Perfect cycling conditions greeted a record field of 1500 riders for the eighth RoadCraft K2, but it was the shrewd tactical riding of Jeremy Yates that won the day.
Yates was a marked man right from the gun in this year’s RoadCraft K2. As the field rolled out of Whitianga, the elite contingent looked to the former World junior champion to make the pace. It was hardly a surprise, after the Hawke’s Bay rider had broken away with Auckland’s Karl Murray in the first few kilometres of last years race to set a new course record. This year, however, Yates wasn’t in a hurry.
Controlling the race from the front, Yates led for much of the first 50 kilometres. He remained on the front over the opening climbs, but without any real intent as the bunch followed along behind. The only interest in the early kilometres was a short-lived break after, 40 kilometres, on Whangapoa Hill by Hastings veteran Richard Brough. But no sooner had he established a 50 metre gap, a mechanical problem saw him standing on the side of the road as the bunch rolled past.
The order remained largely unchanged through Coromandel Town at the 53 kilometre mark, but on the two big climbs out of Coromandel the race finally sparked up as triathlete Stephen Sheldrake hit the front. With the bunch starting to string out over the 228 metre high crest of Kereta Hill there was no time to take in the views over Auckland and Waiheke Island. On the tricky descent to the Firth of Thames, most of the bunch regrouped and with a light win behind them no one was in danger as they clipped along at 45km/h, with Yates once again playing point guard.
Through Thames, the halfway mark of the 200k lap of the Coromandel Peninsula, the race started to spark up with speeds reaching 50km/h as the contenders started to group near the front on the approach to Kopu Hikuai Hill - a 14 kilometre long climb to 425 metres above sea level. Yates, however, had other ideas and decided to control the race by simply setting a tempo that only a few could cope with.
Over the top he had only co-favourite Justin Kerr (Tokoroa), Auckland youngster Sam Lindsay and Simon Finucane for company. But despite forcing this small selection at the front, Yates was still biding his time. With a headwind waiting for them when they got back down to the coast for the final 60 kilometres, he was in no hurry to go it alone.
At Tairua, with approximately 50 kilometres to go, the foursome had become three with Finucane out the back door. On the 240 metre high Pumpkin Hill, the last big climb of the day, Yates again controlled tactics by riding a solid but not maximum tempo on the front. The three then shared it out until 12 kilometres to go, when Justin Kerr sensed a lull in the pace and jumped off the front.
This was a dangerous move. The Tokoroa professional is fresh off his best ever year, with several wins on the American pro circuit. The week before K2 he had claimed a close second place in the national time trial champs, so he had the form to stay away.
Yates knew it too; after waiting for a handful of seconds to see if young Sam Lindsay would lead out the chase, Yates covered the move himself. The speed with which he bridged to Kerr seemed to surprise even Yates himself, and in a Classic champion's tactic he stole Kerr’s move out from under him by counter-attacking instantly and time trialling to his third straight K2 victory.
Finishing more than two minutes clear of Kerr, Yates joined former Olympian Glen Mitchell as a three-time winner of the RoadCraft K2. Yates, however, can lay claim to being the undisputed “King of K2” as he now owns the three fastest winning times from the event’s eight year history.
Behind Yates, Kerr was comfortable in second, two minutes clear of Sam Lindsay, with another two minutes back to Aucklanders Brad Tilby and Louis Crosby in fourth and fifth.
|1||Jeremy Yates (Taradale)||5:17:21|
|2||Justin Kerr (Tokoroa)||0:02:51|
|3||Sam Lindsay (Auckland)||0:05:16|
|4||Brad Tilby (Auckland)||0:07:03|
|4||Louis Crosby (Auckland)|