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Flight Centre K2 a great success

Tail wind after the top of the gruelling Kopu-Hikuai's a blessing for competitors

Tiffiney Perry of Hamilton gives her race the thumbs up. All photos: Alison Smith.

With 120 volunteers, a charitable cause and hundreds of cyclists all keenly and safely racing around the Coromandel Peninsula for up to 200kms on Saturday, the Flight Centre K2 is being labelled a great success by everyone involved.

It was the K2’s 15th year anniversary and Tairua hosted the start and finish of the race, with a finish line tent and stalls plus live music playing at Mary Beach Reserve by the Tairua Wharf.

Organised by Keith and Rita Stephenson and Andy Reid of Coromandel Town, proceeds of the event will go to various charitable goals including the establishment of an outdoor education centre on the Coromandel under the Spirit of Coromandel Trust.

Former Coromandel Town local Toby Atkins - who finished in 2nd place in the Elite Men's 200km course - compared the course to that of the races he was doing in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy last year: “Which just goes to show how lucky we are to have such an amazing place to race.

“It's hard to put into words the sense of pride I have in being able to return to the race that first got me into cycling five years ago, especially to be able to finish 2nd and really show that the country kid can still have their chance in elite sport.

“Having Keith come and hug me at the end of the race in sheer disbelief as I said 'I told you I'd do the race proud one day' was one of those moments that I will never forget. I guess once a Coro kid always a Coro kid!

Toby (22) thanked his supporters at Crediflex pro4mance cycling team for the work that went into the race and the race organisers for such a professional job. “It was only our second race as an elite team and to come away with 1st, and my 2nd, (Nicholas Magill’s) King Of the Mountain and 1st U23 just goes to show the things that are to come.”

Toby and other participants gave a huge thanks to the event sponsors, organisers and volunteers, adding: “We might be the riders racing but those guys are out there, rain or shine helping us complete the race safely.”

Flight Centre K2 Men’s Elite Winner Nicholas Magill of Hamilton chose the first hill out of Tairua – Pumpkin Hill, only 5km from the start – to break away from the pack, which is definitely not the strategy of most.

He finished six minutes ahead of Atkins, with Ben Barry in 3rd and Steve Furminger in 4th. Magill completed his ride in 5 hours 20 minutes and 36 seconds.

The event takes in four stages and starts and finishes at a different town each time. There are two other distances on offer; The Cervelo K1, a 100 km race, and the Nicholas Browne Challenge which is a 50 km ride for weekend warriors.

The 200km cyclists used staggered starts beginning with the men’s elite at 7.45am, riding past Coroglen to Whitianga, Kuaotunu, Kereta, Coromandel and along the Thames Coast Rd to Thames before a gruelling last section over the Kopu-Hikuai Hill and home with a tail wind to Tairua.

Frontrunners of the K2 group – which started out 15 minutes after the Elite Men’s race start - managed to overtake some of the elite riders during the ride and finished with times from 5 hrs 30 minutes, in line with the fourth placegetter in the Elite section.

The non-elite section was won by Stephen Lewthwaite, followed by Josh Achten, Michael Jones, Jim McMurray, Craig Burke, Mark Parry and Glen Carabine all coming in at 5hrs 32 mins 28 seconds.

The Cervelo K1 100km race was won by Ben Hamilton followed by Nick Jowsey, Oscar Elworthy and the trio of Josh Lane, Jack Montgomerie and Harry Waine all in the pack following. Ben won this event in a time of 2 hours 51 minutes and 37 seconds.

The women competitors completed the Cervelo K1 in times of 3 hours 16 minutes and 33 seconds, led by Amanda Jamieson, Kate Mcilroy and Natalie Kerwin at 3hrs 16 mins 35 secs.

Meanwhile the 50km Nicholas Browne Challenge was smashed out in 1 hour 21 minutes 9 seconds by winner George Gwynn with Matthew Lochhead and Fergus Hamilton hot on his tail with one second between them all.

At age 66, John Badger is one of the competitors who has finished all K2 races ever held and his advice shows how the winner Magill’s strategy was a unique one. John says although lots of the riders are younger than him, he has learned that the K2 is all about ‘staying in bunches’.

“If you are good enough on the hills to stay in the bunch, you are ok on the flats. Especially from Coromandel down to Thames there’s enough good guys to break the head wind for you.

“Three years ago I was doing 6 hour times but I’m still trying to keep my pace up in the training. It’s personal challenge, it’s unique. I love training with groups. Bike riding is really fantastic; there are so many good guys you can ride with and they are pretty quick – you don’t get much of a chat.”

A handful of competitors came from around the world but the majority were New Zealanders including women, youngsters aged from 14 and world elite athlete Tiffiney Perry of Hamilton on her hand-operated recliner cycle.

TCDC Planning Manager Michael Jones finished in 3rd place in the K2 and won his age division, but was also gaining enjoyment from the six years of coaching he's given Tiffiney, who crossed the line on the Nicholas Browne Challenge.

Tiffiney, a quadraplegic, had her son and husband waiting at the finish line and holds a current 8th place ranking in the world for the Hand H3 female Open division.

Michael said as usual there were was great camaraderie following the event and he took pride in seeing Tiffiney and other competitors that he’s coached over the years – including Toby - do so well.

“It was another good event though quite hard with that wind,” he said. “Heading out to Whangapoua was a cross-tail wind but it got hard going over the hill to Coromandel and along the Thames Coast. Once you were over the Kopu-Hikuai hill toward home it was a tail wind so that was absolutely great.”

The Spirit of Coromandel Trust will use some of the funds raised to run after school cycle training and general bike maintenance programmes in summer for young ones wanting to learn basic cycle safety and riding skills, as well as monthly mini multi-sport events to encourage locals to participate in a multisport.

“We want to give a big thank you to the people in Tairua that got behind the event. We are absolutely thrilled with how the day went and part of that was that St John were not needed at all during the day which showed that riders were riding within their capabilities.”

Funds from the event will provide all the costs for four youngsters from the host town to attend the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre in the central North Island. More than 100 youngsters have attended camps including Outward Bound, the Outdoor Pursuit Centre (OPC) and the Spirit of Adventure over the past 15 years.

The Flight Centre K2 is one of three largescale outdoor events organised by the Spirit of Coromandel Trust, which was set up in 2000 to encourage people of all ages in to outdoor activities, particularly sport.

Event co-organiser Andy Reid handed out race jerseys to each of the winners and results were posted live onto the K2 website at www.arcevents.co.nz.

To find out more about the Spirit of Coromandel Trust, including the story of the K2 and other events organised by Andy, Rita and Keith, see our Council's Summertimes magazine.

For full results visit www.arcevents.co.nz

© Scoop Media

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