going over first to take the maximum KOM points at the top.
By the time the field had reached the second KOM point at Guthrie’s Memorial on the mountain pass by Snaefell, the clouds had descended dramatically with a chilling wind and rain adding to the riders’ discomfort. With maximum visibility being 50 metres at best, there was a serious risk of the race being stopped.
Christensen continued to work intently in the break picking up two more KOM first places and one second place which was enough for him to be awarded the Brother blue polka dot KOM Jersey at the end of the four-stage event.
This was well deserved reward reflecting the progress Christensen has made since breaking a bone in his lower leg in a race in Belgium two months previously.
Meanwhile with the break stretching out the gap close to four minutes, it was the complete Madison Genesis team again policing the front of the peloton with Holmes gradually using up his team’s resources as the race progressed and their riders dropping away one by one.
On the way down the mountain on the second lap the break was caught with Bostock immediately counter-attacking and being joined by Rob Scott (Wiggins). They worked together for the best part of a lap before the race exploded in anger on the last climb up Snaefell. It was Ed Laverack (SwiftCarbon) who was the initial aggressor and after Pearson briefly went with them, it was only Holmes and Wright (Zappi) who could maintain the leader’s pace.
With the clouds dropping to a lower and lower altitude, Holmes bravely broke away on the descent taking a decisive lead with a few kilometres remaining and took the victory at the end of the home straight on the TT Circuit back in Douglas. Laverack took second place from Wright, both 23 seconds back.
A group of eight riders finished a further 32 seconds later with Stedman taking 7th place and Pearson in 10th. Colman and Christensen finished in a group 3min 30 sec down in 23rd and 25th places respectively. Macleod was 35th, Wood 38th and Bostock 41st with only 42 managing to survive the increasingly grim conditions within the time limit.
The GC podium was Holmes, Laverack and Wright, with Pearson finishing in 5th and Stedman 6th. Christensen was 24th, Macleod 30th, Wood 31st, Bostock 35th and Colman 36th demonstrating the Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes riders’ commitment to the team’s cause.
The weekend showcased some great racing over a variety of scenic courses in what was a splendidly organised event.
The result reinforced Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes lead at the head of the final Tour of Britain qualification standings. With just the Ryedale round to come, the team has an unassailable lead in the National Road Series team standings, with Stedman equal 4th, Pearson equal 6th and Rory Townsend 9th in the individual standings.
Detailed results of the Manx International Stage Race 2019 can be found here.
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman.
1, 3, 8 – Paul Stedman
2, 9 – VeloUK