Sunday, 28 June 2009

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge: Tips

Craig's Taupo Results
2009See you there?

My blog statistics, tell me that from search engine keywords that bring you here, there are lots of you out there looking for training tips for your first-time entering the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. In the spirit of e-democracy, and as I start looking ahead to my fourth ride around the Lake (entries open next week, on July 1st) I thought I remember the things I have learned thus far.


Accommodation can be very hard to come by for this busy event. Plan and book early! Early, usually means before entries open on 1 July.


Yes, do some. Even better, do lots :>

I initially thought of titling this post "Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge:Training Tips", but I have never been a particularly strong trainer. I just ride and tramp lots over winter and then turn up in November :). You may find a lot of very helpful advice for training elements in Amy Taylor's book Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge Guide.

This is definitely area in which I am seeking rapid improvement. I'll be sure to share anything I find particularly effective here.

Equipment and clothing

I read in Amy's book:

"Buy cheap, buy twice"

My own experiences have shown me, not only the truth of this phrase but the increased orders of magnitude that must be applied when considering cycling and tramping equipment. The important thing for both is to realise what your goals and intentions for using the equipment are. You need to make a choice that is fit for that purpose. Go to a cycle shop and get advice. Avoid those Red Shed or Woolies specials.

There is no need to go overboard with your equipment, but you need to make sure what you use is suitable for a riding reliably for a really long way. It needs to be sized and fitted. It needs to be comfortable for a long time in the saddle and it needs to align with what your goals might be for the event.

Train in the same equipment you intend using for your solo challenge. Obtain and and fit it early. For clothing you want to make it doesn't cause chaffing. If you find this out half-way around the Lake its too late! For the bike, you need to make sure it is comfortable, that you are confident at handling it and know where to find the gear you are looking for climbing the hills, or trying not to get dropped by the bunch. Don't forget that there are usually sales to found during the Tour de France - a time when cycling has a high profile and cycle shops are usually trying to move out last years, but still brand new models at that time.


If you don't eat, you lose!

Make sure you get practice drinking and eating while riding. You need to ride 160km over the rolling hills, and food is energy. Unfortunately many people including myself find it difficult to eat while exercising, or riding rapidly around Lake Taupo. Eating in particular can seem unnatural or difficult. I takes some getting used to. When I first started doing endurance cycle rides I found this hard, and sometimes I felt like I was going to hurl it back up after eating. It takes practice. Learn what foods you are able t consume while riding. Open plastic wrappers before the start - hard to do on the move.
As a cyclist, I believe in the banana

I'm also a fan of the humble pie - ask someone-else for nutritional advice.

Bunch riding

Many new to road cycling events have never ridden in a bunch before, and often feel uneasy or apprehensive at thought of it. You will come to love the sheer pleasure of riding in a peloton. The effortless riding in the vacuum, the engineless, swarm like sound of the peloton moving along the road. Truly one of life's delights.

There is a lot of advice around the web for cycling in bunches. e.g. from the event organisers, and your local cycling groups. I strongly recommend entering some fun-rides in your area prior to the event so that you are used to riding in close proximity to other cyclists.
Maintaining friendships in the bunch
  • Ride in straight line
  • Do not use your brakes unnecessarily
  • Don't let a gap open in front of you (this might make people behind you get dropped from the bunch)
  • Take your turn in front - if you struggling to keep up, it could be a short turn
  • Maintain a consistent speed when leading
  • Don't cross wheels - stay behind the person you are following, do not cross wheels. If the bunch is two abreast, you should also be parallel to the person next to you.

