This race is cool. It’s not easy but then again it’s very achievable. At 72km, the Colville Connection route is a loop around the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula, on both gravel roads and single track it takes in the best of the famous Coromandel coastal scenery.
It’s only possible to ride this loop during the Colville Connection race. As it passes through private land, so it’s worth taking part just to be able to experience this landscape on a bike!
This race was key race for me because I knew a good chunk of the route (having biked out to the end of the peninsula before). Also I’d been biking really well in the lead up, and I knew I had a chance of doing ok and maybe even beating one of my bloke mates!!
Colville Connections is a popular race, with about 100 of us at the start line and many more taking part in the shorter distance race and running races. So there was a great atmosphere at the start and I have to say that overall it was one of my best experiences of in-race camaraderie.
I started hard but steady, mindful not to get caught up in that classic start of race rush! Mindful of the distance ahead. The sealed road quickly turns to gravel as we rode away from the coast and started the first and probably the longest climb. As I climbed my confidence increased. Passing some riders on the way!! At the top you can see the first glimpse of the south east Coromandel Coast line. I acknowledged this only very quickly before bombing it downhill!
The gravel road then follows the coast up to Stoney Bay Campsite. This is cool riding. Beach and bay views alongside and lots of undulation! At Stoney Bay the single track started, here everyone jostled for places as overtaking from now on would be much more challenging. Up and up we went, through beautiful bush and across side streams until the track flattens off a bit. The riding was fast along here and the Km’s tick by. The views get increasing impressive. Looking down on turquoise bays, steep walled cliffs and little peninsulas, I found it seriously hard not to stop and take a photo…. Especially knowing I wanted to show you guys just how great this is!! But I kept rolling on. Soaking it all in on this sunny summer day. Smiling away to myself, thinking how much I love the Coromandel’s coastal beauty.
Some of the single track is technical and in the odd place so steep that pretty much everyone walks. Not to mention that the track is also very exposed! One false move and you’re fish food!
All of the competitors were so inclusive and friendly, people nattered along the way and provided little motivational comments, it had a real comaraderie feel. It really added a cool dimension to the enjoyment of this race.
I’ve always thought that there is something quite magical about the tip of the Coromandel. It’s remote, beautiful and so green with dramatic coast line and turquoise waters. Biking around the Cape Colville was a real buzz, plus knowing the aid station was just around the corner at Fletchers Bay also helped!
I didn’t stop long at the aid station. Throwing down a banana and electrolyte, topping my bottle up with a sugary sports drink (as it turned out this was a key move!). The next section of gravel road is super pretty so I was feeling good, in a positive frame of mind!
The biggest climb on the way back was out of Port Jackson, a sweeping bay of golden beach. The road winds its way through Manuka tree bush. Rising up to 200m above sea level for rewarding panoramic views over the bays we’ve just rode from. The view and the buzz of the downhill, kept me working hard over the next 30 odd Km’s. Where I was very excited to pass my two friends who’d been so far ahead at the beginning!
That was it, all the motivation I needed to put a solid effort in for the last 25 km and try to keep them both behind me! This section is cool, following the coast at sea level, passing huge ancient Pohutukawa trees and little campsites. It’s also basically flat and you can see where you’re headed. The head wind did not help much at this point mind you but the sugary sports drink in my bottle did!
Gravel turned to tar sealed and I knew I was almost there. Too focused to even look back to see if they were catching me. I pushed as hard as I could, legs burning, up the last hill and I was thankful for the fast downhill to the finish line. My other half was at the road-side ready with a high five to celebrate finishing and beating the other two!!
Colville Connection Overview
The Colville Connection start and finish is at the local school, with money from the food and drinks sold going to support it. It has a real community feel and it such a fantastic race, I couldn’t recommend it enough!
My time 4hrs 42mins, 5th out of 12 women. Not the best, but great for me and personally that’s the most important thing about doing these races. I should mention for my friends reputations, this is a very unusual result us! I doubt they’ll let it happen again…… so I’m going have to train extra hard for the next one!!!