The last rider to cross the finish line at this year's Whaka 100 was the first to sign up for the 2018 edition of the event when entries opened last week.
For Wellington's Alex Disher, this year's Whaka 100 was his first event since fully recovering from a broken back suffered in 2016. It was not easy.
The 100km ride took Disher 10h 55m 36s, more than five-and-a-half hours slower than winner Edwin Crossling. He was the last finisher as he crossed the line within five minutes of the 11-hour cut-off time.
He said the reception he received at the finish line was like nothing he had ever experienced before.
"To cross the finish line with less than five minutes to go was huge. Hours after most had left and were already four or more beers into the evening, my buddies were clambering around in the bushes at Rosebank cheering me on. Everyone at the finish line went crazy when I got there and it was the most amazing welcome.
"I entered the Whaka while on holiday in Rotorua, staying with a mate over Christmas. Seemed a good idea to start the year with a training goal, a new event to look forward to at the end of the year and a reason to simply get back and ride sweet trails at Rotorua.
"I let moving to a new city and a new job get in the way [of training properly] and consequently motivation was low even though intentions were good. I've done long distance endurance road cycling over the years and understand first-hand how to keep pushing on when you most feel like stopping. This in mind, in the run up to the event I thought 'I've entered, so no reason not to at least have a go'."
He said he got caught up in trying to go too fast during the first 15km, rather than at a speed suitable for himself over 100km. There were several hill climbs during which he had to get off the bike and walk.
"I managed to keep in a really good headspace until the last 15km or so – I was very much helped by meeting up with another competitor, Jane Edmondson, who I rode with for around five hours. She was awesome - very cool to chat to and extremely positive that we were going to make it and we both had a cool time because of it. It would have been a different experience just grinding it out on your own hour after hour," he said.
While the experience, spending nearly 11 hours on a bike without the necessary training, would put many off ever doing it again, it only provided him with more motivation. That was why he had signed up again for 2018, determined to be more prepared this time.
"A good friend of mine, Michael Hoogeveen, has a favorite one-liner he shares often and that is that 'riding bikes is fun!'. He tends to shout it out with a huge smile when rides are going well, and also when they really aren't.
"It's a simple message and a good reminder of why you're there in the first place. When you don't know how a big ride is going to shape up or you're way out of your depth, try to stay upbeat, don't be too serious and ensure you have the best time you can and things will be good."
To enter the 2018 Whaka 100 go to: whaka100.co.nz