Friday, 20 September 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Local cycling community came together in force for Man of Steel ride

The wider Mercury Bay cycling community came together in force last Saturday for what has become the annual Man of Steel (MOS) ride. It’s a social ride in memory of the late Kieran McCarten who passed away in May 2017 in his early 60s after a short battle with cancer. Kieran was known by many in the local cycling world as the “Man of Steel,” a tag that seemed to fit perfectly due to both his long established and successful engineering business in Whitianga and the way he went about his cycling.

Kieran was a man who rode with a lot less ability than most, but never looked for excuses and was always up for a challenge that took him outside his comfort zone. One of the last rides Kieran took part in was just a few months before his passing and covered four challenging local mountain peaks - the 309 Road, Manaia, Kereta and Tapu. The MOS ride follows the same route. As was the case last year, the ride started this year in Whitianga and finished at The Coroglen Tavern where owners, Michelle and Jed Harper, welcomed all the riders and supporters with well-earned complimentary nibbles.

All up, this year’s ride took well over five hours to complete for most and included an elevation gain of more than 1,500m on both gravel and sealed road surfaces. To make the almost 100km distance the ultimate challenge, the highest and longest peak, the 11km grind from the Thames Coast Road to the top of the Tapu-Coroglen Road, was tackled last. It was an effort that took most of the riders an hour plus to conquer in sweltering temperatures. There was no respite on the downhill finish to The Coroglen Tavern either. The road surface which was extremely rutted and not overly cycle-friendly.

As expected, the majority of the riders’ bikes were fit for purpose and designed to help them through a tough day. Two of the local top guns, however, decided to push their limits and ride something a little different and in keeping with the occasion. 

Whitianga’s Grant McDonald raised eyebrows when he turned up with a very original single-speed steel bike from somewhere around the 1940s. With a back pedal brake only and turned up handlebars, it completely broke all the rules of what a suitable bike, for what lay ahead, should look like. To the amazement of all his fellow cyclists, Grant rode the whole way and was having his first refreshment at The Coroglen Tavern long before the majority of the other riders had finished.  

Marc Osborne from Hahei was another to embrace the steel bike theme and rode with a racing road bike from the 1960s. He also showed his class by being one of the first to finish.  

Two trophies were awarded to mark the occasion. Both carried a MOS theme and were designed and hand made by Marc Osborne and Whitianga cycling enthusiast and one of the MOS ride organisers, Robbie Stephenson. Robbie is an engineer by trade and used metal from Kieran’s former business in his masterpiece.

Grant McDonald was an obvious and deserving winner of one of the trophies. Ross Wallace from Whitianga took home the other. He was also a deserving winner after recovering from an accident midway through last year and then undergoing a hip replacement leading up to Christmas.

The riders were extremely grateful towards Whitianga’s Tony Remnant, who provided much needed water along the route on Saturday to help keep them all hydrated. Special mention also needs to be made of Greg Clark, owner of The Bike Man in Whitianga, who helped some riders with last minutes repairs and adjustments, many of which were carried out at no cost.  

The first MOS ride last year attracted less than 20 riders, most of whom knew Kieran as a cyclist. This year there were more than 30 riders, many of whom have never had the privilege of meeting Kieran, but were still keen to embrace the occasion.

Well-known Whitianga cyclist, Bryan Layton, spoke fondly of Kieran after the ride. “Kieran certainly left his mark on the extended Mercury Bay cycling community,” he said. “His name lives on and this ride is a fitting way to remember and toast the true Man of Steel.”   

Picture: Grant McDonald, one of the Man of Steel ride trophy winners. Immediately behind him is the 1940s steel bike he participated in the ride with.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.