We did the Taranaki Cycle Challenge yesterday in 6:15. A bit slower than last year. The weather was hot with minimal wind. The first three legs out along the surf highway to Opunake went well with Emma and I having no trouble staying together and at times joining other groups of riders. As usual though there is very little effort by most of the riders to take a turn at the front of the group. Emma and I made an effort to share the work load.

At Opunake we turned inland towards Kaponga. It is a slight climb the first half of the way from Opunake to Kaponga. This was an area that I had trouble with last year, this year Emma had her turn. We backed the pace down a little till she recovered and once the road flatten a bit we were able to power on to Kaponga.

Kaponga to Pembroke School (just out side of Stratford) is always my undoing. It is a long gradual climb. I am getting better but long gradual climbs are on of my weaknesses on the bike. We rode part of the way with two other people at a good pace but then I got a stone jammed in my front break and had to stop for a second. The group broke apart and I lost some momentum. I was looking for Pembroke School around every corner and was thankful when we got there. We had a short break to top up our water bottles then were off again.

Pembroke school to highway 3 is a fast easy section that went well. Once on highway 3 just like last year the inside of my right thigh cramped a bit. All I could do was ride it out. Highway 3 climbs a bit to Midhurst. We tried getting in with a few other cyclist but it just did not pan out. Just outside Midhurst we got a small group of 4 going at a great pace then my tyre made a loud bang and I had a flat. I cut my rear tyre which caused the flat. When repairing the flat I did not notice the cut in the tyre so when I put a new tube in the new tube blew out just as I was mounting the wheel on my bike. A support vehicle had stopped to help and had aired up the tyre for me. As I went about fixing my flat again I found the large cut in the side wall of my brand new tyre. Lucky the support van had tyres so I was able to mount a new tyre and tube and we hit the road. We had to stop one more time for a few seconds as when we had stopped to fix my flat Emma had opened but not shut her saddle bag. Off again to Inglewood. Near Inglewood we latched onto another a group of riders.

Inglewood to New Plymouth I was pumped for but that would not last. The first rise we hit both Emma and I had leg cramps in the inner thigh. We backed off a bit and had to let the group go. We soldiered on and soon were at Egmont Village. The last challenge of the ride is Burgess Hill just outside of New Plymouth, then one other small climb then it was a easy few minutes to the finish line.

We notice that we see many of the same people through the day. Seems that we (actually I get passed on the hills, Emma is a better climber than me) get passed on the hills, then catch and pass them on the flats. So one way to improve our time and overall placing is to get better at climbing. Though at the moment can’t imaging doing a 6 hour ride again.

Today we had a sleep-in, then went for an easy swim to get the blood flowing. We will get a bit of rest then start training for our first Olympic length Triathlon (1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run) in late March to prepare for.