Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Lanterne Rouge of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge Maxi Enduro


I recently returned home from my annual pilgrimage to Taupo for the Lake Taupo Challenge. I've Now completed 7 challenges, and 18 Laps of "the pond". This year I entered the four-times round "Maxi Enduro 640km" category, and whilst this is my quickest 600km ride by about an hour and a half, this was no rando ride and I decisively came last out of the seven finishers. With this I can provide a definitive guide on how to claim the Lanterne Rouge in this category:

  • Get really severely crook six weeks beforehand.
  • Roll on the floor crying like a girl while passing kidney stones with five weeks to go. (Trust me, Strava doesn’t know what suffering is)
  • Ride 1200km with mild heatstroke three weeks beforehand.
  • Arrive in Taupo, on the startline overcooked but pedalling on all the same
  • Stop at Burger King Turangi for a snack two or more times during the ride!
Ride Data:
Distance: 328.5km
Time: 34h50m
Elevation gain: 7,625m
Ride Data: Strava / Garmin Connect
Starters / Finishers 15 / 7 (47% finished)
Location: Taupo, Nov 23-24, 2012

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

640km Maxi Enduro 2012

Place Rider Time
1st 9810 Josh Kench 23h50m
2nd 9811 Rich Baty 25h02m
3rd 9805 Paul Lewis 25h55m
4th 9800 Colin-Wal Anderson 26h56m
5th 9801 Steven Berveling 29h29m
6th 9808 Alistair Davidson 30h09m
7th 9804 Craig McGregor 34h50m



The start-line contained many familiar faces with legends Joshua Kench, Colin “WAL” Anderson, Graperide Ultimate Champion Greg Manson, Tim “The Potato Guy” Neal, Andrew Morrison and others. And others with non-riding support from Stu Downs, Lis, Helen and Tarbabies Paul Barnes and Rick & Jo.


Team Potato Guy was represented by Tim, Andrew Morrison and myself. Unfortunately Tim & Andrew were only able to complete two laps each, so we have since claimed to be the first ever 3-person 8-lap Extreme Enduro relay team as we completed the eight laps between us.



Maxi Enduro 2012 Startline



Lap One


Off the start-line I was able to hold Josh’s wheel for at least 3 metres – in the “neutral” zone! I didn’t see Josh again until he lapped me on the way up Waihi Hill on my third lap. The last 50km of the first lap, following the left-hand turn onto SH1 was in reasonably heavy, but friendly traffic with many cyclists arriving for the 160km and relay events beginning the following morning. I also received great support from some of the Onslow Tarbabies on their way, with Mike Faherty & Dave Flynn stopping to wave their Tarbabies jerseys as support flags – thanks guys. I really appreciated the support. I rolled around the first lap in 6h30m which was a half hour outside expectations. I found myself amongst some of the next days one-lap riders out for light spins, enquiring about the Enduro events on the way into, and out of the Caltex Station that acted as the interlap checkpoint. Traffic in Taupo was heavy as I idled my way through town, More concerning however, were the stats coming out of my heart-rate monitor. I knew that I would not able sustain these stats for another three laps, with my heartrate well up on where it should have been relative to the effort. This most likely pointing to a lack of recovery from my previous ride, the 1200km Great Southern Randonnee.



Lap Two


I stopped for a snack at the farmstay 10km into the second lap, which turned out to be well timed as the a heavy rain shower passed over while I was dry inside. In the first half of the lap, Alistair and I rode past each other a few times whilst faffing about eating, or organising lights and/or reflective clothing etc.


With Mt Tongariro letting off some steam earlier in the week, I thought there may have been viewing in the night but the live screening of “Volcano” had apparently been abruptly cancelled.


I had Tim on my wheel as I approached the Turangi checkpoint. Whilst I felt like some solid food, as good as the Hammer is, I need to chew and popped inside for a late night burger. A French Patisserie would have been more ideal? Smile with tongue out 


I came back out for my bike to find Tim in the van icing a sore knee but was soon back on his bike. We exchanged places a few times en-route to Taupo, where Tim was unfortunately unable to continue. Two meal stops on a 100-mile lap, may make the 8h50m slightly more respectable. I certainly wasn’t racing and had very much slipped into 1200k generous time-limits cafe-hopping rando mode.


