Two Kapiti mountain bikers had a very special reason to complete three laps of the gruelling 85km Huka Challenge.
Iain Guest, from Raumati South, and Ian Davidson, from Waikanae, rode the epic 255km distance in tribute to their friend Peter Woodman-Aldridge, 44, from Waikanae, who passed away suddenly last year.
Peter was a community-minded, gentle, fun and friendly person who also had a sense of adventure which led to him developing the idea of racing the Huka Challenge over three consecutive laps.
"It was very bittersweet having set out to complete Pete's challenge without him along for the ride."
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The challenge is a mix of the Waikato River course and Craters MTB Park in the Wairakei Forest, Taupo, comprising steep climbs and long, twisting, flowing descents.
Peter's attempt last year failed as he was sick through the first lap and then had a mechanical failure which stopped him doing the third lap.
His death in December last year rocked the community.
In honour of their friend, Iain and Ian decided they would try and complete the three laps — their successful attempt started at 1pm on Friday, November 24 and finished at 2.30pm the following day in a time of 24h 58m 32s.
"Completing this challenge gave a real sense of relief for both of us," Iain said.
"It was very bittersweet having set out to complete Pete's challenge without him along for the ride.
"I was really glad that we were able to pay tribute to such a great person by completing it.
"The finish line was a wash of high emotions to have finished and of sadness that Peter wasn't there to share in it.
"It was also pretty special to be recognised by the organisers of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge as the first people to have completed the 3x Huka enduro race.
"They had been told of Pete's passing and gave the challenge their support this year."
Iain said the demands of riding for such a long time and distance included fatigue, fitness and ensuring there was enough food and water available [he drank six litres of water in the first lap].
"I'm also a type 1 diabetic and that added another layer of complexity to the organisation and planning for the food for this type of event."
The biggest demand was being mentally prepared.
"Once you are fit enough to ride the distance the mental aspect of the achievement is what dictates whether you finish or not.
"I find that by keeping focused on the end goal, while breaking the ride down into small segments makes it more achievable.
"If you think too much about the enormity of such an event it can create doubt in your mind which is fatal."
Staying focused especially when riding through the night was essential.
"Maintaining control of a mountain bike at speed on a descending trail at 4am after riding since the previous day can be tricky but at the same time is really exhilarating.
"We were well equipped with bike lights throughout the night lap."
Another factor was the warm temperatures.
"On the Friday temperatures reached 26C and through the night the temperature never dipped below 16C.
There was time pressure too.
"We had the challenge of ensuring we met the time restrictions for the start of the official race which was 7am on Saturday morning and had finished the previous two laps with time to spare for breakfast and to restock our gear."
The support crew and riders "were fantastic", namely Brett Irving, Bryce Lorcet, Dale Lopez, (who won his age group for the shorter 65km Steamer race on the Saturday), Todd Foster (who rode the first lap and then backed up by completing the road race in 4h 33m the following day), Deb Neave and Mike Everest.
"They ensured we were kept motivated and had our food cache all ready for us at the halfway and end of each lap."
And there was a lot of support from others.
"Every time we went through a check point the marshals gave us a big cheer in support.
"Other riders recognised the bright yellow helmet covers we had as being part of the enduro attempt and were very encouraging, and disbelieving, when we passed them."