Rob Friel Wins Isle of Man 100!

Our high-mileage man in the UK showed up at the top of the box this past weekend at the Isle of Man 100! Read on for Rob Friel’s story on how it all came together.

I won the Manx 100 on sunday. It was my third target MTB Endurance race of three for now, only unlike the Glentress 7 and Ten Under the Ben, this one was one big lap. There were three bag drops and 9 checkpoints in total, but this was going to be wild.

The race was mostly on epic mountain trails. The weather forecast was for heavy rain, gale force winds and 12 degress Celcius in the Town of Douglas. It wasn’t going to get any better or warmer on top of a big rock in the middle of the Irish sea.

It started well and I settled in to a sensible pace with Rich Rothwell, a previous winner. We chatted, spotted sights we recognised from the TT and worked together. Four hours of amazing trails flew by.

Then the weather arrived and things got serious. Approaching a high point of the race and now severely soaked and frozen, Rich punctured. It was a big day, and some company was worth waiting for. I tried to help. My hands were wooden and I could only half do up my only two CO2 canisters, wasting both. I was shivering, and after five minutes of being useless I had to leave. We were only just through a checkpoint and despite his size Rich is double hard.

Pressing on to the moor I was now in horizontal rain, shivering violently. Visiblity had dropped to less than 10m. Simple trails became a nightmare. I had no idea which way was north. Every course marker was a celebration. A puncture or snapped chain here would have been game over. My hands didn’t work so I couldn’t eat. I was too cold to drink. Just had to keep moving. In July!

Rob Friel | Santa Cruz

Manx 100

Finally…

after rattling down a huge rocky descent as a passenger I got to the 60 mile feed and some spare gloves. I was out of the clouds and the rain eased. Some hard climbs brought my hands back and I started to eat a lot. Physical and mental strength began to return. 20 miles passed in a blur to the next bag drop where I had a new coat waiting. Now it was a race again.

The nature of the course changed here more to miles of tight, twisty, rooty singletrack. Brilliant at any other time than 9 hours into an 11 hour suffer. But I warmed up even more and my thoughts became a bit clearer. It became half-fun apart from a stupid crash.

The final hurdle…

It was so close to the finish when I lost course markers. My map was in a plastic wallet — full of water. Luckily I pieced together what was needed and wasn’t too far off route.

96 miles and 15,000 feet of climbing got me through the last check and riding the TT course in reverse into the town. The TT riders talk of going off the end of the earth when they hit the steep descent in Douglas at 170mph. I was riding up it at about 4mph to win the most epic single-lap race of my life. I got to share John McGuinness’ top step and spray some fizz for a photo too. Really sorry for Rich. Punctures are part of the game but that was bad timing!

An amazing race, fantastic organisation and attention to detail. Well done to all finishers. Come and have a go! It surely rivals Leadville and Iron Bike.