Lap Three


I knew that lap three would be key for me. It would be a lap in the darkness and this is where fending off the sleep wombles becomes critical, especially once the moon goes down. Thankfully, I had good support with Dad tailing me and just before day break I jumped in the car for warmth and a 15 minute snooze before sending him back to the farmstay while the road was open. Alertness did not fully return with the arrival of the sun which has been my usual experience as I struggled to get the legs going after day break. As I made my way through the Kuratau and Waihi hills, Joshua Kench came through and lapped me. It had to happen sooner or later. He was sounding a little disappointed to be outside of record setting pace as we exchanged a few sentences.

"iRONman" Ron Skelton after finishing the Extreme Enduro

I was feeling a bit clammy and exhausted by the time I reached the Turangi Checkpoint, and shockingly returned to Burger King for breakfast, where I was able to swap “nutritional advice” with iRONman Skelton who had just finished first in the Extreme Enduro for the second year in a row. I also briefly saw Paul Rawlinson at this bustling establishment as he grabbed some food to go while supported some 2-lap Enduro riders. I seemed to be riding better with more food in my stomach as I departed BK to get the job done, passing a supportive Stu Downs who was rolling into Turangi on his touring bike. The elite race went through like I was standing still, but I did receive a rousing reception up Hatepe and into Taupo. I suspect none of these people had any idea I still had another lap to go! I was a little surprised to see Andrew Morrison cheering from the grassy slope on the way into Taupo, but he had unfortunately been forced to withdraw after two laps (his blog post here).  Now realising I was the only TPG rider still rolling I was even more determined to finish.




Lap Four


Unfortunately I was too late through to gain the benefit of any of 160km bunches and I ambled through a very hot lap. This was my 18th lap of “the pond”, and the first time I can recall absolutely no wind or movement, nor cloud or rain around the back of the lake. The tar was melting, and the stones from the chipseal sticking to my tyres. On this lap I had pretty much had enough of riding of the rough chipseal that had seemed to have been dropped on wet tar, with no roller applied afterwards. I did not want to see it again! I was struggling to find any pace and appreciated the opportunity for the chance to get an ice-cream in Turangi to help cool down before final 50km to an anti-climatic finish with no timing equipment at either the Caltex checkpoint or the Great Lake Centre finish line.


Job done. I have now earned the full set of Enduro helmet caps. Yellow for the 320km Enduro, Pink for the 640km Maxi-Enduro & Green for the 1280km Extreme Enduro.




Post Ride Thoughts

Riding around the Lake, in clear weather, without a requirement to keep a close eye on a wheel in front, or a bunch around me showed many more points offering great views over the Lake than I had previously noted in single lap 160km events, or enduro’s in more inclement weather.


I find myself more of a randonneur than a racer, which can make these multi-lap events with a much greater focus on performance  a conundrum for me. Should I race them, or should just ride them? Should I try force myself to save time by staying on the liquid on-bike fuels the whole way? Could “racing” them make me a stronger randonneur?


Could I train myself fit enough and light enough to “race” such events? I’m not sure, but I do feel like I have some unfinished business and am likely to give the Maxi Enduro another crack next year, with an aim of breaking 30 hours. This will require quite a different lead-in to the event to this year.



Thanks to

  • Keith Crate & Lynley for volunteering your time to running the Enduro events.
  • Mum, Dad & Jamie for supporting me on the course, even if I was occasionally grumpy
  • Stu, Matt Oliver and anyone else whose photos I ripped off Facebook :)
  • The other riders that help create the event
  • All those mentioned above that provided moral support
  • “David” who gave me a wheel to follow into the Caltex checkpoint on lap one.
  • Random strangers passing me food on laps three & four

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Surviving the Great Southern Randonnee 1200

This ride seemed to throw everything at me. From extreme heat to southerly wind and rain; illness & mechanical concerns.


To be fair, I didn't get much training in over winter. Actually, it may be more honest to say that I did not get any training in over winter. The weather was pretty awful, I had a short bout of illness. That said, following three road 1200's and a dirt 1100km event in eight months, I was overdue for some time off the bike. However I did get a small weather opening to get some hill training in :).

As you can see, from the snow and ice in shot, it was perfect weather conditions to acclimatise to riding in Australia in early summer, or perhaps it wasn't :>. That said, Mt Ruapehu has been warming up somewhat since then. (See: Mt Ruapehu could blow at any time).

I did get a pair of back to back 200's in shortly before departing for Australia. Whilst the wind served well for strength training, the rain on the 200 home may have been the instigator for mechanical issues experienced 900km later.

