For the 363 days before last Thursday, it was my firm intention to ride my Cecil Walker in this year's edition of the K1. The previous weekend, I had even spent a few hours repairing some Eroica-induced wear & tear, and fitting a pair of fast wheels with Conti GP4000s.
Cecil is a solid, comfortable bike, and the 50/47/32 x 13-26 gearing would get me up hills easily, with plenty of close ratios for the flat sections.
Nothwithstanding the obvious commonsense of this plan, on Thursday evening I convinced myself that I could, indeed should, ride my Gillott.
Surely the hills of Coromandel could be ridden on a 41 x 24 gear?
Had I not recently ridden 135km Eroica, ride with as much elevation gain as K2?
And did I not ride up a steep and relentless 8km climb in my 47 x 26 a couple of days before?
It's just a fun ride, right?
What a dick.
The day started well enough, leaving Auckland early with Chris Money and Yaughan Yarwood. Driving over Kopu-Hikuai, we passed the first K4 riders, and arrived in Tairua in time for a second breakfast.
From the start, Vaughan and I made good time up Pumpkin Hill, and got ourselves into a functional bunch along the flats to Whitianga, but eventually got separated as I chased a split in the group and Vaughan, wisely, opted to stay where he was.
On the Kuaotunu climb I stopped to fill one of my bottles with water, in anticipation of the heat on climbs to follow, losing the shelter of the group which continued onwards.
As the course turned inland from Kuaotunu, we were riding into the wind over a series of three shortish but steep climbs. A few other riders were getting off to walk, but I still felt OK, passing riders on each climb. On the descent from the third climb I decided not to chase a group that rolled past me, then, as the road flattened out, realised that my overgeared climbing efforts had smashed my legs.
I spent a few k's trying to recover, noodling into the breeze in the 21, but at the bottom of the 380m Whangapoua climb decided that a rest was in order.
I sat by the road for a few minutes until Yarwood's arrival galvanised me into action.
Back on my bike, I figured that if I kept Vaughan in sight, I would certainly out-descend him into Coromandel. My legs had no confidence in the plan, and stopped turning a couple of minutes later. After a couple more attempts I decided that the agony would be less if walked.
Money passed me as I was strolling, and Darren Strahan stopped the Calibre Cycles van for a chat, so my ignominy could not be hidden.
At the '500m to Go' sign, I remounted. My legs were still mutinous, butI flogged them to the top like a third world despot . On the descent I attempted to emulate Sean Kelly in the 1992 Milan-San Remo , but as the road flattened my legs continued to rebel and I coasted to the finish, as the riders I had passed on the descent streamed past.
It's just a fun ride, right?