Round Taupo 160km race report



P

peter.bier

Guest
The annual unicycle assault on the round Taupo cycle race took place on
Saturday and it was certainly an eventful one!

The Lake Taupo cycle challenge is the largest cycle race in New Zealand
and had around 11,500 participants this year. The race follows a 160km
course that circumnavigates Lake Taupo. The first half of the course
is very hilly and over the 160km you climb and descend 1500m. Cyclists
can choose to race as a 2,3 or 4 person relay team or ride the course
solo. There are also 320km and 500km enduro categories.

For the past two years Ken Looi has raced the solo on his unicycle,
setting a blistering unicycle course record of 7:43 min. This year he
decided to tackle the 320km enduro on two wheels so Tony Melton and I
thought we better make sure there were still some gung ho unicyclists
on the course.

We were joined by a three person unicycle relay team of Bruce, Kirsten
and Danny.

As usual race preparation did not go quite according to plan. On
Friday before driving to Taupo I spent an hour on the phone to the
courier to discover the keys for our weekend accomodation had not been
shipped correctly. They were over six hours drive away which was not
particularly helpful! Fortunately they found someone who was coming
over to Taupo that night so we came up with a complicated plan that
would get the keys into my hands, meaning eight people could sleep
inside instead of in cars.

The drive down was painfully slow due to roadworks but we got to Taupo
before registration closed. By 9pm I had tracked down the keys which
was a good thing as the night turned out to be absolutely freezing.
Not fun for camping out! We did not envy Ken setting off at 1:30am.

Race prep took until post midnight which meant about four hours sleep
before we hauled ourselves out of bed to get ready for the 6am start.
Tony and I communicated by telepathy on the drive to the start, being
too tired to talk. We were joined by Bruce plus the rest of the very
slow cyclists who made up the group of 30 or so "early birders". There
was a brief pep talk from the race founder ("It's going to be cold and
windy all the way") and then it was off into the head wind.

It took Tony and I a little while to warm up to pace but after 10km we
were starting to crank a bit faster. At this point Bruce split off
from us as the first relay leg follows a slightly different route.

We noticed that we were keeping up with the rest of the two wheeled
bunch. It was pleasant to be holding our own for a change! Tony and I
had both elected to ride 36" wheels with 125mm cranks which proved an
excellent choice for the hilly first 40km leg. Gradually the bunch
thinned out and we reached the point of being the only two riders in
view. This didn't last too long as the faster riders who had started
later eventually began to overtake us in large Pelotons. We cranked
past the first 40km relay change point at 2:25 feeling fresh and
confident.

The next 40km felt even hillier than the first. The two legs are
actually very similar but I think my training was a little thin on the
ground so fatgiue started to take its toll. I spent a lot of time
staring at Tony's back as he powered up hills, passing lots of cyclists
and leaving me trailing behind. At the 58km mark we witnessed a pretty
bad crash as two cyclists in a Peloton collided. The crash happened
20m behind Tony and 20m in front of me so we didn't get taken out. One
guy plowed into the back of another guy and flipped over top of him,
face planting into the road. There was blood everywhere from a nasty
head wound but one of the other riders who stopped new first aid. We
hung round for a few minutes, cleaning up cycle wreckage of the road
until a race official got there. It was a sobering reminder about what
can happen in a momentary lapse of concentration.

11km later we were zooming down a hill towards the second relay change
at the half way point when disaster struck Tony. More correctly, a
cyclist struck Tony, taking him out and leaving a mini carnage scene.
I heard the crash from about 100m back and looked up to see Tony
cartwheeling across the road into a ditch. It was de ja vu, with lots
more blood and the worrysome sight of Tony curled up in the fetal
position not moving. When I got there he was in shock,
hyperventilating badly and obviously in a lot of pain. Some wonderful
rider stopped and helped me check Tony for injuries. She also got him
breathing normally again. He had landed pretty badly on his right
side, grating his right knee and elbow. We were only a stones throw
from the relay station ambulance base so we had a paramedic there in a
couple of minutes. After stopping the bleeding she determined the knee
wasn't too bad but the elbow had a nasty gouge in it. We bundled Tony
into a van and drove him to the ambulance station. After an hour it
looked like he might get a free helicopter ride to hospital but he
ended up having to settle for a very long ambulance trip back to get
properly patched up.

About the time the ambulance was due to leave, Kirsten rode in much
earlier than expected, having ridden 40km of very hilly terrain in
2:30. It was her first ever unicycle road race so we were very
impressed. As Danny geared up to ride the third and fourth legs of the
relay I got myself together to leave as well.

