Fitness and being ever so slightly mad are major attributes needed when cycling from Wellington to Auckland in seven days.
And Wanganui cyclists Allan Luff and David Collins have both. The pair are the only Wanganui entrants in this year's Wellington to Auckland Cycle Challenge that started in the capital on Sunday with 148 riders in three groups.
Group one are the more serious competitors, group two the masters and age group riders, and group three the social set.
Luff, 67 next month, joined the race in group one, while Collins is in group two competing in the 40-49 age group.
Both were feeling "okay" after three days' riding when they left Wanganui for stage seven yesterday morning which took them on a 50km journey up SH4 to Kakatahi. Tough as that may seem, the riders then faced a 55km afternoon journey from Kakatahi through Fields Track and up to Ohakune. Not an easy ride for anyone who knows the steep hill country they are forced to traverse.
"This is my first time in this event and I only did it because David talked me into it," Luff said yesterday morning.
"He needed a support crew, so we have joined forces, with his wife driving our support wagon."
Luff has put in the legwork leading up to the event after taking up the sport three years ago after a long and successful rowing career.
Collins has been involved in top-level cycling for many years, although serious injury forced him out of the sport for some time. "I've only been back riding for the past six or seven months, although am still heavily involved in the sport through my job with Ron Cheatley and Cycle Sport NZ," he said.
Luff and Collins said they had coped well with the first three days, although both conceded it had been a daunting task with even more challenges ahead.
"After that first stage, I was thinking 'well, that's over', but then we are almost immediately faced with another tough leg in the afternoon. In group one, the pace is pretty hot and, even in my 60-69 age group, there are some very sharp riders, so it's not easy," Luff said.
His ability to ride on or somewhere near that pace had Luff in 30th place overall after the Hunterville to Wanganui stage that finished in Eastown Rd on Tuesday afternoon. "It's funny, my race number is 30 and I'm in 30th place. But it's that pace in the group that has dragged me up."
In contrast ,Collins was in 58th spot overall as he set off for Kakatahi yesterday, although ironically his placing also matched his bib number two days before when he was in 62nd spot.
"This is a very challenging event, especially the hills - and there are plenty of them," Collins said.
This year's event raises money for Think - the head injury network for Kiwis.