Guest Post – Taming the 'Mandel


Let me say at the outset that the K2 and the K1 could be the single best one day cycling classic in the southern hemisphere.  It has so much going for it. Both are tough rides and this is the foundation stone to becoming a world-class race.
Don’t take me too seriously though, as I only did the K1.
This year the K1 finished in Tairua after starting in Coromandel. The forecast was for heavy rain pushed by strong north easterlies. Fortunately the rain held off and the north easterlies didn’t.
A big tailwind drove the 600 starters out of Coromandel and into the first of the big climbs. The Coromandel–Manaia hill is a bugger of a start. You haven’t got your legs and consequently your second wind before you hit it, well actually you don’t hit it, it hits you.
The hills in the Coromandel are big and the only thing to concern you is which ones are the biggest. This one is medium big but it claimed a lot of faux cyclists. People were pushing from halfway up. Considering they had gone 5kms with 95 to go they were in for a tough day.
Next, after a sprint through Manaia, we came the hill over to Wilsons bay. Will and I had warmed to the task by then. The stream of cyclists riding passed us had been stemmed and we started to gather a few in.
The ride from Wilsons Bay to Thames was over before we could complain. The wind and a strong group of cyclists from Hot Cycles along with some orphans had us bowling along at 37-40kmh. The tram baches, Tapu and gorgeous Pohutukawa – all a blur.
The amazing thing was the strength of a guy who was a major part of our speed line. He had a metal leg attached to his thigh and cleated in to his pedal. He just wouldn’t slow down. I took my turn at the front of the speed line. After a couple of minutes a lot of lactic acid was going straight to the legs before those legs got to the Kopu Hikuai hill. Not a good idea as that hill is a real grind.
I must have slowed down a bit because behind me I heard someone ask me how I was going. I said I was feeling it. “O.K move over. I’ll lead for a while,” the voice replied.
Bugger me, it was the one legged machine. He just stayed out there and pulled us all the way down the coast. Embarrassment finally wrestled fatigue out of the group. Someone with two working legs had to do something. Will went to the front. As all you cyclists know the theory of running a good speed line is to go to the front and do your turn but never, ever increase the pace or it blows the group to bits. I’d have thought Will would have known this piece of etiquette, but no. He just kept going. We hung on as long as we could but inevitably dropped off. Save for one. Stuck right on Will’s wheel was the machine. One and a half legs spinning at a nice cadence. Happy as Larry. Sun glinting off his chromed calf, it was an inspirational and phenomenal performance.
Kopu Hikuai hill is a brilliant climb. It really starts as soon as you turn left onto the road itself. It is a gentle roll and so long as you stayed tight as a bunch you could draft along until hitting the climb proper.
The problem with a tight bunch is, like any gang, you find guys you’d die for and guys you hope will die. Our group had one. He was a dandy. The best gear on the best bike with the worst sense of humour. A non-stop chatterer and self confessed cycling expert, who told everyone what to do and when to do it.
I know this doesn’t add up to a hanging offence but in the middle of a hard ride you do regret not packing a gun.
There is only one way to shut these guys up and it’s painful. From the bottom of the climb to the summit is 5kms. The good thing about it is that it doesn’t throw nasty increases in incline at you.
So you just pick up the tempo. Slowly but surely the instructions from the dandy died, replaced by a deep heavy breathing. Increase the tempo again and you don’t even hear the breathing. It’s behind you. That is incredibly satisfying.
Not so much satisfying as scary is the descent off the top. I hit 75kmh sliding down the back of that hill. Try as it might the wind resistance couldn’t take the smile of my face. The rest of the ride into Tairua was a reasonably constant tempo with a really good hard-working group.
So there.100km’s, big hills, a one-legged man shouting toughness without opening his mouth. A dandy silenced. Yep, a world class ride.
– Wheelsucker


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