Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge,New Zealand

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 (, 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 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.


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.

SD Team.


Santos Tour Down Under 2016

Few weeks ago I was contacted by the Editor of "The Lead South Australia" in reference the TDU 2016. Jim, asked me if I wanted the daily coverage of the event so I could share with all SaddleDrunkers worldwide and with great joy I certainly accepted.

Therefore please find the TUD overview story from James Raison.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that. Not just in this race, but in any race.”

These were the breathless words from Australian sprinter-turned-broadcaster Robbie McEwan just seconds after the Stage 5 Willunga Hill battle between Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte ended in Rohan winning the 2015 Tour Down Under by two seconds. The fans, crammed more than seven-deep along the roadside, couldn’t believe it either. They had just witnessed two of the world’s top cyclists battle with everything they had. A week of cycling, decided by two seconds. This moment will go down in cycling folklore. Such a spectacle could only have been dreamed of when the event began.

The Tour Down Under has enjoyed staggering growth in popularity and status since its first edition in 1999. Now, 18 years later, is affectionately called “The TDU” and is South Australia’s biggest sporting event, drawing crowds of 786,000 in 2015. How did this phenomenal growth happen? It just needed a winning formula.

Mike Turtur, the Tour Down Under Race Director, was the man who thought up that formula. The 1984 Team Pursuit Olympic Gold Medalist proposed a race made up of six days of up to 150km, always returning to the Hilton Hotel in Adelaide’s CBD. The teams would sleep every night in the same hotel, and all of their bikes and equipment would be housed just across the road in the temporary Tour Village that springs up every Australian summer in the town square of the very European city.

That local focus proved to be a hit with not just the fans but, more importantly, also the riders.

 The growth has even surprised Race Director Turtur, who says the crowds have been exceptional the last five years in particular.

This popularity is partly due to the race becoming the inaugural event of the UCI World Ranking calendar in 2009. The higher status of the race has attracted the higher caliber riders. This year is no different. The field includes multiple national champions, grand tour winners, and Rio Olympic Games medal hopefuls.

But the burgeoning cycling culture in South Australia has also played a role in the success of the event.The event and the cycling culture have grown together, both feeding each other.

Adelaide is an ideal place to host a bike race because it is an ideal place to ride a bike. The city is surrounded by hills within 10km to the east, all the way around to the south. The spectacular metropolitan beaches are just 8km to the west. Significant investment in bike infrastructure, and recently passed laws to protect and encourage cycling, are all working to make South Australia a bike friendly state. The city is flat, the weather is warm, and the coffee is exceptional.

 “The indicators are quite clear that we are going to match what we’ve had previously,” Turtur states.

A host of new and bigger events support his confidence.

“There’s a whole week of entertainment with all of the additional street parties, the Tour Village, concerts, the team presentation, women’s tour coming on this year… The race has been complimented with a lot of other activities which make it a complete package for fans,” he says.


The success of the event is driven by how easy and accessible it is to the fans. The Tour Village gives them a chance to rub shoulders with their heroes, geek out at the 10-day bike expo, and watch the pre-event criterium and Stage 6 without even leaving the CBD.

Lucky fans are treated to spotting the pros doing their training and recon rides before the race and more spritely cyclists may even get to suck a wheel up a climb.

Fans don’t have to travel far to enjoy the festival of cycling either.

Turtur says “all of the starts on this year’s race [are] hosting street parties.”

There is only one stage that begins more than 5km from the CBD, in the famous McLaren Vale Wine region – but even then most of the pros cycle down and back from the race.

Race routes are designed with fan engagement in mind as well. Four of the stages feature laps around a set course so fans can see the race multiple times. Turtur is expecting “a massive crowd” for the Stage 2 finish in Stirling, just 16km outside the city in the Adelaide Hills. Crowds will be treated to a five-lap circuit before the exciting sprint finish up a hill into the picturesque town of Stirling.

Thousands of amateur riders can take part in the BUPA Challenge Tour, riding the Friday stage a few hours before the pros do. Last year saw 6,028 riders take on the 151km challenge from Glenelg to Mt Barker. There are also multiple start points so riders of all abilities can get involved.


Sky’s Welsh superstar Geraint Thomas says he loves making the trip Down Under because of the simplicity of the race.

“It’s the one hotel, everything’s within half an hour,” he says. “I think it’s the seventh time I’ve been here now.”

Thomas, and other members of the Sky team, enjoy the South Australian summer so much they come well ahead of their international counterparts. On the eve of the race, Thomas has already “been here for just over two weeks now.”

His big season ambitions are still the European Grand Tours, be he feels the Tour Down Under is “a great way to start the year. It’s got stages for sprinters and it’s got some tougher days [for the climbers].”

Quality riders like Geraint Thomas make Race Director Mike Turtur “extremely happy with the start list”.

