Record entry as 1,700 mountain bikers take up End to End Challenge

A record entry of 1,700 mountain bikers will be tackling the Isle of Man Sleepwell Hotels End to End Challenge on September 18th.
Ahead of the riders are 75 kms of hills, moorland, country lanes and single track forest paths as they cross the length of the Island from the Point of Ayre in the North, to Cregneash in the South.  The elite competitors expect to complete the course in around three hours while those out to just finish and try and beat their best time could be on the road for anything up to three hours after that.
Swapping one mode of transport for another will be Northern Irishman Kris Meeke.  Kris is taking a break from competing in the World Rally Championship and is leaving his Mini Cooper behind, although the conditions he faces in the End to End Challenge are not too far removed from the sport of rallying.  Another well known name on the entry list is former Olympian Nick Craig.
It had been hoped that motorcycle racing star and television personality, Guy Martin, would be returning for his third crack at the event trying to improve on last year’s 79th position overall.  Unfortunately, his racing commitments are likely to keep him away this year.
Peter Taylor, Communications Officer for the organisers, the Manx Mountain Bike Club, said: ‘We were looking forward to welcoming Guy back as he made such an impression last year, but it wasn’t to be.  Obviously, his motorcycle commitments have to take priority but I am sure Guy will be back in the future to try and beat last year’s time of 3 hours 53 minutes 56 seconds.’
The event celebrates its 15th anniversary this year and the 1,700-strong field, not to mention a reserve list of over 100, is a far cry from the inaugural race when 37 riders faced the starter.  Of the original entries in 1996, over 25% will be there again in 2011.  Last year saw 1,359 starters, of whom 1,002 completed the distance.
Around 800 enthusiasts are travelling from the UK and overseas to compete.  Countries represented include Australia, Israel, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.
Steve Honeybone, Chairman of the Manx Mountain Bike Club, said the End to End Challenge had become a huge success with the number of entries increasing every year.  He added: ‘Our goal is to keep the event special and we are focused on ensuring a quality experience for each competitor.
‘The Challenge uses part of the Island’s extensive natural trail network and we need to carefully manage the number of entrants to ensure the event stays safe and enjoyable.  With this in mind the future is likely to see an expansion into a weekend of mountain bike activities.’
Support for the End to End Challenge has come from The Department of Economic Development. Minister Allan Bell MHK commented that it was now an established part of the Island’s sporting calendar.  ‘The uniqueness of the event is a major factor in its popularity.  There cannot be too many places where you race, by mountain bike, across the entire length of a country, passing through some breathtaking scenery in the process.
‘I am sure another selling point is the fact that the event caters for every ability, and age group, ranging from the very top riders down to those whose main ambition is to finish.  I am delighted to hear that the Manx Mountain Bike Club is thinking along the lines of developing the End to End Challenge into a full weekend of activities.  It will certainly have our support.’
As well as main sponsor Sleepwell Hotels, other sponsorship has come from Isle of Man Tourism, Home Strategic which is helping with communications and the official race website, Quinn Legal, local radio station 3FM, Green Mann Spring Water, Zip Vit, and the Good Mountain Bike Guide.