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08-09-2021 | Ralph Ornelis

Gran Fondo Isle of Man: a taste for more

With great enthusiasm I left for Brussels on Friday morning for my trip to the Isle of Man. I am here for the Gran Fondo Isle of Man. A relatively unknown, but very attractive gran fondo with 139 km and 1950m+. Moreover, it's part of the UCI Gran Fondo World Series. I had heard a lot about the erratic weather and wind on the island, but that's also where it stopped. It was my first experience with the Isle of Man, and certainly not my last.

Isle of Man

The island lies between Ireland and England, about 65 km from the English coast. It is 5x as small as Luxembourg. Boats leave from Dublin and Liverpool, but the easiest way is to fly (as I did). You might know the island from the TV program TopGear, which came here frequently to film because of the absence of a speed limit.

On arrival, I was very warmly greeted by my driver who took me to Ramsey, the largest town in the north. The first thing I noticed was the wind. It was immediately clear to me: it was going to determine how well I would progress in this gran fondo. Moreover, there is not one centimeter flat on the island: every road is sloping. At the start of the event this was very noticeable. I think I was one of the only Europeans from the mainland, apart from a few Spaniards.

A race from the start

The pace was good right at the start. I don't know how to describe it, but the first 30 km we were riding at high speeds. The constantly undulating course was perfect for this. As soon as you had a short descent somewhere, you could launch yourself perfectly for the next climb. The first difficult point was the open terrain of the airport that we had to cross. The wind was at our heads and we were with a group of 7 so we alternated.

On the next climb of 9 km I felt a few times that it was not ideal. At the checkpoint at the top of the mountain, where the supply was also located, I met a group of Swindon Wheelers with whom I continued riding. Don't forget to enjoy the beautiful scenery if you ever do this gran fondo, it's definitely worth it. But watch out for the steep descents, because they can be treacherous, I speak from experience because I also had the chance to encounter a wall. Fortunately without much damage. From that moment on I finished my ride at a normal pace and enjoyed the beautiful nature a bit more.

The race

About the course itself, I can only say chapeau to the winner: Tyler Hannay. On a course like that, to outrun the opposition and take them 3 minutes was phenomenal, especially if you know that he made the difference on the final climb, which was only 2 km long, but with an average gradient of 17%, with a peak of 27% over a stretch of 200m. 75% of the field had to go up at walking pace on this stretch, but Tyler accelerated and gained minutes on the rest. He is a young talent who had the choice to ride for a Belgian youth team, but since his strength is climbing and the mountains. he made a different choice.

I know from a reliable source that he has chosen the youth team of FDJ, one of the better French teams. Their training area is on the French-Swiss border, which is ideal for getting even better at climbing. His biggest weakness, he says, is descending, but that will soon be sorted out.

We will be hearing a lot from this young man in the future. Finally, I would also like to thank the organization for everything. It could not have been better! I will definitely come back to this little island. Even to come and train for a week. See you next time Ramsey!

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