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Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge 2018

November generally means one thing…Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge!

This year was extra special because it was going to be our first road trip with our baby Gryffin Looi.  
We packed up the car, baby in the back seat….

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It took a while to get up to Taupo- we had plenty of stops, including the mandatory Ice-Cream stop in Hunterville


and on the desert road

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We arrived in Taupo about 7pm. This year I had the number 2 plate (I had stayed up till midnight to register, but missed out on number 1 again!).  I won a pump as a spot prize.  
I had intended to ride my 36, but haven’t got around to replacing the bearings, so it would be another year on the 29.  The setup was similar to last year- my Triton 29 with Carbon wheel and 89mm cranks.  The main difference would be that I finally get to try out my Mad4One handle saddle.  It’s generally not recommended to use a brand new seat for the first time on a 160km race, but I had a quick ride on it beforehand and it felt fine….
The start was wet- the forecast was for rain through the day.  It was great having my support crew Anna and Gryffin at the start:

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3,2,1, go!


I set off in Group 8, which is for riders expecting to take 7- 8.5 hours.  Taupo starts with short descent followed by a gradual climb.  By the time we hit the top of the first hill I’d overtaken all the bicyclists except for one rider….the gradient is perfect for a unicycle.  From there it was lots of rolling ups and downs, and we spent much of the next 80km trading places.  It stopped raining for an hour or so, and I was able to knock off the first 80km in under 4 hours.  Unfortunately, I had a fall at 70km, wiping out on a bump I didn’t see.  There was no major damage apart from some scrapes and bruises, but I started cramping and lost my free spinning speed when I got going again.  
It started raining and getting quite cold by the time we reached Kuratau, and the legs went on strike.  It was a long slow climb and descent before hitting the flat. I stopped at the Turangi Z-station for a quick pie before slogging the rest of the way back to Taupo. Apparently it was not a fast year, with few people going under 4hrs.  It was amazing to roll into the finishing straight with Anna and Gryffin patiently waiting for me!

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My time of 9hrs 02min was slower than previous years, partly because of the weather but mostly due to the legs not co-operating in the second half of the course.   I still had a great ride and was happy to get to the finish for the 15th or 16th time (I’ve lost count!)
The Mad4One handle saddle (medium) worked well. It was very light and easy to maneuver, although I was more used to a lower handle with the Flatfish/T-bar combination.  When you ride 160km on a unicycle, any seat is going to hurt. The Mad4One and Flatfish/T-bar are the best setups I’ve used, they just hurt in different places.  I had more wrist pain with the Mad4One, because the upright position forced my wrist to abduct for prolonged period.  On the other hand, without the plastic base of the KH style saddle, I didn’t get sore palms from pushing down with my hands.  I have to ride it a bit more to form a stronger opinion, but I think the Mad4One would be a good medium distance saddle, whereas I prefer the KH/Flatfish for shorter distances, and perhaps the KH/Flatfish/T-Bar combo for longer distance.

Nicola’s video of the SINZ II Unitour

Another beautifully edited video by Nicola Cassanelli, showing off the best bits of the SINZ II Unicycle Tour. Enjoy!

SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 9 Naseby rest day

We had another day to rest the legs and catch up on washing, eating and sightseeing.  The original intention was to spend the day mountain unicycling in Naseby’s renowned mountainbike trails, but most riders elected to rest the legs instead.

The Curling Rink was just down the road, so we headed there for a session, which was really fun!  Many of us had watched curling on TV, but never tried the real thing.  We hefted the heavy granite slabs across the ice, trying to get them into the target zone, helped along with some strategic brushing of the ice.

In the afternoon we headed to St Bathans to soak in the blue lake and have lunch at the pub.

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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 8 Oamaru to Naseby 62km

This was a day that some riders looked forward to, and others dreaded. It was going to be a big climb  up Danseys Pass, then a big descent to Naseby, where we would connect up with the Central Otago Rail Trail.

As we expected it was up and up and up!!!  This is a quiet unsealed gravel road, with farmland gradually making way to more alpine tussock as we climbed.  For Anna and myself, it was the most fun ride so far.

When we reached the top, we could see had a picnic lunch amongst the tussock, with not a bad view!

The trail then descended, with another short climb before dropping down to Naseby. The total climb for the day was ~1300m, so the legs had good workout.

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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 7 Oamaru rest day

We still had to finish the A2O trail, so after breakfast the riders gathered to ride the last 2km to the finish, across the botanic gardens, through the beautiful Oamaru Stone buildings and to the pier at the finish of the A20 at the Pacific Ocean!

It was a great way to finish the first part of our trip.  We spent the day catching up on washing, exploring the town, and going to the Steampunk museum.

One of the best things about Oamaru is their little blue penguin colony. In the evening we went to watch the cute penguins come back to shore and scurry into their burrows after a day out fishing.

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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 6 Kurow to Oamaru 80km

Todays ride would be one of the toughest. It was a scorching hot day. We rode the gravel track, crossing several dried up rivers and then had a stop at the Maori Rock Art site for a walk.

From there we continued through Duntroon, and then climbed up a steep hill to the Elephant Rocks, which were impressive rock formations of the side of the trail.

