Ok, since it's summer here down under and currently cold and wet outside I thought I'd belatedly write up a report on my 'home' race a couple of months back.
The race is called the K2. It's a 185km circuit (with 2300m of climbing) around the roads of the Coromandel Peninsula which is 2hrs drive from Auckland. 'The Coro' is a beachy summer type destination that goes mad with bach owners and tourists over Christmas and new years but the rest of the year is a pretty quiet place. The race itself alternates it's start point between the four towns on the route. This year it started in Whitianga where I went to secondary school. Next year it starts in Coromandel, then Thames, then Tairua. So you get the same course each year but each year it's a little different as to where the long flat sections and the hard hills come along.
With the start in Whitianga you head pretty much straight into the hilliest section of the course. This is 'my patch' as I grew up just north of Whitianga and also used to go to school in Coromandel. Although we don't do big long climbs like that of Europe we do have a lot of short steep hills 2-3km long with plenty of 12-18% pitches.
So off goes the gun and there is 2km of flat before the first little hill, then another 5km before the first proper climb of the race. 4 years ago a mate from school broke away just before this hill with another friend and the two of them went two up for 180km for the win which was in the front of my mind, partially as the descent of that first main hill is steep and twisty which makes for good gap opening grounds and also quite handy when you used to travel to school over the twisty road each day and know every corner like the back of your hand.
With this in mind I made sure I was up near the front. Sure enough someone attacked at the bottom, closely followed by one of my clubmates chasing KOM points. I felt like I had good legs so set off after them when the dude on the front setting the high tempo slowed. I caught the front two and won the kick for the points then set sail down the twisty descent not really holding out much hope that we wouldn't be caught by the chasing pack before the next hill but happy to have some points in the bag.
Shortly after the 3 of us got to the bottom we were joined by another local guy who is pretty strong and has been 2nd overall before. That was when I started thinking we might actually have enough horsepower to give things a decent nudge, so we put our heads down and set about opening a bit of a gap.
There are another two climbs over the next 25km to Coromandel township, the 2nd one is generally regarded as the hardest of the course. Strava tells me it averages 9% for 3.3km but it seems steeper than that when it' hits 18%... (http://app.strava.com/activitie)s/92649298#1949419766). It was part way up Whangapoua hill that I started realising I wasn't actually feeling quite as grand as I did up the first hill so I ditched my chase for KOM points and put all my eggs in the 'lets hope like hell we can stay away' basket.
With the best part of 150km still to go from Coromandel town that was a bit of a long shot, but on the upside there was a bit of a headwind down the coast to Thames which has a 35km dead flat stretch and I thought that the chasing bunch probably wouldn't chase hard because there would still be 50-60 of them and the half dozen that wanted to work would get pissed off with everyone sitting on. Fortunately (I found out afterwards) the chasing pack behind did exactly what we hoped they would, surges of speed followed by sitting up and looking around for someone else to ride into the headwind. This definitely allowed us to push our gap out (there were no time checks all day so we had no idea if they were 30s behind us or 5 minutes).
Also just before the coast we picked up two elite riders who had been dropped early on in the elite race, they were as happy to see us as we were to see them so the 6 of us rolled nice and steady which was good as I started getting cramp shortly before the halfway mark of the race, not a good omen...
The last half of the ride wasn't really that much fun, I felt like shit, couldn't stomach my electrolyte mix, cramped even more each time I downed a gel and the headwind down the coast turned to a crosswind most of the last 50km to the finish..
On the last climb of the day which was still 40km from the finish the guy who made the initial attack opened up a small gap on the other 3 of us (we still had a few elite riders with us but they let us ride our own race when it came to the hills), given there was still quite a long way to go I thought we'd soon pull him back in and didn't think much of it.
Shortly after on the descent that the guy who won the KOM's let up gap open between himself and the me and the other guy so the two of us gave it all for the next few k's and got rid of him (4th wasn't an appealing prospect). Then it was just the simple matter of chasing down the solo dude in the front. Two against one, how hard could it be... But it wasn't to be, we never saw him again and he won solo with a 90 second gap. Very impressive.
With 10km to go I really started to suffer and was trying to weigh up my options of how the hell I could make it to the finish line without losing the shot at a podium finish. Tempted as I was to say to my 'companion' that he could have 2nd place (it was kind of certain we weren't going to win) as long as he didn't drop me and leave me to fend for myself I couldn't bring myself to do it...
Sure enough, with 5km to go and in the last 100m of crosswind my enemy attacked and I was dropped immediately, it was a soul destroying moment but I had nothing. Although there was a tail wind section home I was in such a world of hurt I just wanted to climb off and lay down.
I dropped over a minute in that last 5km but managed to stay away from the chasers and get 3rd, which at the time I didn't even care about (I was still a bit pissed off I hadn't won) and was aching and cramping all over. The chasing bunch rolled in about a minute after me so I was pretty lucky to keep 3rd, to get caught just before the line after all that hurt doesn't bear thinking about.
Fortunately for my troubles I won two entries to next years race, and even though this race is my annual obsession, the thought of poking my eyes out with short sticks seemed more appealing at the time.
But of course I'll be back next year...
Strava stats - http://app.strava.com/activities/92649298
I don't actually have any photo's but there are a few on the race website - http://arcevents.co.nz/k2home/
And a vid from this years race, mainly about the elite race not the weekend warrior race I did. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4rThqmIJwI&feature=player_embedded#t=0