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K2 Attracts International Field


K2 Attracts International Field
 

A star-studded field head to the Coromandel this weekend for the grueling RoadCraft K2 Cycle Classic.

K2 is renown in mountain climbing circles as the world’s toughest peak. But in New Zealand it is a grueling 200km cycle event attracting the country’s best riders. Past winners include Kiwi internationals Glenn Mitchell and Fraser McMaster, American record holder John Leiswyn and Denmark’s women’s Tour de France champion, Linda Vilumsen.

The attraction is the European-style course and a hefty prize purse. With over 40k and 2300 vertical metres of climbing, the RoadCraft K2 combines the rigours of European cycling with New Zealand’s supreme surroundings to produce a challenge that is fast becoming a favourite amongst elite and recreational cyclists alike.

Every year this unique event starts from a different Coromandel town and does one full 200k lap of the peninsula. This year racing gets underway in Tairua on Saturday.

Racing gets underway with a short warm up before taking on the 240m high Pumpkin Hill. But that’s just a teaser before a brutal 50k over the hills of Kuaotunu and Whangaparoa to the halfway mark at Coromandel township. Then a 50k stint of mostly flat riding alongside the Firth of Thames is a welcome respite before K2’s signature climb, the 14k long, 425m high Kopu-Hikuai Hill.

After Kopu-Hikuai, however, finishers are rewarded with a spectacular 40k of rolling hills down to the finish line back at Tairua. “The RoadCraft K2 might sounds daunting,” says race director Andy Reid, “But it starts and finishes at sea level, so for every tough uphill there’s a big-smiles downhill.”

With a prize pool to match the challenge, K2 is a highlight of the year for many of the country’s top riders. Both men and women compete for a $1000 first prize, plus King and Queen of the Mountain sprints totalling $1000 for both men and women.

This year the RoadCraft K2 also doubles as round four of the BikeNZ National Road Series, which is currently led by Jeremy Yates (Hast) and Serena Sheridan (Nels), who will both be on the start line at Tairua on Saturday.

Yates is the defending K2 champion and fresh from winning the national club championship and taking a top 10 finish in Australia’s prestigious Sun Tour, the former world junior champion starts as favourite for this year’s RoadCraft K2.

But in a tough field the Hastings builder won’t be able to rest on his recent laurels. Auckland’s Karl Murray currently sits second behind Yates in the national series, while talented teenager Tom Findlay (Palm Nth) is fifth. Both will be keen to topple Yates from the top spot, as will former world under-23 top 10 Peter Latham and (Ham) and American standout Omer Kem.

Kem, a full time professional on the prestigious American team, Bissell Pro, is keen to revisit K2 after finishing third in 2007 just two minutes down on Yates’ record breaking ride. He may have an advantage this year too in support from his newly-signed teammate, Peter Latham, who will ride for Bissell Pro on the American circuit next year.

But the rider likely to challenge Jeremy Yates might be his brother Mathew, a former RoadCraft K2 winner on the comeback after a couple of years away from the sport.

Organisers are expecting almost 2000 riders for the annual event. As well as the feature 200k RoadCraft K2, organisers also stage an introductory Orca K1 held over 100k, and the Nicholas Browne Quarter K, a 50k option named after a former entrant.

The Orca K1 also doubles as the Elite Women’s race, which also promises to be a closely fought affair. Pre-race favourite would be Nelson’s recently crowned national club champion Serena Sheridan, but national reps Kaytee Boyd (Akld), Emma Crum (Kapiti) and Stratford’s Tara Allerton will have extra motivation for the 100k race.

Allerton is currently second in the national road series and a win here would see her take the top spot. Emma Crum will be looking to continue her recent top form that saw her finish second to Sheridan in the recent national club champs, while Boyd will be keen to atone for a late withdrawal at the club nationals that saw her lose her national title to Sheridan.

Organised by Adventure Racing Coromandel, K2 is an event with something for everyone. Their other events include the Moehau Multisport Race, The Kauri Run, the White Star Intrigue mountain bike event and the ARC Adventure Race. Their events benefit the Spirit of Coromandel Trust, which provides opportunities for young people to experience the outdoors.

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