I’ve digressed, time to talk about the ride. The briefing mentioned being ware of kangaroos, wombats, and magpies with these black and white birds described as dressed up as New Zealanders. Fair cop. Obviously no need to mention wallabies, they have proven afterall, that they are clearly no threat. (Although the locals seem to be claiming a recent draw between the All Blacks and the Wallabies like a victory).


Ride Data:
Distance: 1,206km
Time: 89h00m
Elevation gain: 7,625m
Ride Data: Strava / Garmin Connect
Location: South-West Victoria,
Oct 29-Nov 2, 2012
With the ride beginning from Anglesea at 6pm on  clear and calm night, for the initial Bellerine Peninsula loop. This first 200km began in the early evening and featured sunset followed by a still moonlit night, of which was most beautiful at the point when the moonlight was being reflected off the water over Port Phillip Bay.

Aided by good conditions and an early bunch, and a short time sucking Hamish’s wheel until I was dropped swapping my water bottles from my back pocket. Ooops, a little trickier to do in motion from under a reflective gilet. 197km & 3 controls (plus a secret control) down and a meal break in 8.5 hours, and I was well ahead of my planned schedule, a quick snack and I feeling great and ready to rock on!!!

Some may like it hot, but I sure don't!

I was still making good time to arrive at Apollo Bay (271km) before 7:30am, with a mere further 213km planned for the day, I was on schedule to arrive at Port Fairy (483km) at about sunset (8pm-ish) as planned. Unfortunately, it was a bit uphill & downhill for me all at the same time me as the morning became day and I started coming to a grinding halt unable to keep myself cool. In New Zealand I would have dunked my head in a stream to cool off, but here is Australia ‘t'is a dry and barren land with no such options available. I found the Lavers Hill climb to be arduous. On the one hand, this was a mere "Australian Mountain" and not much more than a false flat by home standards, but with the sun beating down, a lack of shade and the temperature at 32degC and rising, the energy was being sapped from me turning this into an epic climb. I consumed my three water bottles consumed in a mere 31km, and once I reached the top, there was a fairly hefty margin applied by the proprietors of the store on top of the hill. AUD$21 certainly doesn't go far there!

Following the joy of the descending, the ride through to Port Campbell (367km) was scenic, but featured as little shade as possible, with views of the ocean to taunt me by never quite close enough to offer the chance to jump in for a swim. The temperature continued to soar, with my Garmin fenix watch peaking at 37 degC. I can assure the last and warm mouthful of water in a bottle is neither thirst quenching, nor refreshing.

An ice bath would have been great at the Port Campbell control but I settled for beans on toast followed by some COLD ice cream. After spending an hour so at the control, gaining some respite from the sun I headed back out bound for Hopkins Falls and Port Fairy. I was soon struggling in the heat and pausing for rest whenever a shaded opportunity presented itself. The time advantage built previous evening all but evaporated as I arrived for for a quick break for soup at Hopkins Falls (435km) on dusk. I started experiencing cramps at this control but pushed on for Port Fairy. Riding late into the evening, without the temperature seeming to get much any cooler, eventually arriving at Port Fairy (483km; 11:25pm) struggling with the heat and unable to eat and promptly collapsed into a heap obviously the floor in the corner, hoping to feel better after I woke up. The offer of a comfortable bed being a few too metres away for me at the time lol.

90 minutes later I woke with simultaneous cramps in right calf; left quad; right foot & left hand! I felt rested and awake but also like I was being slowly roasted. Still feeling hot and flustered I was struggling to eat and get food down, and could barely drink a cup of tea! I was incredibly uncertain of my capability to complete the ride. In fact I was almost certain I would be recording a rare DNF at this point. Peter McCallum was quite big on telling me to HTFU (refer rule #5) at this point and advised me it hadn’t been hot at all of course, hails from North Queensland. I must invite over for some winter rides, perhaps in the deep south? A big thanks to the vollies at Port Fairy who helped me get back on the road.

Randonneuring is all about the finishing and not racing, or lowest net time. It is crucial to never redraw until it really is absolutely impossible to complete the event. I made some calculations of latest time I could leave for the next checkpoint at Macarthur and keep within the time limit. It came down to, if I could keep scrambled eggs on toast down I would continue. With this successfully I achieved  Phew, not feeling great but I was still rotating. Julian and I set off for Macarthur together.