“If organisers throughout the world had our start list, I think they’d be pretty happy,” Turtur says, flanked by defending champion Rohan Dennis, Geraint Thomas and Australia’s sprint sensation Caleb Ewan at the preliminary news conference.

Ewan has been overwhelmed with the crowd response to the race.

“The crowds here are unbelievable. It’s just like racing in Europe but you have more supporters,” he says.

His Australian Orica GreenEdge team is a local crowd favourite.

“Everyone knows you here and being in GreenEdge we have most of our supporters here so it’s a pretty exciting place to come to,” Ewan says.


The Tour Down Under party kicked off with the Santos Women’s Tour on Saturday (16 January) with Katrin Garfoot of Orica GreenEdge taking out the first 95km road stage and local girl Annette Edmonson claiming victory in the first of two criteriums. The men then lined up in the People’s Choice Classic criterium on Sunday evening (17 Jan), with Caleb Ewan of taking out the honours.

Corkscrew Road

Corkscrew Road

The actual race runs from Stage 1 on Tuesday (19 January) to the city street circuit on Sunday (24 January). The riders face a balanced parcours. The overall winner will be a climber, but there are plenty of opportunities for sprinters and breakaway specialists to snatch some glory.

Stage 3 will be key, with the GC men battling it out on local icon Corkscrew Road. The queen Stage 5, ending on Willunga Hill, will decide the overall winner. There are time bonuses at the end of each stage and for intermediate sprints on the course. The race is usually decided by seconds so expect aggression from all of the contenders.

The men to watch are Australian trio of defending champ Rohan Dennis, last year’s runner-up Richie Porte, and three-time winner Simon Gerrans.

International riders looking to spoil their party are Sky’s Geraint Thomas, former 3rd place runner-up Diego Ulissi, and previous winner Luis Leon Sanchez.

More / Quick Facts / Box Out:

ADELAIDE                                                                                                                                       South Australia has seen an explosion in cycling culture driven by the Tour Down Under.

The flat, sunny city of Adelaide is perfectly suited for cycling. Hills surround the city from the north-east all the way around to the south. Golden beaches are just 8km to the west. Road warriors can get their fix of tough climbs and flying flats all within view of the city skyline.

Dirt enthusiast are treated to dedicated mountain bike trails through the eastern and southern hills. They can test their suspension travel on several downhill tracks, including the local favourite Eagle Mountain Bike Park. Gravel grinders are spoilt by hundreds of kilometres of unsealed back-roads to get a healthy coating of dust before stopping at a winery, or country café.

Looking for a more sedate pace? Dedicated bike paths snake their way all over the City of Adelaide, right next to the suburban beaches, along the River Torrens, and all through the nearby country towns.


Café culture has grown alongside cycling, and two-wheeled enthusiasts are overwhelmed with choice of eateries to re-fuel. Need caffeine fix? Rundle Street in the city’s east-end can help. Café strips of Prospect Road to the north, Norwood Parade in the east, and King William Road to the South can all satisfy your craving within 5km of the city. Head to Glenelg in the west if you want a latte with the sand between your toes.

Best cafes for cyclists:

·      Pavé café, Norwood Parade. Fill your stomach before emptying your wallet at Trak Cycles next door. 

·      Red Berry Espresso, Glenside. When you see retro podium caps decorating the walls, you know you’re home. 

·      Velo Precinct, Victoria Park. Hang up your bike and grab some grub at ex-pro Stuart O’Grady’s café. Check out his bikes hanging on the walls. 

·      CIBO King William Road. Hang up your bike and enjoy SA’s favourite local coffee franchise.

The tour/past winners

Predicting winners is always headache, with the race usually decided by seconds. Stage victories, and even intermediate sprint bonuses, can decide the victors. Overall honours have gone to every type of rider:

·      sprinters (Andre Greipel)

·      Classics strong-men (Stuart O’Grady)

·      time-trialing climbers (Luis Leon Sanchez, Michael Rogers, Rohan Dennis),

·      all-rounders (Simon Gerrans)opportunistic young-guns (Cameron Meyer, Tom-Jelte Slagter).

By the numbers

·      781.3km of racing distance. 832.3km including the People’s Choice Classic

·      62, the number of metropolitan and regional towns the race runs through

·      786,000: the number of spectators who watched the 2015 race.

·      18 teams compete in the race

·      140 riders in the peloton

·      6,028. The number of amateurs riding in the 2015 BUPA Challenge Tour ride following the official 151km race route from Glenelg to Mt Barker. 

Thank you JAMES & JIM for the story.



The World Famous Stage 4 of the Granfondo China.

Last week everyone in the world was admiring and talking about the crash that happened at the finish line in Dali right next to the Olympic Stadium.

Road.CC was the one advertising in the western world, unfortunately they have reported what they picked up from local medias in China & Riders that were not there,and even worst then ever made no contacts to the Organising Team.Quite unprofessional I would say. 

