Each year, the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge draws cyclists from all walks of life to the stunning surrounds of New Zealand's Central Plateau. They come from all over the world to cycle some of New Zealand’s most beautiful roads and trails. For some it’s their first time; others are experienced Taupo veterans, and then there are those for whom it is a chance to challenge themselves and give the ride another crack years after their first Taupo.
We caught up with riders who are right in the thick of their training to find out how they are preparing for November 28, what their aspirations are, and to see if they have any advice for others who are getting ready to tackle the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, too.
Tim Spicer – The Veteran
This will be my 21st Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. It would have been my 22nd but my bike got stolen in 1982 a week before the event.
I first rode around the Lake in 1990. I’ve tried to make it to every one since but chance has gotten in the way on occasion. Three times my trade certificate exams got in the way, but I’ve ridden every one since 1996. I’ve done it so many times now that my family has stopped coming to watch. I remember when my daughter was 12 she decided she was deprived because she missed out on the Christmas parade in Auckland watching me race.
Image Credit: Marathon Photos
What is your goal for the event?
I would like to finish in the top 20 or 30 for my age group. I’m feeling quite fit this year, quite light, so I would really like to get under 4 hours 20.
What’s your weekly mileage at the moment?
I’m probably doing around 350 – 400km a week, but that’s just an estimate. I usually go by time in the saddle, so I’m averaging 16 hours of riding a week.
I’m lucky because working trade hours in Auckland, I can squeeze in a ride between jobs or just after work. It allows me to get a lot of extra riding in during the week, which is the biggest challenge for a lot of people.
What would you say is the biggest challenge leading up to the event?
Getting fit over winter. One of the hardest things is getting out before or after work when it’s freezing to put in the necessary miles.
You’ve ridden 21 Taupos. What advice can you give to those who are doing it this year?
Make sure you eat and drink plenty. Hang on to the bunch for as long as you can. I know some people try to save it for the end, but it’s a lot easier riding with the bunch than on your own.
The biggest one though, is that Hatepe is not the end! Every year I see riders reach the top of Hatepe and they get white line fever and all of a sudden you’ve got amateurs racing each other for no real reason.
Gayle Ilievski – The All-Rounder
This is my first Taupo ride. I did the Around the Bay ride for my 50th and I’ve been into cycling ever since. I’ve started doing some cyclocross during the winter, which is great fun, and good training for the road.
Image Credit: Mandy Lamont
Why did you decide to enter the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge?
It’s something that’s been on my bucket list for a long time now. I’m really keen to ride New Zealand from tip to tip as well, I know that it must be such a beautiful place to ride.
My friend also has a house on the Lake and she said you should come stay. So I thought ‘what a great idea, I can join the two into one trip.’
How is your training going? How many km are you averaging per week?
I’m doing around 150-200km at the moment I would say. I commute 25km to work every day, so that is good consistent mileage without really having to plan for it. I’ve been getting out on the mountain bike a bit, too, which is great for the hilly stuff.
Do you have a set goal for the event?
I would really like to finish in under six hours. I’m really counting on there being some big bunches that I can latch on to early [laughs].
What’s one piece of advice you would give people doing the ride for the first time from your experience riding Around the Bay?
I find it’s good to start taking electrolytes in the days leading up to the event. It’s important to make sure that you are maintaining a high level of hydration not only on the bike but before the ride as well.
Paddy McDermott – The Returning Rider
I’ve probably had more of an interest in riding mountain bikes than road bikes. The first time I got interested in riding road bikes was ten years ago when my brother was training for Taupo with some friends. He suggested I give it a go, and I was quite fit from riding mountain bikes at the time so I thought, ‘why not?’
Why have you decided to come back and ride Taupo again 10 years later?
Well my son contacted me asking for some info about Taupo, he was thinking about doing it himself. And I thought, ‘well if he’s going to do it, why don’t I do it, too?’ I started playing with the idea, but I wasn’t very fit at the time, so I went out and did a few short rides – around 10-15kms just to see how it felt – and I decided that if I could do ten, I could do twenty, if I could do twenty, I could do thirty...and if I kept going like that I could do Taupo.
The other thing is my Grandson is a heart baby and one of the charities that Taupo supports is Heart Kids NZ, so in part I’m doing it for Finny as well, and also for myself and to ride with my son.
What’s your goal for Taupo this year?
I’ve been following the training schedule on the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge that aims to get you around in under six hours. That was my goal ten years ago and I managed to just squeeze in with a time of 5 hours 59 minutes. So I would like to do the same again.
What’s the biggest difference riding now to what it was like 10 years ago?
Back then we would lust after carbon bikes and they were typically really expensive still, but now they are quite affordable. So the difference in technology is amazing. The other thing is bike fitting. Back then, bike fitting services were pretty basic, now you go in for three hours and they fine tune everything for you. It’s amazing.
Given you have ridden Taupo before what advice can you give to new riders?
One of the biggest things is to make sure you don’t get dropped. Sometimes hanging on to the bunch feels like the hardest thing in the world, but if you get dropped and you are stranded on your own with wind picking up it’s a hell of a lot harder. So try and just knuckle in there: grab a squeezy for a boost and try to hang on. The pace always lets up.
A friend once told me the best thing someone can do to help you is to wait at the bottom of Hatepe with a can of flat coke. But I think you are better to stick with your own nutrition.