Select Page

The LION Foundation Wellington-Auckland Cycle Challenge

A couple of weeks after my Aussie 900+ km adventure Christine and I lined up for the start of the 13 stage 750 km cycle challenge from Wellington to Auckland.

Initially I thought the stage style of ride would be out of my comfort zone as I would normally have preferred to attempt it in one stint but we both found that the stages although fast were manageable and the organisation first class.


Traffic management control was spot on and any infringements by cyclists or their crews were dealt with in a positive manner by Stephen Cox (ride director) to keep the route safe for all road users.

Rider ability as expected was varied and it was great to meet and ride with former Olympic and Commonwealth Games riders.

clip_image002Christine and I booked the newly introduced full package of accommodation and transport , this was handled to perfection by the enthusiastic support crew. We soon settled into the early morning routine of selecting our daily gear, Hammer foods and fluid and popping our main baggage out for collection and delivery to the next stage stop.

Stage 1 was a 17km ride from Trentham to the top of the Rimutaka Hill then a quiet cruise down to Featherston prior to the 2nd stage ride to Masterton, out through some gentle rolling country.

Stage 3 to Pahiatua, had some nudges out the back along the route of the Pahiatua Bush fun ride that split the field up considerably. This stage was marred by a crash in the elite bunch on a straight flat section. As per usual the final section into Pahiatua after Pa Valley was affected with its “wind”, no doubt this will resurface in a couple of weeks time during the annual Pahiatua Bush fun ride.

Stage 4 via the Pahiatua track was pleasant enough, with a safe finish up Pacific Drive. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the Womans Tour of last week, which opted to finish down Summerhill Drive and onto Fitzherbert Avenue!!.

Stages 5 and 6 saw us heading off via Cinders hill to Hunterville, then a lunch break before heading off to Wanganui via the dreaded Reids hill. This was a tough day, interrupted (fortunately) by a complete ride stoppage at about 25km because of major road works, where the complete field of 125 riders managed to regroup again.

Stages 7 and 8 took us up a portion of the Paraparas to Kakatahi and lunch served by the pupils and staff of the 12 pupil local school. Then via Fields track to Ohakune. This stage was marred by the withdrawal of Blair Stockwell and Wanganui rider John Black after a fall descending Fields Track

Stage 9 to Turangi was commenced in cool rain with the leaders and ride director deciding to control the ride for the first 30km.This was a sensible gesture that enhanced the safety of all riders. Racing in those conditions could have been the catalyst for crashes. The spirit of this ride was, for the majority of riders, completion of the Challenge, with a bit of strategic racing on the side.

clip_image002[6]The afternoon Stage 10, was on familiar turf for most of us, 48km from Turangi to Taupo with Hatepe Hill and road works above airport hill. An end-over by the womans leader after the finish saw her unable to start the following stage because of a broken arm.

For Stage 11, we had an early bus ride from Taupo to Tokoroa to commence the stage. The route out via Arapuni was super fast until the dam where the hills had a bit of extra sting. A great piece of country to cycle around, Lake Karapiro, Cambridge, Mystery Creek, all well sealed, low traffic volume roads ,with good flowing descents.

Stages 12 and 13, Hamilton to Glen Murray, then to Pukekohe, were also among the toughest, with gnarly hills with more bite than what was really needed but a great way to end a challenge, urging on small groups and getting ready for the inevitable final “sprint”.

This ride will be on again next February and I can only suggest for anyone wishing to try something a bit different in their cycling, share the road with a great bunch of cyclists, complete with fantastic organisation then you would be hard pressed to better this quite manageable challenge. More k’s for your buck and the chance to see and enjoy more of our great country.

For Christine and I, it was our first excursion riding on Continental GP 4000 tyres. They handled the 750+ km of varied road surfaces well and certainly gave a positive feel on the wet Ohakune/Turangi day which included the grand descent off Te Ponga Saddle, some relief after the slog up the beast!. Memories of the old Tour de Trout circuit were relived over and over for me again on that climb.

clip_image002[8]Christine finished with a podium finish of 3rd in her age grade and 86th overall of the 125 riders. With the withdrawal of Blair Stockwell and John Black I managed to finish 4th in grade and 46th overall, well out of podium contention but very satisfied.

This ride deserves a big tick. I for one will be looking forward to getting news of next years dates and hopefully entering again. It would be great to have some more of our many Masters/Marist riders there also.

For results, photos and details on the event,