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Posts Tagged ‘Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge’

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge 2015

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What is the best thing about November?  Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge of course!  This is New Zealands biggest cycling event, with close to 10,000 people taking part every year. I remember my first in 2003, and if memory serves me right, I have only ever missed one LTCC since then, which would make 2015 my 12th LTCC, and the 10th on a unicycle (I have ridden the two-lap 320km enduro twice, on a bike). The best thing about Taupo is atmosphere- with so many people out there riding and enjoying the views around the Lake, there is always someone to chat to.
My partner Anna was doing her 2nd LTCC, but this time she would be doing the 80km solo challenge.  Last year she had ridden the first 2 legs of last years LTCC as part of a relay team, but this was the first time the LTCC organisers have had a 80km category, comprising the second half of the circuit.  She was super excited about being able to cross the finish line,especially with another year of riding experience.  Her friend Martha was visiting from Italy and also doing the 80km challenge on a mountainbike.

We arrived in Taupo on Friday a bit later than expected, but thankfully still in time to get registered and drop the bike off (it has to be placed on a truck to be taken to the 80km start).  Anna would carry her unicycle onto the bus in the morning- the advantage of a compact unicycle.  We were staying at Warren Ellery’s place- Taupo unicyclist and upholsteror extraordinaire.. Anna was drooling over Warrens collection of sewing machines.  Unfortunately he was away this weekend, but generously donated the use of his house for our LTCC base.

After stocking up on some last minute supplies, Anna and Martha cooked up pasta to load up with carbs, whilst I settled for meat pies (hey- you can eat anything you like if you’re going to ride 160km the next day!).

We got up early to get Anna and Martha to the start line.  Chocolate nutty porridge for breakfast is a perfect way to fuel up!
No 6am start like last year- Anna and Martha would be bused to the the 80km transition to ride from there.  I dropped them off then came back to set up my unicycle.  This would be the first time in many years that I had gone back to the 36″ ungeared unicycle- the original wheel I set my 2004 record on.

The setup was:
KH 36 Frame
36″ Airfoil rim laced to UDC hub
Wheel TA tyre (an oldie but a goodie!)
Regular 36″ tube
Wellgo MG1 pedals
Flatfish saddle with KH T-Bar
114mm quax cranks

It was nice to be on a solid, ungeared 36″ again, although I had originally planned to build a lighter 36″ using updated components.  Unfortunately there is a limited supply of 36″ rims in the country so it will have to wait till next year!

Anna was riding her 26″/110mm unicycle with very large Maxxis Hookworm tyre- one of my favourites.  She hadn’t had any experience on bigger wheels so elected to take her trusty 26″.

I got to the start line to line up with the Group 8’s (7-8.30hr groups) for the 9am start.  It was a smaller field than I expected- which I put down to the earlier start for slower group 9s (6am), which allows them plenty of time to arrive at the finish line.

3-2-1 go!!!

I set off down the hill in light drizzle. It’s a familiar start and something I always look forward to, because after a short downhill, it is a long climb with a slope perfect for a unicycle. By the time I reached the top of the hill, I’d passed all the riders in my start group.  We yo-yo’ed back and forth for the next 160km  with riders passing me on the downhills and me catching them on the climbs. My legs felt good but I don’t do humidity well- it was drizzling but also very warm. I managed to keep a 20km/hr average, so on track for an 8hr round taupo.

The rain cleared and it was a beautiful day.  The supporters were out in force, with lots of people on the side of the roads cheering people on.  By the time I hit the 80km mark, I knew Anna and Martha would have gotten off to a good start.  I had several almond gold slabs to munch on, but I was wishing I had brought a few more savoury snacks.    I got over Kuratau Hill- one of my favourite climbs, and it was mostly downhill from there.

According to my calculations- if Anna was doing struggling I would catch her as we rounded the lake, or after Hatepe Hill if she was doing great!  In fact, I didn’t see her at all as I made the final turn into Taupo.  At that point I bonked and had to down 3 almond slabs in succession, just to get through the final 10km.

I rolled into Taupo in 8hrs 11min 21s, quite a bit slower than my 2004 record, but still respectable (I did 8hrs 20min in 2003).  Anna had gone under 7hrs, with a time of 6hrs 58min 15s. An astounding effort, considering she rode a 26″/110mm unicycle a whole 80km!  Martha finished in just over 5hrs, wishing she had done the full 160km race.

It was a great weekend of riding and we are looking forward to next years (40th anniversary) event!

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge 2013: on a Standard 24″/125mm unicycle!

Another year and another chance to ride around Lake Taupo!  This is New Zealands biggest cycling event, with 9-10,000 riders making the annual pilgrimage.  The picturesque 160km circuit takes in 1650m of climbing and descending as it circumnavigates NZs biggest lake in an anticlockwise direction.   This would be my 10th Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, with 7 completed laps on a unicycle, and 2 ‘enduro’ events (2 laps/320km) on my road bike.  My fastest time to date was 7hrs43min on a 36″ ungeared unicycle with 110mm cranks.