The third 40 km started with some pretty big hill climbs which was
followed by a glorious descent down to race level and then 30km of
flat. I managed to keep up with Danny until the next relay station but
his still fresh legs were starting to leave me behind. Unfortunately
we lost each other in the confusion of the drink and toilet stop.
Danny took off at high speed trying to catch up to me, but
unfortunately I was behind him! This left me to ride the last 40km by
myself, with the occasional cyclist passing me. At the 130km mark I
was really starting to feel it, suffering from saddle soreness, muscle
fatigue and knee pain. Mentally I was not in a good postition and I
was not thinking straight. I also knew I had the toughest hill coming
up ahead and I was beginning to wonder whether my body could go the
distance. I had my first twinges of cramp and was starting to worry
about what would happen at the hill.

At my lowest morale point I got an unexpected boost when a couple of
friends drove out of nowhere to stop and cheer me on. They got it
through my fogged brain that I had only 22km to go, not the 50km I had
some how got stuck in my head. They also promised to wait for me at
the top of the hill. Encouraged, I broke through the mental barrier
and started preparing for the hill climb. When I reached the base I
shouted to myself "bring on the pain!" and started powering up the
hill. All body aches retreated as I focussed entirely on making it to
the top of 2km long climb without dismounting. I kept myself going by
aiming to pass as many cyclists as possible. It was a fantastic
feeling to reach the summit having passed 21 cyclists. My friends were
waiting as promised with the added encouragement that it was mostly
downhill for the rest of the way.

The last 20km were a blur of saddle soreness and a race against the
clock as I struggled to keep up a pace that would get me to the finish
before 6pm. 10km out from the finish my water ran out and I also
developed an urgent need to go to the toilet. There wasn't much I
could do except keep on riding, which I did. Things got a little
easier as I rode into Taupo with honks from passing cars encouraging me
to keep on going.

At 5:50pm I cranked up the very last hill and rode towards the finish
to much cheering from the crowds. My entire world became focussed on
crossing the finish line, so much so that I missed my wife shouting my
name. I crossed the finish line with tears of relief, dismounted and
then collapsed to my knees as my legs gave out. Danny caught the
sequence on camera so they will make there way into a gallery soon.

160km on a unicycle is one of the hardest things I've ever done but it
was worth the pain. Bring on the next challenge!


--
peter.bier

-Peter Bier
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G

GizmoDuck

Guest
Some photos of Team Unicycle.com:


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'New Zealand Unicycle Federation' (http://www.unicycle.org.nz)

"It's not a unicycle ride if it's less than 30km." - note to self
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P

peter.bier

Guest
The official results are in and I came 5069th in the solo section, out
of 5069 riders. My time of 11:46:53 was under 4 minutes off the race
record for longest time every taken to complete. If you subtract the
hour I spent with Tony because of his crash, you get pretty much the
time I had expected to finish in.

Tony should make a full recovery and was trying to persuade us to go
tandem sky diving with him a day later, so he seems well on his way
back to his usual adventurous self. It could be a wee while before he
is doing trials riding again though.

If I do the race again I would like to break the 10 hour mark. People
who have so far expressed interest for next year's race are:
Ken
Tony
Danny
Joe
Peter

If would be cool to get about 10 unicyclists on the course at any one
time. Can you imagine being a bicyclist and passing unicyclist after
unicyclist on your way round? I'm not sure whether it would be
inspiring or humiliating :)


--
peter.bier

-Peter Bier
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M

Matt.Weston

Guest
Assuming I have the stamina (and gear :p) for it by then (big
assumption!) I'm definately keen - at least for a 40km section of the
relay. I'd better start training now!

It's great that so many of you guys competed, and I'm glad Tony didn't
get cut up -too- bad by the crash.

-Matt


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Matt.Weston
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G

GizmoDuck

Guest
peter.bier wrote:
> If I do the race again I would like to break the 10 hour mark. People
> who have so far expressed interest for next year's race are:
> Ken
> Tony
> Danny
> Joe
> Peter
>
> If would be cool to get about 10 unicyclists on the course at any one
> time. Can you imagine being a bicyclist and passing unicyclist after
> unicyclist on your way round? I'm not sure whether it would be
> inspiring or humiliating :)




I'm assuming you meant unicyclist passing bicyclist after bicyclist?
The hills are the perfect gradient for a Coker- I must have passed
hundreds of cyclists up each hill last year (they passed me again on
the downhill, then I passed them again on the uphill).

Yeah, I'm Schlumpfing it next year. Got to break that course record.


--
GizmoDuck

'www.adventureunicyclist.com' (http://www.adventureunicyclist.com/)
'Laos Unicycle Tour' (http://www.laosunitour.org)
'New Zealand Unicycle Federation' (http://www.unicycle.org.nz)

"It's not a unicycle ride if it's less than 30km." - note to self
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