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Published: November 30th 2009
It was a cool morning as thousands of us stood around for our chance to begin. But it can be no easy task getting 12,000 riders underway.
A friend texted me with some advice on how to survive the 160 kilometre Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. It went like this,"find a really nigel shaped arse and follow it closely."
I puzzled over it. Nigel? Could he have meant nice? But the keypad letters on my cellphone suggested it wasn't nice. I texted back seeking clarification but got no response. Maybe I missed something.
It Works Both Ways
The next night - just hours before the event began - I dared to mention this somewhat sexist piece of advice at a dinner table made up of riders and their partners. One of the women quickly put me in my place."It works both ways", she said.
Damp & Cool Conditions
The next morning was the big event and the house was up early. As someone whose goal was simply to complete the course, I was in one of the later starting groups. Along with 11,999 others we crammed Taupo's waterfront - gradually moving off into a cool and later damp morning.
I thoroughly enjoyed the event, and must confess I didn't forget the advice given to me. But I discovered that the nicer the derriere, the faster its owner seemed to
I received some advice which had to do with finding a nice behind and following it.
disappear up the road ahead of me.
Fun, Fun, Fun!
As a first timer, I thought the event was superbly organised. It can be no easy matter dealing with that many cyclists: getting them entered, issuing electronic tags, sorting out the traffic management, making sure the water stops and aid stations are manned and then turning on what I hear was a great prize giving.
Suggestion Slow Riders were Overlooked
The only gripe I heard all weekend came from an older woman cyclist this morning. She complained there wasn't enough support for the slower riders, yet they were the ones who needed it most. She didn't tell me how long she took, but I got the impression it was about ten hours. She said by the time she reached the last drink station at Hatepe Hill, they were taking down the signs and the volunteers were grumpy with having to deal with the tail enders. She also said that the ambulance services and road management crews packed up before everyone had finished.
Elitist Versus Novices
She also questioned whether the event was moving away from its origins and was becoming more elitist. While she said it was described as the
Taupo "challenge", the emphasis was increasingly on the Taupo "race". In the beginning, she said, the aim was to get recreational riders out there enjoying a fun day. They all had one goal in mind - to finish. But that was being swept aside as the event became bigger and more corporate money poured in. And she grizzled that to win a spot prize, entrants had to be at the prize giving while some of the slower ones were still out riding - they were excluded. She argued the organisers knew who was still out there thanks to the electronic timing system and it would have been nice if they could be included - as happens at other events.
I haven't heard the other side of the story from the organisers. But I'm pretty sure they would argue that they have volunteers out there for much of the day and it's up to those taking part to ensure they have trained enough to complete the race within 9 and a half hours - the estimated time of the slowest group. And I'm pretty sure they would also argue the event is not becoming elitist. In fact, this year
Ready to Rock n Roll
THE BEAST OF BURDEN had its front luggage rack removed, along with its heavy stand and the panniers. But I did take the handlebar bag, packed with bananas and muesli bars and a camera - not that I used the latter once the race started.
they introduced something called the BNZ Trainer Wheels Programme to assist riders in their first attempt at the challenge.
The Joy of Cycling
As for me, the timing system seems to have let me down and I don't appear among the competitors. So I'm taking a bit of a guess. I think THE BEAST OF BURDEN and me took betwen 6.30 and 6.45 hours. Regardless of how long we took, I was impressed with the courtesy and friendliness of the riders and I simply enjoyed being part of such a huge crowd. For me, it was a wonderful weekend in which we all celebrated the simple joy of cycling.
Tot: 0.115s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 10; qc: 49; dbt: 0.0166s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb