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Cycling: John Howerton wins inaugural Ronde Von Kona

July 7, 2014 - 9:17am

The way John Howerton figured it, he had the overall title in his sights for the final stage of the inaugural Ronde Von Kona race on Sunday.

Holding a 25-second lead over Adam Ankrum, Howerton was one of the last cyclists to leave in the time trial going from the intersection of Lako Street and Queen Kaahumanu Highway. As he rode on Route 11 and Hualalai Road, Howerton could keep his eyes on his competition, as Ankrum had started a minute earlier.

“As long as I could keep him in sight, I figured I would probably get him, if only by a few seconds,” said Howerton, who not only held off Ankrum but had his lead to win the overall title.

Penn Henderson won the final stage. It’s a course he knows well, as he has participated in the Pedal to Paul’s event for the past few years.

Henderson also won the second stage — a mountain climb on Saturday afternoon — but he was unable to participate in the Saturday and Sunday morning stages. Still, Henderson was impressed by the Ronde Von Kona, whose name is a tribute to the Ronde van Vlaanderen or Tour of Flanders race in Belgium.

“It’s great,” Henderson said of the local event. “It’s such a variety of climbs, everything from super short to yesterday’s race up Kaloko that was really a tough race to this afternoon, all out, start to finish.”

Team Mango’s Carl “Gecko” Koomoa organized the event to give Big Island bicyclists a chance to participate in a stage race.

“Unless you’re like a pro level, an elite level, or on a team, you don’t get to play like this,” Koomoa said. “It’s nice. You get to, with a strategy, dose out your energies — do I want to do this or do that? How do I maintain?”

That’s exactly what Kym Kiser, the women’s overall winner, was thinking as she strained through the final stage.

“I was so sore from yesterday’s second stage, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go,” the Kailua-Kona woman said. “This morning was OK. This was hard. Two miles in, I knew ‘this is the last stage; get it done.’ It was grit.”

But she loved every minute of it.

“It was great,” she said of the four-stage race. “It was so fun.”

Kris Kiser, Kym’s husband, won the first stage on Saturday.

Ankrum didn’t win any individual stages, but he did hold the overall lead before Sunday morning’s stage. The Holualoa resident, who said he was using the race to train for the Hilo Triathlon, knew it was going to be difficult to overtake Howerton in the final stage.

“I thought he probably had me, because he does longer training, so that the cumulative fatigue – my legs were going to be behind his and he already had 20 or 30 seconds on me,” Ankrum said. “So I thought the chance of me catching him was almost not going to happen, but I thought it would be fun to give it a try and stay close. He got another 20 seconds on me.”