Monday, November 28, 2011

Huka XL Challenge

Saturday 26th November held the annual Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge around the lake, and the equivalent Huka Challenge for the mountain bikers.  The event attracts New Zealand’s top riders with the promise of a good hard race with stiff competition and prize money. 

I awoke early to another cold Taupo morning and headed out to the event centre to make the 7am start. The wind had picked up overnight and was blowing a gale.  The race began with us climbing up Tongariro Street and then heading into single track, making our way towards Craters of the Moon MTB Park.  Once at Craters we could hear the echo of creaks and cracks throughout the forest as the wind continuously struck the battered trees. Pine cones and branches were falling left, right and centre and I even witnessed two fully mature pine trees crash to the ground blocking the track ahead. It was dangerous, and the decision was made by the organizers to cancel the race at the 30km mark and to get everyone out of the forest before more people were hurt.


At the time the race was stopped I was having a good race and had made my way into 5th place.  Top 5 of the women usually receive prize money so was a bit gutted they did not note the positions after first place. Though big congratulations to Mikey Northcott and Karen Hanlen who were the men’s and women’s winners, well ahead of the rest of the field at the time.
Once out of the forest, riders had the option to ride the last bit of the course outside of the forest, up to Aratiatia dam then through Spa Park to the finish.  Obviously most riders did this, having a leisurely social ride with friends. In the end we still rode 55km (of the original 80km) and were still able to cross the finish line even though the places did not count. It was a good day, and least I know I continue to get faster with the help of John Lee, despite the tough university year I had. It was also a great opportunity to catch up with friends and see some of Taupo’s iconic landmarks.

Ash and I crossing the finish line together

My legendary Dad completed the Extreme Track Enduro for the second time, which consisted of two laps around the lake (320km) mostly into a headwind wind and with a sore knee. Go Dad!

Andrew Morrison on is second lap around the lake

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