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


  1. From one of the majority of Maxi Enduro riders who did not finish, "Well bloody done!" And congratulations also on your full set of helmet covers - there can't be many people who have that! Cheers, Andrew

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