Saturday, 1 November 2008

2008 Kuaotunu 2 (K2): Twisty Hills; Twisted Chain

Summary: Sloooww; broken chain link
Around Lake Taupo seems easy after this one!
Activity Type:Road Biking

Event Type:Race
Total Time:09:18:43
Distance:177.97 km
Elevation Gain/Loss:2,801 m / 2,608 m
Calories:9,033 C

Data from

Correction: There was 18:58 when I bumped the Garmin freeing the chain. My real-time was an even slooooooower 9:37:41 :(

Okay, so that was an absolute disaster. The race I had been so looking forward to and it was essentially over after a mere 8.51km the summit of the Pumpkin Hill, which seemed appropriate for the first hill on the day following Halloween.

Everything started so well. I was comfortably in the middle of a well paced bunch, ascended the first category hill up the 240m Pumpkin Hill without any difficulty. I felt like I was set for a good day. My bike was running beautifully. Awesome.

"If anything could possibly go wrong, it will"

Murphy's Law

At the crest of the hill as I changed the gears for the downhill the chain jammed. After easing my way out of the way of the bunch, I had the chain in two loops and needed to remove the back wheel to free it. There went the bunch.

"Murphy was an optimist"

O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy's Law

I was soon on my way again, only to have the chain bouncing everywhere. I'm sure the gears were in tune before the race and even at the start I thought to myself. After stopping once again, I noted the twisted chainlink.

It seemed a long way to come to pull out after a mere 8.5km, so I perservered to personally assess the magnitude of the famed hills of this course. Perhaps I can find a friendly bicycle mechanic on the way I promised myself. Not to be.

Over the only slightly undulating hills to Whitianga I went, up and over the Kuaotuna Hill (170m), not so bad I thought. Yikes bad looking crash there I thought as the Police waved me past what looked like a multiple cycle pile up and a truck. Then it was over Myundermans Hill (145m) and a few more undulations before the famed Whangapoua Hill. It was starting to seem like I was the only one without a puncture, so at least something was going my way! Did I contradict Flannagans Precept?

"Nothing is that predictable.", interpreted as "You cannot use the inevitability of Murphy's law to avoid its consequences"

Flannagan's Precept.
The Hors Categorie Whangapoua Hill sure felt like a climb, and I have to confess to stopping for a breather and a banana on the why up. With an gradient of 18% I could see why one of the corners in the upper reaches of this hill was signposted Cadiac Corner for the event.

"Hors catégorie is a French term used in cycle races (most notably, the Tour de France) to designate a climb that is "beyond categorization", an incredibly tough climb. Most climbs in cycling are designated from Category 1 (hardest) to Category 4 (easiest), based on both steepness and length. A climb that is harder than Category 1 is designated as hors catégorie. The term was originally used for those mountain roads where cars were not expected to be able to pass."


It was a particularly twisty descent with corners marked for cars with 25km/h signposts demanding respect. The most caution is probably required at a double left-hand bend, that has two sharp corners in a row, of which the second and unseen bend certainly had a nasty kick to it. Thankfully this was well marshalled with a the marshals reminding the descending cyclists to slow down.

I stocked up on Banana's at the transition in Coromandel and over the Manaia hill (181m) and then Kerata, which was not steep but a 228m climb that seemed to last forever!. From there it was a wind blown, flat coastal ride. This was the point at which I was really missing the use of all of my gears. A friendly small bunch invited me to jump on. This was great, but ultimately brief - without the use the small sprockets in my cassette, which cause the chain to jump and derail I could not hold for long.

After a toilet stop along the way I soon found my way through Thames and on my way up the long and arduous 425m Kopu-Hikuai Hill. I thanked Newton's Law of Gravitation and freewheeled at breathtaking speed on a straightish descent with only a few shallow corners before being caught behind some traffic.

During the last 20km or so, I was able to spend a bit of time talking to my fellow back markers in the race which was nice. I sure had been cycling a long way by myself!

I finally made the finishing line in about 9h18m, as the timing equipment was packed up. A pretty disappointing time but I have now done my "requie" of the course and hope to be back next year and about two hours quicker.

Overall, this was probably the best organised and most well marshalled race I have participated in.

Then as if to rub salt into my wounds, I open my e-mail up on Monday morning to a newsletter from the organisers of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.

The most important thing is to check your chain for wear and replace it before it's too stretched.

Yep, I learned that one the hard way!

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