20121031_141408Arriving at Macarthur (532km) right on the close off time, I had soup for sustenance and headed onward for the well setup Dunkeld (600km) control where I was able to move on soup and consume a solid baked spud before heading up and through the Grampians with Mick. We tried to ride together but had different strengths so as the it briefly warmed on a sun exposed clibn and I soon found myself riding alone again climbing, at least until reaching a temporary road closure for a quick snooze during a 46 minute wait before charging with springs in my legs for Halls Gap (665km). I appeciated both the scenery and increased shade that this hillier, and more forested section of the ride presented.

A brief snack at Halls Gap before heading out for the return trip to Moyston (697km). This section seemed to drag on for a mere 31km, but after getting my card signed and turning around with a tailwind, I could understand why. This provided a nice quick return back to Halls Gap (729km).

Leaving Halls Gap, just before dusk left a chunk of night riding back to Dunkeld (794km) and featured a certain amount off kangaroo slalom as I made my way through the Grampians to Dunkeld, during which the wind turned and the temperature finally began to cool  down. At Dunkeld I enjoyed another spud and a two hour sleep during much of the rain before heading back to Macarthur (863km). With the wind now a south-westerly with showers in the air, I was more-or-less riding home conditions now. With the weather bringing my body temp down, I was feeling much better and felt like I had powered down to Macarthur and onto Port Fairy (911km) regardless of the strong head and cross winds. Some of the other riders told me later that they thought they were going bit be blown over, but blowing at 50km/h – surely a mere gentle breeze?

I was pleased to arrive in Port Fairy (911km) in better health for many reasons. Perhaps one of the more important was that this time I would be able to the apple crumble that I unable my previous time through this control.

A pain in the ball bearings

On the ride back to Hopkins Falls (960km) I began to feel some movement in my cranks for the first time, and by the time I reached Port Campbell (1028km) it was becoming excessive. While I ate dinner, some of the helpful volunteers took a look and soon had the very worn ball bearings living in a grease bath that would hopefully survive the remaining 200k. All the grease had been washed out in by rain some time earlier, so the bearings wore themselves out.

I don’t usually ride the Madone  in the rain unless it is during a 1200, so with no play before I started it was disappointing to encounter this issue in the middle of such a long ride. I did get drenched at home the weekend before departing for Australia, so that may not have helped.
I have subsequently discovered that Trek uses a proprietary flavour of bearings in the Madone, that can only be ordered from Trek. A Madone BB90 is not like other BB90's. Non-standard components are not exactly ideal for long distance cycling. My LBS suggested riding with them so worn was not a good idea because with this design (no press-fit bearings and no sleeve) as it could lead frame damage.

The return trip over Lavers Hill in the dark seemed to take an age, conscious of the bearings and crank movement I took it easy and battled a fare amount of tiredness too. I rode some of the section through to Hordern Vale (1102km) with Sarah & Bec (see Sarah’s GSR Video). The climb up to the Hordern Vale control sort of reminded me of the uphill arrivial at the controls on PBP last year.

Bringing it home

I was able to get a couple of hours sleep, once again at the same time as heavy rain before leaving on rain break for the descent to Apollo Bay and a coffee to warm up before the final push back to Anglesea (1200km).

By the finish I was having reasonable difficulty changing the front derailleur due to extensive crank movement, so spent most of it pushing the big-ring (refer rule #90). It felt a strong finish in my legs, but likely only in the context of already have 1100km in the legs.

I was pleased to finish, following an over-time-limit on the Kiwi Hunt, and after it wasn't looking good at Port Fairy, after riding in the heat on day one. To top things off, the Town Crier arrived at the post-ride barbeque and welcomed all the international riders (including those from New Zealand even). We were presented with Aussie flags and kangaroo pins.

Completion of 1200’s continues to leave me with a feeling of accomplishment, and I’d like to think I have more many more 1200’s in me yet! With 1200 routes selected proudly by local organisers to show off there part of the world, they present an excellent way to get out and see the world. I felt well looked after on the GSR, and think I will be back again when it is next schedules in 2016.

Apparently I was not the only person to suffer from the heat. About a quarter of the 1200km field, and 10 of the 12 1000km riders were unable to continue. I hope you all find conditions more in your favour for your next rides.

And a huge thanks to ride organiser Stephen Rowlands and the army of vollies that organised the ride, kept us fed, watered and rotating for 1200km.  (sorry I can’t recall all of your names right now. And a special thanks to Dave for transport to and from Melbourne.

