Wind and rain made New Zealand’s toughest road cycling event even tougher today as close to 1500 riders took on the 200k K2 Cycle Classic around the Coromandel Peninsula. But the toughest of all was Napier rider Jeremy Yates who shrugged off jetlag to claim his fourth straight K2 title.
Jeremy Yates loves the K2. “It’s the best one day race in the country,” said the former world junior champion just minutes after winning his fourth straight K2. Straight off the plane from the Tour of Brazil where he won a stage and claimed second in the mountain classification, Yates shrugged off jet lag, rising winds, rain and a classy field of pretenders to his crown.
As has become his habit in the 200k race around the Coromandel, Yates tried to break the race apart on K2’s infamous hills. But he found himself a marked man as a large group simply sat on his wheel, which forced Yates to hold back in the first 40k to Thames. The huge 14k climb up Kopu Hikuai Hill created some natural selection and a bunch of 18 riders went through halfway together at Tairua.
Even the 240m high Pumpkin Hill failed to make much impact on the race. “I was trying to force it on the hills,” said Yates later. “But everyone was just sitting in so I decided to wait a while.”
He didn’t have to wait long. Approaching Whitianga the race hit strong cross winds that split the bunch into small groups. The 140m high Kuaotunu forced a further selection and as they headed toward the final climb of the day over Whangapoa Hill the race was down to just Yates, Cambridge rider Brad Carter and Wellington surprise Andy Hagan.
After making so much of the front running, Yates wasn’t backing himself 100 percent at this point. “I wasn’t feeling flash and Brad had been climbing really well so I didn’t want to let it come down to the final hill,” said Yates. “So I decided to hit it hard all the way to the finish and make it a race of attrition.”
Yates attacked Carter several times, losing Hagan first and then eventually establishing a 20sec lead as they hit the hill. “He got me down to maybe eight seconds on the hill,” said Yates. “But I knew if I could stay in front over the top and take some risks down the hill to the finish I could hold on.”
That’s exactly what happened. “If you want to win races you have to take risks,” said Yates. “I almost lost it several times, but I managed to keep the bike up and even managed to cruise the final bit on the flat and enjoy the win.”
Yates crossed the line in 5hrs 08min 34secs, with Carter following 21secs later but 1min 20secs clear of Wellingtonian Andy Hagan. More than three minutes further back Hagan’s clubmate Silas Cullen proved best of the bunch, holding out Auckland’s Louis Crosby by four seconds in 5hrs 13min 02secs.
The elite women’s race, the Orca K1 over 100k, played out in similar fashion to the men, with the field happy to mark pre-race favourite and 2009 winner Serena Sheridan.
Starting in Tairua, the field went straight to work on the 240m high Pumpkin Hill climb. Sheridan was immediately recognisable as the strongest rider and decided to bide her time rather than try a solo win. With the pace solid all the way, this proved the correct tactic as it became clear the race would be won by attrition rather than a dominant individual.
The same cross winds that split the men’s race through Whitianga also established the contenders among women. A crash on the wet roads made this bunch even more select, with former Olympic rower-turned-cyclist Sonia Waddell among the casualties. The climbs over Kuaotunu and Whangapoa did the rest, with Sheridan emerging at the Coromandel finish line with a comfortable 37sec winning margin, her time of 2hrs 34min 45secs slashing more than seven minutes of last year’s course record when Sheridan was outsprinted by Commonwealth Games rep Meshy Holt.
Behind Sheridan’s impressive win the top five women all broke the old course record. In second place Sarah Morrison was 34secs clear of Janey Cox. Just six seconds further back Auckland’s Emma Crum took the same fourth placing as last year, with Nelson veteran Jeannie Kuhajek claimed fifth 15secs later.
The men’s and women’s elite races were also the ninth race of the 2010 Rabobank National Road Cycling Series. With just three races remaining - the Round Lake Taupo race, Christchurch’s Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling and Wellington’s Rice Mountain Classic – Yates now sits in second behind Commonwealth Games rider Gordon McCauley, while Sheridan now has an almost unassailable lead among women.
Organised by Adventure Racing Coromandel, the K2 Cycle Classic is the first of their popular summer events including the Moehau Multisport Race, The Great Kauri Run, and the ARC Adventure Race. Their events benefit the Spirit of Coromandel Trust, which provides opportunities for young people to experience the outdoors. For details visit www.arcevents.co.nz
Mens K2 Cycle Classic – 200k
1 Jeremy Yates Napier 5:08.13
2 Brad Carter Cambridge 5:08:34
3 Andy Hagen Wellington 5:09:54
4 Silus Cullen Wellington 5:13:02
5 Louis Crosby Wellington 5:13:06
Womens Orca K1 – 100k
1 Serena Sheridan Napier 2:34:45
2 Sarah Morrison Paeroa 2:35:22
3 Janey Cox 2:35:56
4 Emma Crum Auckland 2:36:01
5 Tracy Best Wellington 2:36:16