I don't know. I was asked to subtly announce that Mark Hempsall wasn't walking (Hence the title 'Hempsall Out,') bearing in mind that I thought I had an impeccable source (i.e. Conan The Destroyer's mouth) and now he tells me, he's changed his mind! He's 'just' walking to Peel as training for the '100 miles' in Milton Keynes this August. For anyone who thinks he may be pulling a flanker, though, he has promised to back up Dave Mackey from 8pm, so you won't be the only one chasing him with an axe if he continues.
Briefly, I had hoped that the previous paragraph may mean a resurrection of the chances for our team Eminem & Eminem but I have also heard that Matt Haddock has suffered an ankle injury and in the interest of his '100' ambitions will also bow out at German.
More gossip: Peter Kaneen has still not decided whether or not to start the race though in honesty, I really can't see him featuring at the sharp end due to the interruptions in his training this year. However, Beware! Last time he didn't think he'd pass Santon i.e 2003, he went and won it!
I also have it on good authority that Eamon Harkin will be accompanying his daughter, Breeshey who has entered the U21 race, so the top ten will be losing another of its regular inhabitants.
If you add into this the absence of Ray Pitts, Thomas Melvin, Jane Kennaugh (unless she's found another alias,)the aforementioned big dude, there is plenty of scope for new heroes to emerge and I think that the standard this year will be higher than ever.
My favourites to enter the higher echelon for the first time would be Chris Cale, Marie Jackson and Janice Quirk but if you're out there and have put in the effort, the sky's the limit.