I thought I would do something different for a change, and instead of pushing a 36″ Uni with/without gears, I’d go back to something a little more traditional, a standard racing unicycle.

The IUF ‘standard’ which is used for track racing and the 10km standard races at Unicon, has a maximal wheel diameter of 618mm and maximal crank length of 125mm.   It means that everyone in these races compete on the same gear ratio.   The idea is that performance is dependent on the rider and not the equipment.

What I also like about this setup is it’s simplicity.  Each year something new is bolted to my race unicycle- gears, handlebars, hydraulic rim brakes and then disc brakes…it was nice to ditch the 8kg boat anchor in favour of a 3kg standard racer.  It might not go as fast, but it rides like a unicycle, not a tractor with gears.

The weapon of choice was a Quax Black Witch with Nimbus 92mm hub, and the original NNC Flatfish carbon saddle:

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Anyway, back to the topic of racing.  I was in Group 9 (the slow group!), which meant a far too early start at 6am.   Porridge and bananas were shoveled into the fuel tank (along with 2 pre-race coffees!)

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I was surprised at the size of the group, but the more the merrier!  Bryan Page was at the startline with me, on his Schlumpf 36″.  He was teamed up with Eric Pulvermacher to do 80km each in a relay.  Andrew Frazer, who holds the Penny Farthing record for Taupo, was also there, as well as several recumbents and handcycles.  I was plastered in sunscreen despite the fact it was supposed to be cloudy.

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3…2…1…GO!

The race begins with a short dip before a long gradual climb.  As soon as we hit the climb I started passing bikes.  Lots of them.  The standard uni is perfect for spinning your way up a hill, and I was pleased to find myself at the front of almost all the group 9 starters by the time we hit our first downhill.  This undulating 60km section of the course rolled generally in an upwards direction, so I maintained a good position despite having bikes whizzing past at every little descent.  I had passed Bryan early on the climb, and was trying my best to stay ahead until the course flattened out.

To my surprise, I hit the 10km mark in 31min, which was not quite my 10km race pace; but it was mostly uphill and I wasn’t exactly revving the engine.  I backed off a bit and and hit the 20km marker in 64min, which was still giving me a comfortable 18km/hr average speed.  I was aiming to come in under 10hrs, and preferably 9 1/2hrs.

The next few 10km markers went by at roughly the same 33min pace, although I was starting to feel the effects of spinning a unicycle very fast with  little resistance!   I went through the 80km interchange at 4hrs 38min, which meant I was now losing quite a bit of time.  The main problem was a buttock issue.  When you have no handlebars and a cadence of over 160rpm, it starts to hurt after 60km.  Luckily I had one of the best seats made for unicycling, which helped a lot, but not quite enough.   I needed to stop every 20min to reperfuse the buttocks, and later it became every 5min.

Anyway, I was still surprised to be ahead of Bryan at the relay interchange, so I focused on getting to Kuratau Hill before Eric with fresh legs would come past.  Kuratau Hill was my favourite climb this year. With a super lightweight unicycle I was spinning my way past long lines of bikes.  It was also a chance to relieve pressure points because of the increased pedaling resistance.

Once over Kuratau it was getting somewhat more painful. This is the longest flat section which would be perfect for spinning at 20+km/hr…if only I was able to sit down!   I had a saddle sore the size of my thumb on each butt  cheek.   With no lack of encouragement from passing bicyclists, the best I could manage in return was a grimace disguised as a crazy grin.  By the time we could see the Lake, I was spending a large amount of time on the side of the road.  At least it was a pretty view!

Anyway, to cut a long grind short, I made it to the final big climb of the day, Hatepe Hill, which I had also been looking forward to. Unfortunately, I blew out my tyre at the bottom, and had forgotten to pack tyre levers. After some struggling and cursing to get the tyre off, I managed to borrow a tyre lever from another rider, and got my new tube and wheel back in place, a little annoyed at wasting 30min for a simple tube change.

After riding over Hatepe, it was a slow and painful descent to the final 15km straight.  I bonked at the top, but still had enough almond peanut slabs in my camelbak to top up the tank.

The wind started picking up at this point, but didn’t affect the smaller unicycle nearly as much as a 36″.  I made the final turn into Taupo and spun my way to the finish line in 11hrs 36min.   A bit disappointed at not going under 10hrs when I was on track for the first half of the race, but glad to have finished.

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As a consolation…I was passed out in the food tent when they called out my number for one of the major spot prizes at this years challenge, a $25,000 Spa Pool.  Could have done with a soak in the spa then, but it was empty!

 

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Thanks you Wright Spa Pools for such an amazing prize!