Ok, that’s Lake Taupo . A rather large lake in the middle of New Zealand. Every year thousands of crazy cyclists pedal their way around this lake. There were over 9000 cyclists in this years event, including two unicycle teams and a soloist (me ).
Team Unicycle.co.nz (80km each)
Team Unicycle NZ: Less is more (40km each)
Team Ken Looi (160km each)
ie gizmoduck…ahem ( )
I used a stock standard Deluxe Coker with KH seat, Snafu pedals and 125mm cranks. The teams used a mix of 29’er’s with 125mm cranks and Cokers. As far as I am aware, there are four Cokers in the country and they were all at this event!
The unicycle household rudely awakens to the sound of somebody’s bleeping alarm. :o
How long does it take to get fuelled up for a major endurance event? Not long if the if you’re a unicyclist! After gobbling enormous mountains of muesli, showering, shaving and stuffing our camelbaks full of slime gels + energy bars we hit the road at 5.30am.
We arrive at the Lake Taupo event venue. Not surprisingly we are the only people there apart from the organisers. The two teams click off the timer chip at 6.00am, two hours prior to the main group of starters at 8am (soloists) and 9am (teams). Peter and Steve P are the first riders for their teams. I decide it’s far too early to be out of bed, let alone riding 160km without a dose of caffeine in the system.
Tony and Geoff load their Uni’s on the trucks. Interesting as the crossbars are not designed to accept unicycles.
We start our caffeine loading at one of the local cafes. Unfortunately Tony gets a decaf mocha by accident . They apologised and gave him his proper espresso. Hmmm…can’t let all that coffee go to waste, even if it is decaf. We sit in the sun pondering what Peter and Steve are talking about as they crank up the first hill of the day. Tony drinks almost a litre of coffee.
Race start for me. I never realised how big this event was until race start. There were so many cyclists that we started in waves. It took a full half hour before I click off the start line.
I’m off! There is a short 1km down hill before the first major climb of the day. Road cyclists whizzing past me on either side soon ended up crunching on their gears as they hit the first major climb.
I couldn’t believe my luck- the climb was a perfect Coker gradient! I sped past several hundred roadies up the climb much to their dismay :(. Ding-ding-ding Bells are great fun when you’re passing bicyclists on a unicycle. I kept telling myself to slow down (there was another 155km to go) but while there were so many cyclists to overtake I had keep up the pace
We hit the flat and I got a taste of bunch riding- I don’t know if there is much drafting effect but the bunch certainly towes you along psychologically. We were averaging 25km/h on the flat (according to one someone elses cycle computer). There were a few more big downhills and hillclimbs during that initial 20km leg.
At the 20km mark I pick up a drink at the drink station but keep on going without stopping.
My legs start seizing up shortly after. Racing up those hills at full speed sure was silly . The next 20km’s are a bit of a struggle as I ease off the pace hoping to work the lactate from my system. I was one happy unicyclist when I hit the 40km mark in under 2hours. I stopped for a stretch, let blood recirculate my crotch and refill my camelbak. When it’s time to get back on, my legs were so stiff I needed a helpful shoulder to climb back on the Coker.
The next 40km were a bit of a blur. I remember picking an energy bar off the road and eating it. (It was still in it’s wrapper- I’m not that desperate). Only had another three energy bars for 100km. I brought four slime gels along but managed not to eat any (yuck).
The 80km mark at the top of a big hill was WONDERFUL! I was under the 4hr mark and on track for a 20km/h average speed.
The following descent was one of the most fun unicycle descents I had ever done. Super fast downhill with wide roads and sweeping corners. It just kept going and going and going…until we hit the bottom and one of the longest climbs of the day loomed ahead. My stomach was getting sick of sweet energy bars at that point so I stopped at the cafe for a steak and cheese pie and ginger beer. Perhaps riding 90km dullens the senses, but that was the best meat pie I’d ever had.
Rejuvanated, I head off up the climb which was at another perfect unicycle gradient. I pass quite a few cyclists but take care not to blow up this time.
There was another cool downhill back to the lake before we hit the flat section. 40km of flat riding is great for working the stiffness out of sore legs. I felt so good after those 40km I was almost looking forward to the Hatepe Hill.
The final major hillclimb, Hatepe Hill is not particularly steep, but after 140km of riding it reduces many to walking their bikes. Regretfully I cramp half way up the Hatepe Hill and had to stop for a stretch
Over the Hatepe we had yet another 25-30km/h downhill section. My legs just kept spinning like they were out of control- a very interesting sensation. I pass Steve Taylor on the flat just before we reach Taupo.
I limp into Taupo after 160km / 100miles on my unicycle in 8hrs20min.
‘Team unicycle.co.nz’ comes in at 9hrs49min, ‘Team Unicycle NZ: Less Is More’ comes in at 10hrs30min.
Results are up on:
Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge
Our photos will be up shortly. If anyone is considering coming to NZ to do an event, I would really recommend this one- it had such a cool atmosphere and the course is fantastic. We’ll be back next year!