8 Brave Souls set out for the Land of the Long White Cloud (which frankly turned out to be grey and leak water regularly) to ride the scenic Lake Taupo Challenge. Expectations were high, a few of us even thought Bosco might finish this one. Off Qantas Flight 416 at Auckland, and into the cheapest banged up rental cars Scotties could find and we were off on our journey to the centre of the earth (if by earth you mean North Island).
New Zealand is a pretty country and after a beautiful drive through the countryside we arrived at our luxurious accomodation, recently listed on Air BnB as an ex-Drug Lords house from the mid 80’s (Think Miami Vice Multi Storey Beach Condo). The view was breathtaking - floor to ceiling glass windows with views straight out over Lake Taupo, with Taupo’s lights twinkling to our right and the undead wandering about on our left. . . . . .yep! They forgot to mention the Indian burial ground next door with a few freshies by the look of the upturned earth. And to make us properly feel at home, the prime position grave at the front was cyclist themed. . . .oh dear!
To be fair, the accomodation was awesome, we could have had double the numbers in there before it started to feel the squeeze, and our biggest issues was trying to figure out which dining area to eat in (3 inside and two out) or which TV to watch, or whether to hit the indoor spa, outdoor heated tub or swimming pool!
OK, back to the cycling - leg stretch day! Unpack the Scicon bags, put together your Giant TCR, head out the door for a short 20k leg stretch before registering for the event tomorrow. Simple, you dont need a map? Or a route? Don’t worry about picking up CO2 canisters you weren’t allowed to carry on the plane, you never flat! Rolling. . . . .I think it’s this way. Turn here, where’s Adam gone. . . .oh, he dropped us all again. Hey, this road looks interesting. Bugger, Gravel!! Lucky that crazy NZ lady said it was just a short section then sealed the whole way. 4k of gravel grinding later and after 4 hand pumped flat tyres and a panicked call for supplies we were rolling again. OK, just down here to Huka Falls (a must if you’re in the area) and gee my legs are getting tired now, how far have ridden. 80k was a bit more of a leg stretch that we anticipated, but it was still fun!
Registration time! The event village is awesome. Registration a breeze, and heaps of cheap cycling goodies to stock up on (Tubes were big buy after our ride!). After a quick dip in a natural thermal spa with a few french ladies (yes this really happened) later that afternoon the Crit races started, from Pro’s all the way down to a Retro crit race. Back in the Playboy Mansion some-one let Lester cook and we were all chowing down on a mountain of pre-race pasta. Except for Lewis and Bosco who decided to eat salted potato’s. Weird man!
Race day dawned, we all yawned and kitted up for what we were hoping would be a dry day in the saddle. Some light drizzle at the start, but it would fine up pretty quickly for a nice day. Our pre-ride tactics of sticking together and enjoying the day lasted about 5 minutes before Adam, Bosco & Lewis got bored, whipped around a group, sat on the front for a minute and then all I heard was “OK, lets go! . . . . . .” and then they were gone up the road not seen again until the coffee shop over the finish line.
The course itself is undulating . . .the first half is tough with rolling hills and a headwind on the day, but pleasingly there were no leg breaking ascents like you get on Fitz’s or in l’tape Australia for anyone doing that this year. Once you get to the 100k mark its all down hill, flats and tailwind on the way back in. You feel like you’re flying. Every-one finished (even Bosco) and finished well. O good days ride. Back to the hot tub for a soak and a few well deserved beer before heading off to the Auckland Airport the next day.
All up - this is definitely a trip worth repeating and you could easily spend many more days seeing and doing a lot more around the area. There is heaps to do, see, eat and drink and some quality accommodation.
Best Sledge - Dayne “I’m sick of seeing the back of your Ridley” . . .Adam “Well you didn’t see it for very long today”
Worst Performance - Qantas for ensuring none of our bike made it on the return flight and damaging a few
Where Am I award - Bosco - Lost in the Supermarket, Lost on the Way there, Lost his bike in the house, Lost coming out of the airport, Almost missed the flight back
Not to be trusted - Dayne and any directions he gives