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Need Inspiration? Meet Franco and Steve

Need Inspiration? Meet Franco (70) and Steve (68) - Flight Centre K2 legends

At the age of 70, Franco Celligoi has just signed up for his 10th Flight Centre K2 event and has never let anything get in the way of participating.

In 2010 he completed the Flight Centre K2 seven months after having bilateral knee replacements. He had to make an exception though when in 2012 he was "forced, by extreme pressure" from his lovely and extremely supportive wife to cancel his entry and instead rode the 50km version of the event the Nicholas Browne Challange just seven weeks after undergoing a craniotomy.

"The Flight Centre K2/K1 and the Nicholas Browne Challenge are fabulous cycling events, extremely well organised and supported by the Coromandel locals.

"You meet up with and make friends with people from all walks of life. Each year acquaintances are renewed and surprisingly you meet up with people you may not have seen for decades. One year, from nowhere appeared an old school friend not seen since the very late 50’s. One never knows who will pop-up at the K2/K1 event."

The social aspect isn't the only thing that appeals to Franco.

“Once you get on the bike you feel liberated, experiencing a certain level of freedom. Cycling is an enormous stress relief past-time without harsh body impact,” he says, remarking on the numerous other competitors he has met who are there to regain fitness, assist in heath, medical or surgery recovery or wanting to trim down their weight by a few kilos.

"All are there to have an enjoyable time achieving what they never thought possible. Exercise and cycling is a beautiful stress release valve, a must for those who find a working week and general everyday issues overpowers them. It’s almost better than going outside and kicking the cat."

A true character, Franco lives in Titirangi and is the oldest member of the Department of Cycling group that operates in West Auckland.

It’s a cycling club that caters for people of all cycling abilities. The club focuses on road safety and awareness and enjoys tremendous back-up support from AvantiPlus Westgate.

He says at the Department there are no primadonnas in the small fast rider group, with the bulk of membership being made up of weekend warriors out for sheer fun and fitness.

"Then there’s ‘Franco the Elder Dude’ among the slower and entry level riders who never compete but ride to Enjoy," he says. "The club functions as one big happy family who love the after ride café and mandatory coffees."

This year 'Franco the Elder Dude' has managed to convince several members to participate in his favourite upcoming event Flight Centre K2/K1 event around the Coromandel.

There's still time to sign up as a competitor - visit the K2 website now to find out how.

So if you are driving around the Coromandel on October 29 - take care around Franco and his friends and be sure to holler a word of encouragement if you're passing.

Age no barrier if you've got "stubborness in spades"

Steve Harre from Ngongotaha is signed up to “experience the drama of the K2” until 2018 – the date when the next Flight Centre K4 event takes place, which is a gruelling two laps of the Coromandel Peninsula that is held only every four years.

The Flight Centre K2 has been described as the toughest one-day bike race in the Southern Hemisphere. “I don't know what that makes the K4!” comments Steve.

At the age of 68, Steve could be described then as pretty tough; he is a Fight Centre K2 Olympian, which means he has completed three Flight Centre K2’s on the trot followed by the K4.

The K4 is held every four years and usually attracts around 25 hardy riders who do two laps of the K2 200km course around the Coromandel Peninsula.

For the Flight Centre K4 Steve starts training at 10pm and rides until dawn, training in bitterly cold winter months around his home region in order to be fit for the October event.

The man who claims he is not particularly physical but has “stubbornness in spades” also holds the world record as the oldest cyclist to successfully undertake a challenge known as ‘Everesting’, in which you ride up and down a hill in repetitions that add up to the equivalent of riding up the world’s highest mountain peak.

He completed 8800m in a continuous 22 hours of riding, beginning the first of 22 rides up Mt Ngongotaha at 8am on a Sunday morning and finishing the following day at 7am.
There’s a lot of night riding involved in training for the 400km K4 and Steve says like ‘Everesting’, it’s the mental challenge that gives him the biggest buzz.

“It certainly pushes my buttons, that’s for sure. A 200km ride and less is a physical challenge but once you start to ride the 400km and you are sleep deprived riding through the night, it’s very much a mental challenge. I just put my head down and keep going.

“Quite remarkably I’m not a very physical person but according to my wife I’ve got stubbornness in spades. That’s probably my biggest asset.”

This year’s Flight Centre K2 will be especially poignant for Steve as he will be joined by his son Mike who is a lecturer at Sydney University. He says he could not do the event without the support of his wife Lynne who has acted as support vehicle for the first of the two laps during the K4 (according to the rules, K4 competitors may have a support vehicle for the first lap).

Steve is also a keen mountain biking enthusiast and especially enjoys the 24 hour solo races.

This next race on October 29 marks the 15th anniversary of the Flight Centre K2 and the race will start in Tairua and travel in an anticlockwise direction through Whitianga, Coromandel, Thames and back to Tairua.

Stage 1 Coroglen Tairua-Whitianga 43km
Stage 2 Kuaotunu Whitianga-Coromandel 43km
Stage 3 Kereta Coromandel-Thames 53km
Stage 4 Kopu-Hikuai Thames-Tairua 53km


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