A Lap of The Lake Fuelled by L’AFFARE
Taupo is a decent challenge for the average cyclist; it’s by no means a flat ride, in fact it’s a really challenging day. Those people who are finishing anywhere from five to eight hours have got a tough job on their hands: those hills get harder as the day gets longer.
— Tim Gudsell (former pro cyclist; owner and founder of Ventouro)

The iconic Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge has been running since ’77 and this year it celebrates its 42nd anniversary. We’ve teamed up with Ventouro – the event’s training and coaching partner – and have a few tips about how to take on the challenge.

“Cycling is a sport that is based around efficiencies, it’s about being efficient in as many different ways as possible,” says Tim. “At the highest level, the pro peloton is seriously efficient in every part of the sport. There are 150 guys riding within milimetres of each other, rolling over the top of each other, using the other guys’ momentum and, whenever they need to, really pressing hard in the last part of a downhill going into a climb. The momentum that gives them means they never have to lift the power on the pedals too high and yet they roll over the climb with really good speed.”

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That sort of high efficiency might feel beyond the reach of us mere mortals, but Tim reckons we can all improve our efficiency in small ways. For example, not being locked into a series of really big spikes, but evening out your energy output. “You can have all the power in the world, but if you can’t keep it for later on in these longer events you’re not going to achieve the result you’re after,” he cautions. “So that means being efficient with your energy output – not wasting power on small spurts of effort for no real reason – or understanding that while the hills will always be harder, if we can take them just a fraction easier that will enable us to keep a bit more energy for what lies ahead.”

The First 40 km

“The first part of the course is really challenging and you definitely see a lot of people using too much energy there,” Tim observes. “It’s a classic situation – it has started well, they’re feeling quite fresh and without knowing how hard they are going, they accelerate over the tops of climbs and probably push well into their red zone. The fact is you can ride the hills quite easily in the first 40 km and still do your goal time. By doing that you should have the energy to ride the flat sections at good speed. There’s always more time to be gained going uphill but you’re also going to use a lot more energy and in the early parts of an event like Taupo those efforts can be really detrimental in the last 40 km.

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“I’ve ridden it a number of times socially and I always get the group to ride well within themselves on the first 60-80 km, looking after themselves on those climbs. But always muster them up to make sure the group keeps moving when the road is easy. Because once a group has got good momentum and good structure they can hold a really good pace with very little effort on an easy section of the course.

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“The idea in that first part is to try and even out the effort as much as you can rather than having these spikes in effort and power when you’re burning matches that you’re going to need. You’ve only got a handful of matches and if you’ve burnt them all by halfway, you really start to know about it.”

It’s just over two weeks until NZ’s largest cycling occasion, the BDO Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. Best known for the 160km Bike Barn Round The Lake, if you haven’t quite got the training in for a full lap, there’s heaps of other categories on offer including shorter course options both on road and off. Online entries are still available at www.cyclechallenge.com


Words: Liam Friary, Chris Gaskell and Tim Gudsell

Images: Cameron Mackenzie

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