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Coromandel roads become domain of cycling legends

Coromandel roads become domain of cycling legends

Coromandel roads will again be the domain of cyclists in the Flight Centre K2 on October 29 - as the event marks its 15th anniversary and features legendary riders who have not missed a single race.

Crunchie Donaldson has done all of the Flight Centre K2 events ever held since its inception as well as two K4s, which necessitate a gruelling ride around the Coromandel Peninsula twice – through night time.

His wife Joanne holds the Round the Lake record for three laps and was the first woman to enter the K4. Jo has completed more than 10 Flight Centre K2 races.

The K4 is held every four years and usually attracts around 25 hardy riders who do two laps of the Flight CentreK2 200km course around the Coromandel Peninsula. In order to finish at similar times to the other competitors, the K4 starts at 10.30pm and riders must cycle through the night.

Both Jo and Crunchie work full time and still manage to keep fit all year round either road riding or mountain biking. They train together during the week and on weekends.

Crunchie says he loves night riding in the K4, particularly when the moon is out. "It's quite meditative", although it wasn't easy the time that his light stopped working and he had to negotiate possums and other obstacles on the road in the dark.

He got his nickname during his rugby days for ‘crunching’ people on the field but wife Jo laughs dismissively when asked if he should be similarly feared on the bike.

When he stopped playing rugby he got into marathons and then triathlons and this opened his eyes to how much he enjoyed cycling.

“I’ve always enjoyed a challenge and the longer the stuff, the better. The K2 is one of the better events and the hardest. It’s the most challenging and it’s small, so it’s a bit more personal,” says Crunchie.

“The first one had only a couple of hundred people, and I’ve got to know [event co-founder] Keith Stephenson quite well. We always embrace when we see each other.”

This year’s Flight Centre K2 will start in Tairua and travel in an anticlockwise direction through Whitianga, Coromandel, Thames and back to Tairua.

Crunchie is aware that his annual entry fee goes toward the work of The Spirit of Coromandel Trust, which was founded by Keith and wife Rita and Andy Reid , to create an outdoor activity centre on the Coromandel.

The centre will provide opportunities for people to develop confidence and challenge themselves within a safe environment through adventure based learning.

For years already, proceeds from the Flight CentreK2 has allowed four youngsters per year to attend the Outdoor Pursuits Centre in the central North Island with all expenses paid.

More than 100 youngsters have been sent on various outdoor activities including Outward Bound, Outdoor Pursuit Centre (OPC) and the Spirit of Adventure so far.

Jo’s Dad and step mum live in Whitianga so their attendance at the Flight CentreK2 is a great chance to catch up.

The event begins at a different township on the Coromandel Peninsula each year that it is held and Jo has entered into all four of the different starting points and has completed more than 10 K2 races.

There are many more women competing in the event now and sometimes Jo will attend as support crew for her husband rather than as a competitor, but she hasn’t slowed down. She is training for a five-day ride in the South Island this summer.

“The K2 gets you fit for summer, we always go and do adventures, like this five-day race coming up this summer. It’s our holiday and we’ll be averaging rides of 150km a day for five days,” she laughs. “But we’ll be getting our meals cooked for us, and no housework, so it’s going to feel like a holiday!”.

For information on the Flight Centre K2 visit www.arcevents.co.nz/K2home


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