  • The ride: 160km Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

    As you can see from my results (top,right) I have found some variability in three times around the lake so far. The ride starts with a lot of climbing. As you will see from the height profile below, aside from the famed Hatepe at 130km, all the climbing is over by 90km mark. The first 50km of climbing determines the fate of whom you will be riding with, and the speed of the bunches for the last 100km. To do a good time it is important to start well! There is an oxymoron between the need to start quick, and the need to not blow out on these early hills with so much riding yet to come. The goal is of course, to finish and finish well, and not to send yourself into cardiac arrest. In general, after waiting in the starting area, your fellow event entrants start quickly and settle down at about the 40km mark. You really want to stay with people riding the same speed as you, so you need to start hard too, but don't over do it. Learning your own limits will present a good challenge.

    The hills ensure that the bunches break up a fair bit on the climbs. You need to keep an eye ahead, and be careful that riders in front of you don't let the bunch you want to be in get away!! It is usually best to try and be in the front third of the bunch so that this does not happen to you.

    In the section from Turangi to the base of the Hatepe hill there is much time to be made if you can be riding in a bunch that is sharing the load. A bunch here (and a little more fitness) saw my 2007 time being a sharp improvement on 2006 and 2008.

    The famed Hatepe will usually split the bunches completely. Its infamy is more related to the 130km you have already ridden, rather than the difficulty that this climb would present in isolation. There are usually plenty of spectators on the hill providing plenty of motivation to keep going.

    I have never found myself in a bunch for the last 20km to the finish in Taupo. Hatepe hill is a great separator and from there it is often riding by yourself, or in sporadic clumps of 2-8 riders. This may well be different for those that are strong enough finish an hour in front of me.


    1. Hey Craig,doing Taupo for first time & haven't driven the route. What hills in Welly do you compare to the hardest ones in the first 90km?
      Cheers Wenz

    2. Good question. If you can ride in Wellington without avoiding hills you will be fine. Bring your earplugs if you are riding uphill alongside our Western Isle cousins - they have never seen a hill before.

      The Akatarawa Hill from the Hutt side was probably a good comparison because it goes up in a few benches with a similar net gain. The solo course is different now though, in that it goes up, down, up then has a series of rollers. Grays Rd, Paekakariki Hill Summit return via the Whitby rollers may be similar. But honestly, with the rides in Wellington, just ride.

      For the one lap solo, very important to practice rapid accelerations and intensity so you can hold a bunch. And practice feeding. For one lap, I'd probably use a liquid diet in my bottles and a litre or so of water in the (admittedly uncool looking) hydro pack. For multiple lap editions, I'd be reaching for something to chew on..

    3. For the past 6 weeks I haven't done much training, such as big endurance rides. Before that I was riding up to four hours on my longest rides. DO you believe I would find Taupo hard if I was to do it in 3 days?

    4. Dear Anon.

      Not much context there. So I would need to make a lot of assumptions. Most of my best ride performances have come after training, and then not riding much in the fortnight before an event. This can happen due deliberate planning, travel, medical or mechanical issues.

      Presuming that you are riding the solo, given the good conditions forecast, and relatively recent long rides in the saddle, I would say that providing you get nutrition and hydration right, you would be unlikely to have any problems finishing. (If you're intending racing it, I wouldn't have enough information to comment).

      In the week before the ride, you would be better off doing shorter 20km rides to wake the muscles up than going on long endurance rides. Even on 300-1200km events, I limit the riding in the last week if not fortnight in the same way/

    5. Thanks Craig...sorry I didn't give you enough info. Was just a bit embarrassed my training wasn't as good for the previous 6 weeks. This is my first time doing it been cycling all year and most of my high school life. I'm 20 years old and looking to complete it - as that's a big enough accomplishment for me!!! Thank for you help!!! You've given me the confidence I can finish it

    6. I did it!!! It took me 8 hours and half but I finished it!!!! Even made it Hatepe Hill without stopping!! =:) a lot more fun than I'd thought!! Definitely going back to do it next year, and this time I won't fade out in my training. Thanks!!

    7. Well done, and congratulations on finishing (presumably) your first 100-mile century.

      ... and you rode it faster than I did for the majority of my laps of the pond this year.

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