Greg Chub, Graeme Davies, Chris James and Vaughan Hunt rented a holiday home close to the start/finish line in Tairua. Tank Prangnell, Richie Hansen and Dave Douglas joined us at the house on the morning of the ride.
Fine, calm weather with a chilly start, forecast to be changing to 20C with strong NW winds had the already tense riders even more tense over what to wear. The single toilet at the house was working overtime… who knew that 7 guys could find so many “nervous ones”.
Around 650 riders fronted up to the start line. Here we had our first incident – Ritchie was so focused on the event that he forgot to unclip when he arrived at the start line. Result – chain ring 1 – calf 0. Also spotted at the start line were Blair Webster plus Tom and Catriona Pirie who had done so much of the organising of longer training rides in the preceding months.
At 8am sharp, the event started. Three kms into the ride Pumpkin Hill (240m) was the first of 15 climbs and the first of 7 “King of the Mountain” stages. Graeme got the first KOM points for the team, narrowly shading Greg, with the others happy to laugh at their efforts from behind.
The first quarter (Tairua to Whitianga) is the “easiest” with only one more climb after Pumpkin Hill and the 7 of us rode well together, mostly leading a large bunch – usual story, lots of riders, no one willing to do any work. We quickly worked out the safest place to be is at the front of a bunch – particularly going downhill, but also uphill where the best lines are easy to find.
Shortly after Whitianga an ambulance passed us and when we reached the crash site, Brent Burton was lying on the ground next to the milk tanker, conscious but clearly in a lot of pain. He was being attended to by the paramedics. As you probably know there has been a lot of media publicity about this crash, and sadly an initial statement by the police blaming the cyclists rather than the actions of the ute driver (who didn’t stop) was very unfortunate. Very sobering to see that sight.
The second quarter is the toughest with 6 climbs and 3 king of the mountain stages. These were shared around with good humour and a lot of sweat. The promised nor’wester was kicking in and the going got tough. The quarter finishes with the punishing Whangapoua saddle (380m). One hairpin bend is aptly named “cardiac corner” as the inside line is dammed near 45 degrees! Cresting over Whangapoua the team had a long exciting descent through twisty roads and down a long strait with speeds of over 85km/h possible for the brave!
The 7 riders re-grouped at the pre-arranged stop after Coromandel where Glenda Douglas, Maria Prangnell and the support crew were waiting with fresh drink bottles, food and coffee! Unfortunately for Chris his not so secret weapon of boiled spuds in parmesan cheese (see last months Spoke n Word) had been inadvertently been left behind.
It was a welcome but short stop and we all left feeling like the worst half was behind us! Actually what was behind us was the K1 and the Women’s Elite Race. The K1 is the 100km event following the 2nd half of the K2 course, and the elite women riders take the same course as the K1. The first bunch of elite women caught us climbing the second “king of the mountain” stage after Coromandel, and were they moving! Made us look like the amateurs we are!
The third stage from Coromandel to Thames has two climbs followed by a long flat section through beautiful bays on the Firth of Thames side of the Peninsular. It was on one of these hills that Chris had a problem with the free wheel hub of his bike – it started to sound like an air-horn when free wheeling downhill. Very disconcerting for Chris and those around him.
The fresh legs and large bunches of the K1 riders dragged us on, not to mention the NW wind now kicking in behind us.
The team rode well together working for the self appointed team leader Vaughan. (Apart from Chris trying to get his head around the lack of rocket fuel and the air-horn) The six domestics concentrated on tactics involving blocking those riders who showed potential to overtake our leader who had disappeared into the distance.
Team unity was disrupted by the Kopu-Hikuai hill and resulted in the domestics coming in over an eight minute spread a few minutes behind our leader who has yet to front up with the beers.
A couple of the riders tried out a new weapon – Red Bull – It gave Dave and Ritchie wings up the hill. Tank obviously needed two as he got caught near the top by Chris and near the finish line by Greg and Graeme.
We didn’t set the world on fire; we didn’t even finish in the top half of the competitors, but we all got a great sense of achievement to have finished such a tough event and the knowledge that almost any other event would be a walk in the park by comparison!
K2 Lessons – a wrap on some thoughts from K2
This can be an enjoyable, satisfying ride and the following might make it more so.
- There are plenty of hills—not necessarily steep but generally longer than what we are used to in the Manawatu—train accordingly
- Its better to be 10% under trained than 1% over trained
- A diet of coffee and alcohol in the two days prior to the race is probably not the best method of hydrating
- Don’t rely on others for things you can’t do without
- The hills are shorter and lower the second time around
- It is possible to get assistance from the K1 riders as they catch you up on the 2nd half of the course—expect them and take advantage of them
- Don’t believe all the horror stories about the ride from others who have done it before—you can do it if you want—give it a go!
- Rent a house with two toilets.