The SaddleDrunk Team has not returned to UK after a month Down Under.During our road trip we met copious amount of Cyclists & Triathletes. A particular rider volunteered to be our guest writer and share with the SaddleDrunk Community an event he attended.The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge 2016.
The skies overhead looked threatening as the thousands of riders gathered to take part in the 40th Annual Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. Some rain droplets hit the up-turned riders faces as they were waiting to start in their selected categories for the iconic 160km loop around the spectacular Lake Taupo.
Fortunately, the rains did not come and it was a record-breaking day across all the categories, with the fastest time of 3hrs 39 minutes going to Aaron Gate. The fastest Round The Lake female of the day was Kate Mcilroy who was the first female ever to crack the sub 4hr barrier with just 12 seconds to spare. The 2016 event turned out to be a stunning day, heating up towards the end of the challenge when the sun came out in full force to provide warmth to the elated finishers who spent time mingling around the event village, recounting their epic journey around the Lake and enjoying a picnic style lunch and festivities.
The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is definitely New Zealand’s premier cycling event with fun and serious racing combined, having started way back in 1977 when only 26 riders lined up together to raise funds for the local IHC (ihc.org.nz), supporting people with Intellectual Disabilities. Since then, more than 200,000 people have taken part in this annual fixture that saw 10,000 riders participate in its heyday. After a few challenging years where numbers dipped, the event has always retained its title as New Zealand’s biggest cycling event for the masses. This year almost 7,000 cyclists turned out from across all the categories including the solo and elite groups. The mountain bike event categories that utilises the famous Craters of the Moon MTB Park in Taupo attracted one of the largest group of riders of any event in the country.
2016 saw 23 countries across the globe participate with the majority of international visitors coming from Australia. So, if you are looking for an excuse to visit New Zealand this 2017 year, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is the perfect excuse. You can sign up for this event, spend time in Taupo and then when the event is over, you can check out many other stunning cycling opportunities in the Central North Island; take a look at ridenz.co for a more MTB focused website in the region. It pays to organize well ahead of time, as this amazing event sees the population of Taupo almost double with more than 17,000 spectators and supporters streaming in for one big fun-filled weekend. As part of the experience, the Great Lake Cycle Trail should not be missed. It is highly recommended to plan your New Zealand trip to allow enough time to visit some of NZ’s Great Rides like the Timber Trail, Waikato River Trails and the Mountains to Sea. All of these rides are within easy reach of Taupo and would make your journey to New Zealand a fantastic cycling-centric holiday.
If the fast and furious criterium racing appeals to you, then you can also experience the criterium event which is held on Friday night through the centre of Taupo in front of a good sized crowd with cycling legend Robbie McEwen providing non-stop commentary, for the record Robbie also took part in the160km Round The Lake fun event. If you want to ride in the criterium, you can enter the elite category (provided you have an elite license) and mix it up with the big boys of New Zealand racing. There is an open category also.
ABOUT LAKE TAUPO CYCLE CHALLENGE
The first organised ride around Lake Taupo was in 1977 when local schoolteacher, Walter de Bont gathered 25 others to ride with him to raise funds for what was then the local IHC charity. Walter, who was the event patron sadly passed away in October 2016.
The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is best known for its 160-km Round The Lake ride, a one-lap circumnavigation of Lake Taupo, but this is just one of the 13 categories on offer with short and longer road cycling and mountain bike course options for individuals and groups, catering to all levels of cycling and fitness abilities, including young children who ride the 5km Kids Heart Ride. Because it was the 40th anniversary, it was a blast from the past as retro clad cyclists turned up on their retro bikes for pre-event build up the day before the main 160km event. There was plenty of colour about as there were prizes up for grabs for the best 70s costume, best retro bike and first across the line on the criterium circuit which provided ample entertainment for the spectators just before the serious criterium racing begun.
According to Event Organizer Aaron Carter, “The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is a celebration. It’s an incredible, unique opportunity for thousands of like-minded people to spend time together to connect and share what they love, which seems to be getting off the couch and onto their bikes in one of NZ’s truly great regions, Lake Taupo.”
If you are thinking about planning a New Zealand cycling holiday this year, do consider signing up for the 41st edition of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge to be held on Saturday 25 November 2017 and then design the rest of your trip around this amazing New Zealand event. You can jump onto their website to start your planning process, sign up to enter the race this November.
Until next time a big thank you to Daniel to write this amazing article and providing amazing photos.
Have a good week everyone & stay safe on the road.