Cycling: Cyclists ready to take on Lake

By Laurilee McMichael

The eruption of Mt Tongariro has so far not affected the plans for one of Taupo's biggest weekends of the year.

The town is expecting several thousand cyclists, supporters and family members to arrive today for tomorrow's 36th Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.

Cycle challenge organisers say at this stage there are no changes to the event as a result of the eruption and the course has not been affected.

Although entries officially closed last Saturday, they are accepting late entries today from 10am to 10pm at the Great Lake Centre.

The first cyclists in this year's challenge have already been out on the course for nearly two days. A group of five Extreme Enduro riders (four men and one woman), who do eight laps (1280km) of the lake, set off from Taupo on Wednesday at midday.

Event director Kay Brake has had a busy week putting the final touches to the cycle challenge and says she's looking forward to a wonderful day for everyone involved.

In line with other sporting events around the country, projected entry numbers are down on the cycle challenge's peak of 11,500 in 2005, but with entries being kept open as late as possible and entries coming in at between 300 and 400 cyclists per day over the past week, organisers were hoping for a last-minute bounce in numbers.

Of those already confirmed, there are 300 international riders and 100 riders doing multi-lap options.

With the course record for the 160km currently standing at a staggering 3 hours 43 minutes (Peter Latham, 2008) for the men and 3h 57m for the women (Suzie Pryde, 1999), the top cyclists will be looking to go all out to smash it if they can. The 160km men's classic race starts at 6.45am tomorrow in Tongariro St, while the 100km women's OPI race, which heads to Turangi and back, starts outside the Taupo District Council offices on Lake Tce at 7am. The first finishers in both categories are expected to cross the line from 9.45am and the first solo riders should begin trickling in from 10.45am.

The MetService's forecast is for fine weather and light winds.

Prizegiving at 6pm is always a major attraction and with $150,000 worth of spot prizes being given away, including a car, organisers are expecting a huge turnout on the Tongariro Domain.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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