Charging up Kokee

KOKEE — Carl Nethercutt of Honolulu recorded the fastest time in the eighth annual Pedal to the Meadow bicycle hill climb race on Kauai’s Westside.

“I was pretty surprised as to how quickly it started in the beginning,” Nethercutt said. “I put in a few (tactics) about 30 minutes in, and didn’t really get a response from people. So, I kind of just rode solo by myself until the end.”

Nethercutt topped the field of 92 bikers Saturday morning with a time of 1 hour, 7 minutes and 14 seconds.

“First place was definitely my goal. I’ve been doing well in my training. I’ve already won the Tantalus Time Trial, so this was another goal I wanted to do for myself,” he said. “The course is just absolutely beautiful — the roads are nice, and the scenery was amazing. It really kept me motivated to continue to ride hard.”

In Saturday’s hill climb, racers started in Kekaha and pedaled their way up Kokee Road all the way to Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow nearby the Kokee Lodge.

The course was 15.75 miles long, and racers reached an elevation of 3,835 feet.

“I think it went very well,” said Binney Williamson, race director. “People had a good time. We had a really nice turnout. It’s probably our highest. And the sponsors really stepped up. … And of course, the weather cooperated.”

Wailua Homesteads native and three-time race-winner Rick Beach was second overall with a time of 1 hour, 7 minutes and 38 seconds.

“It was early on. He just went really hard, put in a hard surge. I tried to slowly bring him back, and it never really happened,” Beach said of trailing behind Nethercutt.

He added: “Basically, (it went) as well as expected. I don’t know. I’ve just been having more fun than really training hard this year. So, yeah.”

Nikki Moreno of Waikiki was the best racer among the women with a time of 1 hour, 24 minutes and 22 seconds.

“It was a great race. The weather was perfect, and I had a lot of really great competition,” Moreno said. “Luckily, I stuck to a plan that I had going into the race — to keep a certain power, and I was able to hold that because of the conditions that were out here. I’ve done this race a number of times before, but today’s conditions were just perfect.”

The annual event is sanctioned by USA Cycling, and was hosted by clubs Bicycle Racing Kauai and Tradewind Cycling Team.

“USA Cycling is the governing body for professional and amateur, I believe. This is an amateur race,” said Mary Williamson, director of operations. “In the early years, we had a visiting guy who was semi-pro, and he is now pro. He’s the record- holder: Mark Galedo from the Philippines. His record still stands.”

Historic site

The starting line was on the intersection of Kokee Road and the old cane haul road, which was the location of Kauai’s first traffic light.

For Binney Williamson, the location is also significant because of family history.

“My great-grandfather worked for Kekaha Sugar. I guess somewhat, sugar is in my blood,” he said. “That cane haul road crossing, at one time, had the only traffic light on the island. I remember that as a kid. … My sister and I drove by the old mill. Our family spent a lot of time in that mill.”

State track and field record-holder leads juniors

Kaeo Kruse, 19, of Kalaheo led the juniors division with a time of 1 hour, 34 minutes and 13 seconds.

Kruse, a Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama alumnus, is a Hawaii High School Athletic Association state track and field record holder and a two-time cross country champion.

“I felt good. I just rode with my mom most of the time,” Kruse said, for whom this was his third race. “The first time I did it, it was really stormy. I thought that was fun. The second one was really hot. This year, I felt like conditions were really nice.”

Clear skies just in time

Weather was a concern Saturday morning as rain had poured the night before.

Luckily for the participants, there were no issues during the race.

“Some years, we’ve even done this in a thunderstorm,” Mary Williamson said. “It’s whatever Mother Nature is going to bring. She blessed us this year.”

Weekend not yet over

The Williamsons are not finished playing host just yet. The bicycle racing continues today with the Mana Time Trial and the Cycle on the Strip.

“There aren’t really any multi-part races in the state this year,” Mary Williamson said. “We’re really pleased that people are understanding it’s a destination-event now, and we’d love to grow that. We got two more years until our 10th anniversary. We’d love to promote it off-island.”

In the Mana Time Trial, racers pedal 10.8 miles, beginning at MacArthur Park in Kekaha to near the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mana, then back to Kekaha. Racers will be sent out individually in intervals rather than a group start.

The Cycle on the Strip is a criterium race in which bikers pedal several laps around a closed circuit. The race will go for 30 minutes, and the first to cross the finish line without getting lapped will win.

That event will be held at the Kauai Raceway Park in partnership with the Garden Island Racing Association.

Mustache buddies

A pair of bicyclists sporting handlebar mustaches got acquainted after they completed Saturday’s hill climb.

Coincidentally, Pall Gale of Kapahi and Julian Coiner of Wailua — despite both living on Kauai — have never met before.

“People had come up to me on different occasions — at Lava Lava Beach Club, at registrations — like, ‘You just missed your doppelganger. You have a twin,’” Gale said. “I’m like, ‘He better be nice.’ And he really is. … It’s always great to meet people with fun spirits.”

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