I was there,and this happened few hundreds yards before my crossing on the line.Therefore, it would be unfair for me to explain this and also because I feel a quite passionate about the accident.

Therefore an anonymous rider that was in the pack writes to us to understand.

There appears to be gross misinformation and interpretation going rampant on global social media about what happened at the Yunnan Gran Fondo Day four spectacular crash. This is a comment in the attempt to shed light on what actually happened in China and for the record, it could happen to any organiser in the world.  Something similar had happened in Texas racing in the past where the lead group and chase group go separate ways on the race course, although not on the same scale in Dali. First, lets correct some facts. There were allegations that the lead car went the wrong way and that the organiser, Nordic Ways, deny fault. Both are un-true and come from people interviewed that were not even at the race. It seems that most of the Western media, including just copies the story released by China Press Agency Xinhua without verifying any of the facts including misquoting the name of the event. The statement that 17 cyclists were hospitalised as a result of that crash is also incorrect. There were many crashes, as is normal in bike racing, during the high speed stage and those riders went to the hospital. It is quite common for riders in China to be taken to the hospital as a precaution.  

Where is the investigative journalism in the sport of cycling?  Are journalists in the sport just seeking sensationalism without checking facts?  It was unfortunate that the local Chinese media based their reports on testimonies provided by people who had not even witnessed the crash accident and never bothered to verify claims with the race director or relevant people in the organisation.  This has led to Western media picking this up and re-publishing; thus creating the social media storm we are witnessing now. 

There was no doubt that the local organisation made a mistake with the final corner that led the lead group riders to take the wrong side of the road.  It was also announced immediately after the crash that damages of any kind would be compensated. This shows that Nordic Ways was taking responsibility for the incident, so the claim that the organisers refused to take the blame is ludicrous. It should also be remembered that a number of riders from the lead group said afterwards “as a rider you also need to keep using your head”.

As it happens, I was part of the lead group contesting the stage and now will offer my view on what happened in those last few moments of the 125km stage around the ErHai Lake of Dali. 

Firstly, this type of crash with riders from opposing directions hitting each other like Spartacus on bikes is perhaps a one-of-a-kind. As far as I know this type of crash had never happened before in the history of cycling and, statistically speaking, it is highly unlikely it will never happen again. It also could happen to any organiser and not just because it is in China. There seems to be an undercurrent of borderline racist comments happening on social media channels without any basis. These are people who have never before raced in China, perhaps never even been to China on a visit.  China does actually put on fantastic events and they are run with a high safety record. If you have raced in other countries like Philippines or other South East Asian places, you will understand how chaotic it can be. 

Think about it for a second, a peloton sprinting in full flight in the wrong direction to the finish-line and colliding with a second group of racers sprinting in the correct direction, makes for potentially a nasty fatal crash. Fortunately, all riders made it through relatively unscathed despite nearly 20 riders hitting the deck crashing into riders head on.  The final corner in question should have been marked and marshalled by local police officials. It transpired that the two assigned workers for the left-hand corner that led to the finishing straight, approx 800m before the finish-line, bungled the corner. They did not follow instructions given to them and they closed off the corner on the outside with tape instead of the inside. The workers had also placed bright orange cones but spaced too far apart, thus in the heat of the action the lead group followed the first rider and thats how the large group went down the wrong side of the road. Further confusing riders was the red banner on the right side of the road next to the correct banner.

I truly don’t know what was going on in their minds when the decision was made to do the U-turn and sprint again when it was crystal clear that the riders went down the wrong finishing chute?

Perhaps it was desperation for a result and thus prize money that is on offer?  What happened was truly the worst possible way to crash. There was a small group of five riders contesting the sprint amongst themselves (they had been gapped off the front group due to the crash with 4km to go). The rider in red buried himself and did not look up during his final 150m sprint. When he did look up, it was too late; he had smashed into the first rider also sprinting to the finish-line. It was miraculous that all riders came out of the crash with minor injuries; the damage was restricted to one broken collar-bone and one broken finger plus plenty of bruises. 

If there was no prize money on offer, would the riders still be so desperate to sprint in the wrong direction to win a bike race?

Back to the final corner blunder. In hind-sight, which is always 20-20, if riders themselves took on responsibility by scouting out the last 1km of the course, it may have prevented the events that happened as all would know to take the left side of the road after the corner. But then again, the organisers need to make it water-tight so that it is impossible for riders to take the wrong turn.  

This whole incident shines light on how important it is for protecting rider safety by ensuring water-tight courses. This was an unfortunate incident that transpired but lets not get caught up on the idea that it could only happen in China; it could happen anywhere. 

Racing in China is a unique experience for foreigners and lets not let an event like this prevent you from exploring the racing scene yourself, should you ever have the opportunity.   Nordic Ways has been putting on events in China for more than 10 years and have a solid reputation for putting on iconic events. They are also responsible for popularising the Gran Fondo movement in China. Visit their website for more details -

Thank you