(Don't panic K-Man, this is not about you!)
No, the "k" word refers to that most unpleasant, but inexplicably popular race, the Karapoti Classic.
What is it about this slog through the Akatarawas that gives it it's mystical aura? What makes mountain bikers, both experienced and those a little greener, pay for the priviledge of carrying their bikes up slippery, heinously steep grades, through ankle-deep slop, down rock-infested descents and with barely any singletrack in sight?
In the weeks leading up to the race, the K word is bandied about with sickening regularity in the local MTB scene, with every second patron in the shop adding the K word to every request for a new part or service. "I need a new tyre because I'M DOING KARAPOTI." How much is a service, I need to get my bike READY FOR KARAPOTI." Will these socks be OK to wear at KARAPOTI?" And that's how they say it, with the tone and emphasis on the K word.
It's like some rite of passage for regular people to enter some perceived exclusive sect of mountain biking cultdom.
The fact is, it's a shit day out. But having said that, as I sit here two days after the event, having not raced, but having lots of friends/colleagues/customers who did, I have this strange urge to do it again next year (I rode it in 07).
But why? Well I'll tell ya. It's the three hour club. To get around in that time puts you in a small percentage of riders who have broke the mark over the 22 years the race has been running. And if it wasn't for a flat tyre last year, I wouldn't have to bother going near the god-forsaken place ever again.
While I was at work on Saturday, I was thinking about my workmates Mike and Josh, out there with different goals in mind, but sharing the same piece of earth with differing experiences and ultimately, results. Josh had been psyched up for a big day, with a sub-3 well within reach. Mike just wanted to improve on his 4 hours for last year, with no real expectations of superhuman proportions.
But bike racing has a way of messing up your day, or surprising you pleasantly. Josh had one of those bad days when the body might be working fine, but your head just can't get in the game. I've had them before, and they can f#@k you up for days or weeks afterwards as you replay what could've been. But I'm sure he'll bounce back, in fact he's already talking about doing it singlespeed style next year! As for Mikey, well he had a blinder, finishing in 3.08, almost an hour quicker than last year! Hearing how stoked he was with his ride got me revved up too. Other notable ride amongst my cronies were Carl first in Vets and 17th outright, Ian 2nd in Masters, Karl with a 2.40-something, and Josh's brother Paul with a 2.55. (Oh and the German contingent Jan and Magnus did sub-4's as well, after a few Friday Brews with us.) All awesome rides, all inspiring me to return to utter the K word one more time.