Thousands brave wind to cycle Harbour Bridge

Almost 4000 cyclists of all ages and levels of ability headed to Shelly Beach Road in Herne Bay this morning for the chance to ride their bikes across the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

With a number of options available from the full 110km ride to Kumeu to a more leisurely 5km trip on the busways, there was a big crowd - but it faced a challenge before it could get off the mark.

High winds gave organisers a few anxious moments, and then an accident on the bridge meant the start time for the first batch of cyclists was delayed for an hour.

Riders - who travelled in the far right lanes heading north - were protected from traffic by 160 Metrolink and Northstar buses that formed  a 2.3km-long barrier. There was also an additional barrier placed on the fixed barrier side of the bridge, an extra strand of protection against the wind gusts.

Those winds had already forced the late cancellation of another event from the Herne Bay area, the Chelsea Swim. Many swimmers turned up only to be told the choppy swells had put paid to their plans.

But the cycling went ahead, to the relief of dozens of volunteers who had been at the start of the course from 3am to ensure everything was ready.

Riders took off into a strong headwind and had to ride two abreast for safety reasons heading over the bridge.

The riders who did the full 110km also faced stiff winds travelling back. One rider, Simon Nunns tweeted: "Rode the TelstraClear race over the Harbour Bridge and then rode home from Kumeu into a howling head wind... didn't enjoy that bit very much".

The 110km race title was taken out by Jeremy Yates in the time of 2:47:46, while Emma Crum was the first woman home in a photo-finish in 3:13:59.

The TelstraClear Challenge raised more than $70,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.




- The Aucklander

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