Round 9 of the HSBC UK | National Road Series sees the domestic peloton make a welcome return to the Isle of Man with a reboot of the historic Manx International. This is our stage-by-stage preview of the race, with insights from local rider Tom Mazzone (Spirit Tifosi).
What is it?
Running from 2-4 August, the Manx International is a new three-day, four-stage race. In essence, it is a revival of a race that until 2003 was firm fixture of the British road racing calendar until 2003. First run in 1936, it was a race that in its heyday attracted some of the most iconic names in the sport, including Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Tom Simpson and Eddy Merckx.
The race was revived in 2016, forming part of British Cycling’s Spring Cup Series. Then the following year, the race hosted the British national road race championships. The organisers say that this new edition will run every two years to begin with.
It has a novel format, designed to cram in enough racing to encourage riders from the mainland to make the trip over to the Isle of Man. It promises to make it an intriguing, exciting weekend of racing, with a stage for every type of rider.
This is a Tour of Britain qualification race, as well as being part of the National Road Series. But with team qualification all wrapped up, teams and riders will be free of that particular strategic quandary.
The start list is small – there were only 84 riders on the final startlist – perhaps reflecting the costs for riders and teams on the mainland of getting to, and staying in, the Isle of Man. Ribble Pro Cycling only have one rider, for example, new signing Damian Clayton. Nonetheless, there is certainly quality in the line-up even if quantity is missing.
With James Shaw (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) representing Great Britain at RideLondon, Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) has an opportunity to retake his National Road Series lead. Jacob Scott (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling), Mark Christian (Team Wiggins Le Col) and Max Stedman (Canyon
There is plenty of local interest too, with Matt Bostock (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes), Mark Christian, Leon Mazzone (Spirit Tifosi), Tom Mazzone (Spirit Tifosi) and Nathan Draper (Holdsworth-Zappi) among the local riders who will take to the start.
Tom Mazzone’s view: “It’s set to be an exciting 3 days of racing here on the Isle of Man, with 4 stages that all differ from each other. There is a range of opportunities for all types of rider, which I think is great for a race at this level. Going forward, it will make the Manx International more attractive to teams and riders across the board.”
Jerseys. As well as an overall classification competition, there will be a points competitions, a KOM competition, a team competition, a white jersey for the best U23 rider, as well as a jersey for the best U23 Manx rider.
Time bonuses. Time bonuses will be awarded to the first 3 finishers on each stage (except stage 2) as follows: 1st – 10 seconds, 2nd – 6 seconds, and 3rd – 3 seconds.
Stage 1. Manx International Kermesse
The race kicks off with a Friday night crit race. The riders will tackle 50 laps of a fast 1.1 km circuit around the Isle of Man Business Park. The domestic peloton will be well-prepared for this kind of racing, having just completed the National Circuit Series.
On such a short circuit, it’s inevitable some riders will get lapped, especially if there are mechanicals and the like. So that they don’t interfere with the race finale, lapped riders will be pulled from the race with the three laps and will be allocated a time based on the average lap time for the stage and number of laps they have lost. This is a novelty for a stage race, and it will interesting to see how it works in practice.
Tom Mazzone’s view: “The kermesse circuit around the business park is a pretty simple one really. Fast and flowing, with only 4 corners that shouldn’t require too much slowing down for. So I would say that will make for an exciting and aggressive race on the night, very similar to what you would expect at a National Circuit Series round, but with the added element of the sprint laps for the points jersey. I can imagine there will be a few races within the race which should make it an interesting one to watch and will come down to a reduced bunch sprint or small breakaway contesting the win. The course is centred around the ‘Cycle 360’ Bike Shop and Café, who are title sponsors of the race, and will also be providing entertainment, food and drink for spectators which will add to atmosphere on the night.”
Timings. The race starts at 19.30 on 2nd August.
Contenders. Local rider Matt Bostock (Canyon
Stage 2. Brother Hill Climb
A 7.04km hill climb time trial up the Sloc, maxing out at 14%. This could suit the out-and-out climbers as well as the punchier type of riders. Looking at Strava, Ben Swift, Ian Stannard and Pete Kennaugh occupy the best three times, suggesting it’s not all about how light you are if you have enough power.
Tom Mazzone’s view: “The hill climb TT up ‘The Sloc’ will be a challenging test for riders who are targeting the GC. It’s a nice climb, with a real variation of gradient. The first section is quite steep which leads to a short downhill and draggy middle section, before the final part of the climb where it kicks up again before levelling off just before the top. There is a stunning backdrop down to the south of the Island to enjoy once you’ve crossed the line. I think it will be interesting to see how this stage finishes up, it could suit a number of riders and the weather may play a factor but a well-paced effort will be key.”
Timings. The hill climb starts at 10.00 on 3rd August, with riders going off at 1 minute intervals.
Stage 3. Billown Road Race
A 15-lap race around the 6.7k Billown Circuit, totalling 102.6km. A fast and furious circuit that should be one for the sprinters.
Tom Mazzone’s view: “The route runs clockwise around the Billown Circuit, in the opposite direction that fans of the ‘Southern 100’ motorcycle races will be used to. This will be a really fast stage, with wide, fast roads around the whole circuit, I can’t see this ending up in anything but a bunch sprint. It would take a big effort to force a group away but if it’s windy, there are some exposed sections that could offer an opportunity.”
Timings. 16.00-18.15 approx, 3rd August
Contenders. It’s hard to see past Matt Bostock again if this comes down to a sprint. Other riders to watch in a sprint finish include his team mate Ollie Wood, Joe Sutton (Richardsons-Trek) and Jacob Scott. The latter two will be looking to pick up valuable bonus seconds to boost their chances of an overall win.
Stage 4. Manx International Road Race
3 laps of the famous mountain TT course (not 15 as the official graphic, above, says. Totalling 181.5km, and plenty of climbing, this stage is without doubt the queen stage and will be where overall honours are won and lost. The main climb has two main sections, a steeper first section, and the second, shallower section which exposed and often windy.
Tom Mazzone’s view: “On the infamous TT course the final stage will almost certainly be the decider of the overall race result. Most riders know by now how tough the climb up the Mountain Road is. If not, they’re in for a treat. It’s around a 20 minute effort from Ramsey to the Mountain Mile but it’s also very exposed over the top and it’s almost guaranteed there will strong winds up there. This makes it difficult for a solo move so I think there will be a group of around 10 riders contesting for the win on the run back down to the finish line at the Grandstand.”
Timings. 13.00-17.00 approx, 4th August
Contenders. Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes’ Dan Pearson, Max Stedman and Ryan Christensen could all do well on this stage and numerical advantage could work in their favour. Others to watch are Steve Lampier, Jacob Scott, Matt Holmes, Ian Bibby and Ali Slater (Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK). Outsiders worth watching include Damian Clayton (Ribble Pro Cycling), Kieran Savage (Cycling Sheffield) and James Jenkins (Richardsons-Trek).
The overall race
So who will win overall? As ever, its a difficult call. Canyon
Tom Mazzone’s view: “I’m definitely looking forward to racing on home roads again this weekend, the main targets for me will be on Stages 1 & 3 but I will also play a role in helping my brother and team-mate, Leon to a good overall result come Sunday evening. My pick for the overall win? I would like to see Mark Christian take it, he’s going well at the moment and he’s shown his class and consistency throughout this season already, so with the added home advantage he’ll be up there.”
Follow @NatRoadSeries on Twitter for live race updates.
Highlights will be shown on Eurosport (schedule tbc).
Featured photo: Simon Wilkinson/SWPix.com