The trail continued on to further interesting limestone escarpments along Island Cliff, then degenerated into soft white limestone gravel, which was horrific to ride on.  Until then, the Alps 2 Ocean trail had been perfect for unicycling, but this stuff was like riding on lumpy flour. It was a painful grind the last 40km to the finish in Oamaru.

We were completely shattered by the time we reached our accommodation, so we decided not to finish the Alps 2 Ocean trail today (which ends at the pier on Oamaru beach), leaving it for the next day.

We had a BBQ dinner which Gaetano took charge of, and it was quite a feast for the ravenous riders.

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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 5 Omarama to Kurow 72km

We started back on the Alps to Ocean trail to Omarama, one of the nicest sections of the trail.  There was a nice climb followed by an equally epic descent to Otematata for lunch and a dunk in the Lake.

After that we climbed up the steep road up to the Lake Benmore Dam- an impressive sight once at the top. It’s hard to know if we are the first unicyclists to ride across the dam, but we are very likely the largest ever group of unicyclists to ride across the dam!

From there we rode along Lake Aviemore to the Aviemore Dam. Our driver Said had found us a nice swimming hole under a tree, which was a nice place for afternoon tea.

We also took quick hike up the Deep Stream Walk to a secluded river valley (and had another swim), before riding the last section to Kurow.

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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 4 Lake Ohau to Buscot Station 55km

Todays ride would take us on a long gradual climb up to 900m at Freehold Creek.  It was a well groomed path that had magnificent views across the basin to the Ben Ohau Range. The day got progressively hotter and many riders dunked themselves in the stream crossings to cool off.

After the top it was a fast, fun descent to Quailburn road where the support vehicles met us.  After some much needed rest and shade, we headed off to our next destination, Clay Cliffs.  The road was lined with colourful lupins as it crossed the lush green farmland.  We had a lot of fun riding on the loose gravel with the unicycles at times sliding around underneath us.

Lunch by Clay Cliffs was quite a treat. Anna had gone ahead in the support vehicle to prepare our- lunch under a tree when we arrived, with yummy couscous salad . After lunch we hiked up to the magnificent sandstone formations at Clay Cliffs, before heading back to the road and out to Buscot Station, where we were staying tonight.

The best thing after a hot day riding…ICE CREAMMM!!!  We had two big tubs waiting for us when we arrived, thanks to Anna!

We spent the evening chilling out in the beautiful garden at Buscot Station, and Sean entertained us on the Piano.

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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 3 Braemar Station to Lake Ohau 80km

The rain had cleared overnight, so we woke up to stunning vistas of the Southern Alps.  After a hearty breakfast we hit the gravel road along Lake Pukaki.  The road continued for a further 18km until we reached the Tekapo B power station, after which it turned into smooth tarseal.   The riders were fairly spread out, but we regrouped at the Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre just past the Pukaki Dam.   Our support drivers Dave and Said made sure we were watered and fed before crossing the highway to rejoin the A20 trail on the other side.

The next section was a flat and fast gravel track with an expanse of dry grassland characteristic of the Mackenzie landscape.   After crossing this we ended up in Twizel, but bypassed the town to head 3km further down the road to the Salmon Farm, where we fed the salmon and indulged in Salmon pie!

After heading back to Twizel to rejoin the A20 trail, we followed the road until we reached a canal. The bright blue water was perfectly framed by the lupins which were fully out in bloom. The endlessly long canal finally took us to the Ohau Weir, and then joined the most fun singletrack of the tour.  We arrived to stay at Lake Ohau Lodge, one of the picturesque places of the tour.

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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 2 Mt Cook to Braemar Station 33km

We started off bright an early, as we had to drive from Tekapo to Mt Cook. The first stop was the Church of the Good Shepherd, one of Tekapo’s famous landmarks. After the obligatory group shot, we were off to the start of the Alps 2 Ocean trail at Mt Cook.

It was a very scenic drive with the mountains looming in the foreground. Although it was a unicycle tour, we actually started off with a 2 hour hike up the Hooker Valley, across several swing bridges and alpine tussock. It was a beautiful walk, but by the time we got back to the carpark everyone was ready to head off, we had a helicopter to catch!

The first part of the Alps to Ocean trail is a rocky track which leads to Mt Cook Airport- basically a landing strip and a helipad. When we arrived the group took turns to fly up to the Tasman Glacier, which was well worth the trip. The helicopter landed on the glacier and we got to walk around on the ice, before being flown back over the iceflow to Tasman Point, where the A20 trail continues on the other side of the river.
It was a lovely warm day, and the clouds had burnt off, so we decided to cool off in the glacial water, with several members of the group stripping right down for a skinny dip. It was CO0old, but well worth it.
The next part of the trail proved to be fairly tricky for unicycles. It was a well-groomed trail, but without suspension and limited gears, it was slow going. Dani ended up shredding her tyre, so spent considerable time trying to patch it up. Luckily Said came by with the support vehicle to the rescue!
As we rounded the lake, we could hear thunder, and before long the beautiful clear skies opened up. Along with the relentless headwind, it took its toll on the riders. By the time we arrived at Braemar Station, we were ready for a hot shower and hot food, which is exactly what we got. Anna, Dani and Gen had gone ahead in the support vehicle and made a delicious curry, followed by banana/chocolate self-saucing pudding, which hit the spot. We were all tired but well fed by the time we got in bed.

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