Thursday, 13 December 2007

2007 Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

Photos coming soon but for now click here.

It didn't seem to take long for the 160km Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge to come around. For those of you in the know, this is the premier recreation road cycling event in New Zealand which all of us "recreational hack" cyclists aspire for the PB each year. Heading into the event for the second time I had no idea I fit I was compared to last year because every training ride seemed to be a struggle into a gale force breeze. As much as tried to actually "train" this year it never quite got there so the jokes are about a slow buildup of commuter cycling with a late surge (on race day) were not all that far off the mark. (Besides I do have a 150m altitude gain up Ngauranga Gorge every night - good hill training?)

The forecast for race day was excellent but the sound of overnight rain disturbed my sleep. Frustrating, as I left for the start complete with spray jacket. Thankfully shortly before the start of the race the rain stopped and the sun came out. Threw my polypro top and my rain jacket to my father who standing on the sidelines of the starting box. All set now. No rain, no extra layers wahoo!! Then that dreadful sound BAANNNGG spiiiiissssssssshhhhhzzz. I looked back and bugger, thats my tyre not someone-elses! Dad found a floor pump at the mechanics tent and I quickly had the tyre and wheel off. First brand new spare tube had a dung valve. On goes my only spare. Hmmm, long ride without a spare so Dad kindly races back to the mechanics tent for some over-priced inner-tubes Back in the start blocks ten seconds to go. Stuff the spare tubes in my saddle bag. Ready to go! Phew made it!

Somehow found myself on the inside of the front row and led out the second bunch for Group 3 for the only cycling moment of glory in my life. I'll need to watch the highlights on Sky TV in a few weeks. For some unknown reason at the crest of the first hill after a whole one kilometre I felt searing pain go down my arms to my fingertips and right through my legs. I was just all set to jump off my bicycle and roll around in the grass and screaming like a baby, however, having only been one kilometre - not exactly kosher! Only 159km to go! The rough and jarry roads that form the first section of the race were slow and painful. Only 25km/h for the first 40km seemed really slooooooow - sub five hours was looking hard from there. The pain finally subsided as I hit a comfortable 45km/h cruising in the middle of huge bunch on a nice smooth straight - certainly being in an event with 10,000 other riders meant huge bunches and not too much time out front taking the wind. The bunches did tend to dissipate at an accellarating rate on the way up each hill as the race progressed - especially the three larger hills in the race - Waihaha (60km, 125m gain), Kurutau (84km, 100m gain) and Hatepe (particularly brutal at 140km with a 150m gain).

Lake Taupo is a rather large pond to cycle around, with the first 100km very much undulating before a long flat 40km section that abruptly terminates at the foot of Hatepe hill. This flat section is about he only time you see much of the lake itself travelling bum up, head down on your bicycle you don't exactly take in the full splendor of the scenery! I was feeling pretty jaded after 100km so was pleased to get in a small bunch to drag me through Tokaanu and onto SH1. I struggled up Hatepe which seems so much bigger after 140km of riding and what seemed an eternity making the last 20km to the finish. I eventually finished within my five hour goal - just at 4:58:36. This seemed to be aided by someone who passed me near the end and well, I wasn't prepared to put up with that no matter how broken I felt. Strong finish to come in 1075th place. Top 1000 next year?