A Tauranga 16-year-old has been crowned New Zealand's fastest rider under 18 after competing in the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.

Charlie Johnson won the Matthew Dryden Memorial Cup for Most Promising Young Cyclist in the Saturday event, although it was news to him when race organisers called to tell him afterwards.

"The finish was a big bunch sprint. I wasn't really thinking about what place I got but then I got a call from the organisers later on telling me I'd won," Charlie said. "I was surprised."

The race involved a staggered start, allowing for the different categories of cyclists to start at different times.


However, Charlie and other competitors in his section - including his brother James - managed to catch up with some of the front-runners. When they caught sight of the finish line, the cluster of cyclists dashed to reach the end first.

"We were hammering it and caught 1A [the first group] but then there were so many riders. It was just a massive sprint. I think I got 10th overall. So I was pretty surprised when they called later."

Charlie completed his first lap in 4.10 hours travelling at an average speed of 36.6km/h.

The keen cyclist regularly meets up with a local group each Sunday to ride 100km on various routes around the region.

Charlie said he had been looking forward to, and training for, the Lake Taupo race for a couple of months. "I race all year round but when term four comes around, I just focus on this big event and step up the cycling."

Charlie has taken part in the event in some capacity since 2012 but this will be the first time his name will be etched on the trophy. "It's pretty cool," he said.

The Memorial Cup honours promising young cyclist Matthew Dryden who died in 2005, aged 14.

For Charlie, the victory was made sweeter by reaching the finish line with his brother and friends all in tow.

Charlie also wanted to pay tribute to coach Craig Kirkwood.

The race hosted nearly 7000 riders from all around New Zealand and 21 different countries. It offers 18 event categories including an endurance round involving 93 cyclists completing two laps of the lake, or another 24 riding around the lake four times.

Te Puke family team The Chain Gang won the newly created Ultimo Dress-Up Award.