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Downer EDI K2 Cycle Classic - NE
New Zealand, October 28, 2007
Yates Conquers K2
By Michael Jacques
Former world junior champion Jeremy Yates continued his return to top form by winning Coromandel's prestigious Downer EDI K2 Cycle Classic today.
In just six years Coromandel's K2 road cycling classic has established itself as one of New Zealand's must-do events. In 2007 more than 1300 riders lined up for what the cycling community consider to be the toughest road cycling event in the country.
The 200k lap of Coromandel Peninsula is as savage as it is scenic, with more than 2000 metres of vertical climbing offsetting the scenic mix of bush and beaches. The event format is also unique: with the start/finish alternating annually between the four major Coromandel Peninsula townships, the demands and tactics of the race change every year.
Tactically, all eyes were on former world junior road champion Jeremy Yates this year. The Subway Cycling Team rider announced his return to top form by winning the national club championship last week and Subway sent a strong team to Coromandel to help him take out K2. But they needed to, because also on the line was one of the USA's top squads, Team Bissell/SRAM.
Managed by former New Zealand Olympian Glen Mitchell, their line up included many of the USA's leading emerging riders, but also top Kiwi Jeremy Vennell who was riding with his new team for the first time after competing well in Europe for the past two years.
Starting in Thames this year, the route opened with a solid 15k on the flat before heading up the biggest climb of the day, the 14k long Kopu-Hikuai. A select bunch formed over this first climb, with Bissell/Sram controlling proceedings. The Americans showed shrewd tactics, trying several times to launch a breakaway rider before Scott Zwinanski, a former New York amateur champion, took a flyer.
The American managed to stay away along the Pacific coastline and over the tough Whangapoua climb into Coromandel township with just 50k to go. Behind him the chase bunch had splintered as Yates applied pressure, but tailed by three of the leader's Bissell/Sram teammates, the Hawke's Bay rider was at a distinct disadvantage.
The Bissel/SRAM boys - New Zealand rep Jeremy Vennell, 2006 Oregon State champion Omer Kem and Colorado time trial specialist Tom Zirbel - were sitting back and forcing Yates to do all the work if he wanted any shot of catching their teammate. But when Zirbel punctured and Kem simply dropped away under Yates' pressure, the odds were evened out. They got even better when the race leader, Zwinanski, finally ran out of legs, and heading into the final 15k it was down to just Yates and Vennell.
With Yates having done most of the work, Vennell tried to force him into leading out the inevitable sprint. But in 2000 the Subway rider had outsprinted some of the world's best teenagers and he had little trouble flipping Vennell in the final few metres for the win, with both riders breaking Fraser McMaster's record by three minutes with 5hrs 14min 19secs for the 200k ride.
The women's race failed to produce quite the same drama. Defending champion Linda Vilumsen from Denmark, the 2006 women's Tour de France champion, was a non-starter due to injury. This left Auckland's Sarah Murdoch a clear road to the finish, eventually winning in just over six hours.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Michael Jacques
1 Jeremy Yates (Hastings) 5.14.19 2 Jeremy Vennell (Hastings) 0.02 3 Omer Kem (USA) 2.07 4 Michael Torckler (Okato)* 4.21 5 Tom Zirbel (USA) 4.25 6 Eric Drower (Cambridge) 5.57 7 Justin Ralph (Hamilton) 5.58 8 Brett Tivers 6.00 9 Chris Macic 7.30 10 Mark Langlands * 7.48 11 Brad Carter * 7.49 12 Aaron Strong 13 Josh Brown (Palmerston North)* 14 Justin Kerr (Tokoroa) 7.50 15 Logan Hutchings 16 Scott Zwinanski (Usa) 7.52 17 Edwin Crossling (Masterton)* 8.34 18 Josh England 21.19 19 Page Josh * 21.20 20 Ryan Wills (Whakatane) 21.21 21 Mike Northey 21.22 22 Adam Semple (Australia)* 29.50 23 Joe Crooks (Auckland) 24 Joel Mowat (Auckland) 25 Jono Coates 26 John Lieswyn (Palmerston North) 27 Jesse Sergent 29.51 28 Scott Ardern *Under 23