Also see:

I didn’t take many photos on this ride, but you can enjoy more multimedia from the ride visit the links below.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

! Reflecting on Gilets

All cats are black cats after midnight
I frequently ride long after sundown, whether it is due to cycle commuting, or long-distance cycling events such as randonneuring. On my most recent ride, I managed to destroy the zip and noted high-usage wear and tear including random unstitching from the only gilet (vest) that I have ever owned that I believe to be suitably visible at night.

I looked both at my LBS and many online stores and it is quite apparent that commercially available gilets, including flurorescent coloured ones are simply not suited for riding in the dark. The bright colours are helpful in low-light conditions e.g. rain, but are of no use after sunset due to a distinct lack of reflective material. In fact, I would say that there is typically only between no and a barely subliminal quantity of reflective material on such garments. I can understand limiting reflective material to thin strips of piping etc for aesthetics on day time gilets that are not fluorescent in colour. However, for fluorescent gilets, it seems insane to stop short of a garment that would otherwise provide greatly increased visibility, from a distance in night-time conditions.

I personally do not regard fluorescent without reflectives as “hi-viz” because after dark and travelling on the road, it is the reflectives that make the difference, not the colour.

Whilst a little heaver due to heavier polyester fabric, as well as the reflective strips, the reflective garment I purchased with my Paris-Brest-Paris entry is simply the only suitable after dark gilet I have ever owned.  Note the volume of reflective strips – similar to a road safety vest, but more windproof and an open sleeve to access the rear pockets of the underlying cycling jersey.

After dark, it looked something like this. Note how brightly the reflective strips show compared with the fluorescent yellow and event the battery powered tail-lights.

Red tail lights and reflective vests spread across western France

In comparison, here is a gilet I received with entry to the Lake Taupo Exteme Enduro last year. This is not to be critical of this event, or this in particular garment. This is typically what is available “off-the-shelf”, as well as for custom event runs. This gilet is made of a lightweight nylon, has a rear pocket – excellent features. Unfortunately, the only reflective is a thin section of piping down either side of the rear of the garment.


I have subsequently send my PBP gilet for repair (thanks Mum), but if you are riding after dark you are probably best off wearing a road-safety vest like this one (NZD$12.45) (see

As for dedicated cycle-wear, after more and more googling, I did come across two garments that appear to be more relective than those I had previous sited.

The Ontrack Reflect Vest (NZD$59 from Chain Reaction Cycles) appears to come close to being ideal, but for me it is a shame there is no vertically orientated reflective material over the back, and only a very thin section of piping across the shoulders. This seems to be a lot of surface area, that could have been more reflective.

The 2XU lightweight reflective vest which looks more promising for reflective quality, and if you can afford the NZD$170 price tag, I’m sure you can afford to pop one in the post for me too (thanks so much!).

Friday, 2 November 2012

GSR 1200 Summary

The GSR felt like an eventful ride for me, so it may be a while before I have a full post of the ride up.
I struggled after the heat of day one, but managed to keep rotating and roll in, nursing what was left of my bottom bracket bearings in 89 hours - a whole hour to spare.

About 25% of the 1200km field was forced to withdraw, mostly due the heat. The timing of the 1000km start resulted in more heat, and 2/12 finishers. I struggled to keep going from Port Fairy with cramps, high body temp and barely able to eat. Mostly survived on soup until the weather turned and cooled down.

Some memories and thoughts from the ride:
  • Beautiful moonlit night after the 6pm start for the 200k loop around the Bellerine Peninsula, especially when the moon was reflecting off the sea in Port Phillip Bay.
  • Temperature control is impossible at 37degC with little shade and no cold rivers  to dunk your head in.
  • Too many electrolytes equals heart burn; too few electrolytes equals cramp. If thou are really special you can get both on the same day!
  • Keep on pedalling. Carrying on when you are struggling, can yield the benefit of faster riding when you feel better (or in my case when the weather turns bad "home conditions"?) and a successful finish
  • Temporary road closures are a good chance for a power nap
  •  Kangaroo slalom at night.near Halls Gap would have been even more interesting if I had been hallucinating.
  • Starting a 1200 on holiday and under a full moon reduces sleep requirements.
  • The vollies (volunteers) on Audax Victoria rides do a fabulous job looking after the participants.
  • Apple crumble & banana splits :)
  • Bottom bracket bearings can wear out fast during a 1200 if the grease runs dry.