On the Tour de Manc: Greater Manchester’s pre-eminent cyclosportive

What is it?

The Tour de Manc is a challenging cyclosportive born and bred in Greater Manchester, taking in some of the region’s most stunning (and fearsome) terrain with a host of local touches and a wonderfully friendly, home-grown vibe. Launched in 2016 by organisers Danny Franks and Tony Rubins (boosted latterly by the talents of Sandra McKinnon), the Tour de Manc cyclosportive is notable in many ways:

  • First and foremost, it’s run on a not-for-profit basis, i.e. any surplus is divided between the local charities Forever Manchester, Haematology and Transplant Support, and The Booth Centre.
  • Second, the 100-mile “Full Manc” route takes in all ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, thus justifying the name.
  • Third, it’s growing year by year, not only in terms of rider numbers participating in the main Tour de Manc rides, but also other events aimed at increasing participation in cycling: for example, this year the team are also organising a Mini Manc for budding riders of all ages, and the X Manc, a cyclocross event later in the year.
  • Fourth, the TdM team involve local businesses and other organisations in the event preparations as far as possible: Radcliffe’s Brightside Brewery for the official event beer (yes, you did read that correctly); the official jersey designed by Manchester Fashion Institute; local solicitors JMW’s Twisted Spokes specialist cycling injury team for this year’s finishers’ tote bag etc.
  • And lastly, it’s a ruddy good day out on bikes.

So, although I don’t do that many cyclosportives these days, this has become a firm fixture in the calendar.

The evolution

I’ve been fortunate to have ridden each Tour de Manc since its inauguration in 2016. The first one started in St. Mary’s Park in Prestwich and offered the now familiar “Full Manc” (100 miles) and “Half Manc” (100 kilometres) options. This first event was limited to just 100 riders as Danny and Tony tested the water and gauged the appetite for an event of this kind.

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Returning from the inaugural TdM, 2016.

Thankfully they were pleased with the outcome, and 2017 saw the starting point shift to The Lancashire Health & Racquets Club (now David Lloyd Clubs, handily also the event sponsor) in Heywood, where a larger number of starters could be accommodated.

The routes

Tracking south through Salford, Chorlton, Stockport, the first ~20 miles are relatively flat, belying the severity of the terrain beyond that distance, and indeed it makes sense not to overdo this initial section as you’ll need plenty in the tank for the hilly remainder of the ride. The climbing starts around Marple, with the first real test being the formidable Werneth Low, kicking up to gradients of 15% and above.

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The uphill grind: a favourite of that sadistic breed of photographers who snap cycling events.

After a very welcome drink-and-banana stop at the summit, the route proceeds through Mottram, Stalybridge and up to Uppermill, where food stop 2 is stocked not only with bananas and gels, but also cream teas with homemade scones (and yes, of course arguments rage about the order of toppings).

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Homemade scones.

From there the ride passes through Diggle and Delph and ultimately through to food stop 3 at Norden past Rochdale, where this year pies courtesy of Greenhalghs were on offer to fuel us up the next climb, Owd Betts.

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Pie stop (sic) at ~50 miles in.

At that point there’s the option to take the left turn down into the Ashworth Valley and back through Heywood for the Half Manc/metric century or to continue straight on to Belmont, Rivington, Haigh, Aspull, Horwich and back for another 30-odd miles and ~4,000 extra feet of climbing – for the Full Manc/imperial century.

Having done the Full Manc twice before, and in view of the fact that someone of my complexion shouldn’t really be out pedalling in blazing sun and temperatures in excess of 25°, my companion Dom and I decided to opt for the metric 100 on this occasion.

End

All done. Medalled and beer-thirsty.

Thus, we were back at the club house by mid-afternoon, enjoying a cool pint as we congratulated sundry cycling chums returning from their favoured distance in varying combinations of exhaustion and elation.

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This year’s haul.

And that was this year’s Tour De Manc. As ever, a memorably enjoyable event, run for fun and good causes. If you haven’t already, give it a go. I’ll definitely be back next year. See you then!

 

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