Saturday, 23 October 2010

The 204km Gisborne–Wairoa Loop (GWALoop)

At a distance of 204km, GWALoop is the longest supported single fun ride in New Zealand. The course is very rurally scenic with most of the motorised traffic encountered generated from the event itself via relay teams moving bicycles and supporting the team around the course. 
Ride Data:
Distance: 204km 9954 Calories
Time: 8h31m28s 23.8 km/h (74km/h MAX)
Elevation: Ascent: 2,419m Descent: 2421m
Cadence: Avg: 80 rpm Max: 117 rpm
Ride Data: Garmin Connect / RideWithGPS
Location: Gisborne, NZ 23 October 2010
There are a couple of sizable hills, which are always a challenge for me as “clydesdale” rider. Having now ridden the course, these hills probably were not as big they appeared when studying the elevation profiles in advance of the event. The event rides around the loop in a clockwise direction which is sensible as not only does it mean that the ascents are generally more moderate, and the descents steeper but the the first section on the busier state highway 2 is completed early in the morning before there is any traffic to encounter.

With 204km to cover and three hills in the last quarter of the ride I was surprised at the speed that most left the startline with a cracking pace over 40km/h. I knew I would not have the legs if I kept that up and soon found myself in a group of four riders that were able to rotate and work together. Unfortunately I was dropped after a 50km on the way up the 490m high Wharerata Hill. This meant a lot of solo riding until a relay rider wearing a ‘LOOK Pro team shirt’ caught up to me help me along. We soon caught up with Brent from Toronto. After 107km ‘LOOK’ pulled out to swap with his relay partner and Brent I rode together until about 140km when like most/all? riders in this event Brent proved to be a far better climber than I and I couldn’t stick with him up to Tinorito.

GWALoop Elevation Profile

At Tinorito I stopped briefly to refill my water bottles and ground my way up the 430m high hill. There was some respite from hill climbs for the following 20km with a 230m net descent before the climbing back up to 400m at the Kiteroa Hill. At about 185km there is a rapid descent back down to 85m, although one of the corners needed care due to bouncing over rough seal.

Once at the bottom it was back into the wind that has turned 180 degrees during the day with a further 12km solo slog into the wind. Just after a rubbish truck stalled in front of me I was able to reach the finish line in 8h31m28s, at which point I was pleased to be camping at the Showgrounds Motor Camp with just a few metres to crawl to find my things and get into a hot, clean shower!

There is some debate among riders as to whether the K2, or the GWALoop is the harder ride. I think it comes down to if you are not a strong hill climber K2 will be harder, but if you a good climber but not as strong after a long day in the saddle then the GWALoop may be harder with an extra 20km of road travelled and a lot of coarse chip-seal on the road surface.