Friday, 26 April 2019


Local cyclists shine in various K2 distances

By Jack Biddle

Last Saturday’s Flight Centre K2 Road Cycle Classic marked the 17th anniversary of the event labeled by many as being one of the most scenic (and possibly the toughest) one day cycle races in the Southern Hemisphere.

The “K” in the name of the event represents Kuaotunu and the “2” the race distance of just under 200km around the Coromandel Peninsula.

To keep things the same but a little bit different at the same time, Adventure Racing Coromandel, the race organisers, rotate the start and finish point each year between Thames, Tairua, Whitianga and Coromandel Town. This year it was Coromandel Town’s turn to host the start and finish.

After the start, cyclists travelled in an anticlockwise direction through Thames, Tairua and Whitianga and had to conquer a brutal 3km climb up the Whangapoua Hill before finishing back in Coromandel Town.

In between the four major towns along the route, there were some extremely lumpy pieces of terrain for cyclists to cover. Thankfully fine weather conditions on the day meant dry roads, leaving the 1,000 plus total riders who entered to concentrate fully on the exhausting task ahead of them.  

While there were separate elite men’s and women’s races for the thoroughbreds of the sport of road cycling, the aim for most cyclists was to conquer the challenge itself and to achieve personal goals.  

As in the past, the event organisers have also provided opportunities for those wishing to tackle distances a little less daunting but no less competitive. They included the Cervelo K1 (86km and starting in Tairua) and the Nicholas Browne Challenge (43km and starting in Whitianga).

In addition, and to cater for the huge recent interest in electric bikes, an e-bike category was introduced for the first time.

Local Whitianga cycling legend Bryan Layton showed he wasn’t yet ready for electric assistance when he rode the shorter Nicholas Browne Challenge. In his early seventies, Bryan rewrote his own record book with a string of personal bests on his way to the finish in Coromandel Town. “I’m very pleased with my effort, but not sure if I want to ride the Whangapoua Hill ever again,” Bryan said soon after crossing the finish line.  He easily won his age group and finished eighth overall. The seven who finished ahead of him were all well under half his age as were the large majority who finished in his wake.     

The shorter distances also provide the opportunity for entrants like tetraplegic Andy Corles from Te Rerenga, who uses a hand cycle, to be part of the event. Andy completed the Nicholas Browne Challenge last year, but decided to step up to the K1 this time around. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite make the finish, withdrawing close to Matarangi after battling an arm injury from Coroglen.  

No shame there Andy, to make it that far was truly a legendary effort.

For a handful of cyclists one lap around the Coromandel Peninsula isn’t enough. They want more, so every four years the organisers oblige by staging a gruelling K4 challenge, which is two laps around the Peninsula, a total distance of 384km.

The K4 is certainly not a ride for the faint-hearted and requires significant preparation, a resilient mind-set and even more resilient buttocks. The race this year attracted around fifty entrants and started at 10:00pm last Friday evening. That meant riding through the night with the ultimate aim of a late morning finish in Coromandel Town the next day.  

Two popular Whitianga cyclists, Patrick Flanagan and Grant McDonald, took part in this year’s K4.

For Grant (49) it was his first attempt, while for Patrick (51), who claims the K4 is easier to ride than the shorter K2 distances on offer, it was his third start. In his previous two outings Patrick finished a highly credible fourth and fifth overall.  

Both Patrick and Grant have been turning pedals for a while. Patrick is a committed roadie, while Grant enjoys all forms of cycling, but has a strong leaning toward the tight and twisty mountain bike forestry trails.

In the end, past experience paid dividends with Patrick winning his age group comfortably and finishing just outside the top three, once again crossing the line in fourth place overall in a time of 13:09:15. The winner was Mel Titter from New Plymouth in a time of 12:55:40.

Grant completed the race in a time 15:30:42 which was good enough for a 12th place finish overall and a third place in his age group.

“I am more than happy with my effort,” said Grant. “It is a long ride and lots can go wrong. Luckily for me it all went pretty much to plan. I have nothing but admiration for those who finished ahead of me. And Patrick, well I feel gutted for him that he again didn’t quite make the podium. But when you consider the third place getter was competing in the 23 to 34 age group, his ride was nothing short of outstanding.”

Not one to brag, Patrick said he will be back in four years to do it all over again. “This year’s K4 was very fast from the start, helped by perfect conditions,” he said. “I move into a new age group next time, so I am very keen to at least win that plus keep an eye on that elusive overall podium finish.”

Other notable performances by cyclists from Mercury Bay and surrounding areas were -

Joanna Sharpe of Coromandel Town being the first female home in the K4, finishing fourth overall.

Anita Jenkins of Whitianga, who is a relative newbie to the sport of cycling, completing the K2 on her first attempt.
Geoff Balme of Whitianga finishing 13th in his age group in the K1
International student Kazuma Chiharu (currently living in Whitianga)  finishing 20th overall in the K1.
Shelley Osborne of Hahei winning her age group in the K1.
Marc Osborne of Hahei finishing sixth in his age group in K1.

Pictured are Whitianga cyclists Patrick Flanagan (left) and Grant McDonald, who took part in last Saturday’s gruelling K4 Road Cycle Challenge. Patrick finished fourth overall and Grant finished 12th overall.



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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.