Since the inaugural event in 2002, this spectacular and challenging tour of the Coromandel Peninsula has become one of New Zealand’s favourite road cycling events. With some 40 kilometres of climbing and 2300m of altitude gain, the Cranleigh K2 combines the rigours of European cycling with the Coromandel’s supreme surroundings to produce a unique challenge that has become a must-do among elite and recreational cyclists alike.
In a unique format, the Cranleigh K2 shares the start/finish venue with the four main townships around the Coromandel Peninsula course. This year the seaside hamlet of Tairua plays host.
Scheduled for Saturday October 27, organisers are expecting more 1500 riders, and with a prize pool to match the challenge the Cranleigh K2 attracts a world-class field. Former winners have included Olympians, national reps and national champions such as Glen Mitchell, Jeremy Yates, Linda Villumsen, Roz Reekie-May, Meshy Holt, Serena Sheridan, Frazer MacMaster and Michael Torkler.
In 2011 it was Torkler who broke Yates streak of four consecutive K2 victories. But with Yates retired from top racing and Torkler recovering from a hit and run accident in the USA earlier in the year, the 2012 Cranleigh K2 will be a wide open affair. The riders keenest to make K2 their own might be Wellingtonians Silas Cullen and Andy Hagen, who have both been in the top five for the past two years without standing on the top step of the podium.
The Cranleigh K2, however, is much more than one of the country’s top elite races. It’s also a major occasion for recreational riders taking on personal challenges.
The flagship event is the full 200k Cranleigh K2, but other options include the EMC Bikes 150k from Whitianga to Tairua, the Halycon 100k from Coromandel township to Tairua and the Nicholas Browne 50k from Thames to Tairua that is named after keen cyclist Nicholas Browne who died from Kidney transplant complications three weeks after riding the 50k option in 2006.
“We’re trying to provide something for everyone,” says co-organiser Andy Reid. “Cycling is the challenge of choice these days, but not everyone is willing or able to take on a big challenge like K2. So our other options give them a chance to enjoy the atmosphere while they take on a challenge that suits their fitness and experience.”
It was this attention to people of all age and ability that attracted K2’s new major sponsor, Cranleigh merchant banking. Cranleigh Director, David Clarke, will be riding and says, “K2 is a touch of the Tour de France’s notorious climbs in our own backyard, except no one yells at you in French and if you finish the race in reasonable shape you get to drink proper beer!”
The Cranleigh K2 is renowned as the closest Kiwi ride to the gruelling European scene. From this year’s start in Tairua, riders get a short warm up before taking on the 240m high Pumpkin Hill. But that’s just a teaser before a brutal 50k with 800m of climbing over the hills of Kuaotunu and Whangaparoa to the halfway mark at Coromandel township. Two more 200m climbs out of Coromandel gives everyone a new appreciation for the following 30k of flatlands along the Firth of Thames before K2’s signature climb, the 14k long, 425m high Kopu-Hikuai Hill. After Kopu-Hikuai, however, finishers are rewarded with a spectacular final 40k to the finish line back at Tairua.
K2’s 2300m of vertical climbing might sound daunting, but starting and finishing at sea level means there is just as much downhill as uphill. “People dwell on K2’s hills, but we tell them that it’s 2300 vertical metres of awesome downhills,” laughs Andy Reid.
The fastest riders cut out the full 200k in less than five and a half hours, with the race record held by Jeremy Yates (5:02.34, 2008). But for the 1500-odd mere mortals the Cranleigh K2 is a personal challenge of some six to eight hours, with the average time typically around 6hrs 50min.
Organised by Adventure Racing Coromandel, a Coromandel-based community outdoor events company, the Cranleigh K2 benefits the Spirit of Coromandel Trust, which provides opportunities for young people to experience the outdoors. Other events they organise include the Moehau Multisport Festival, The Great Cranleigh Kauri Run and the ARC Adventure Race. For details - Ph: 0274 921 348. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.arcevents.co.nz