Cycle Challenge

When: Saturday, November 24

Where: All the challenges are based around Lake Taupo and the surrounding area. The main start and finish is in Tongariro St, Taupo.

Athletes all over New Zealand are gearing up for the nation's biggest cycling event late next month.

The Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge has become an institution in the cycling community since it began in 1977 with only 26 participants.

Now in its 36th year, the event will this year attract 10,000 participants of all abilities and a further 15,000 supporters to Taupo over the event weekend.

"We are New Zealand's largest cycling event, attracting entrants from over 20 countries," said the event's director, Kay Brake.


"The event takes place around the picturesque Lake Taupo with its magnificent scenery and is recognised as one of UCI's six best recreational rides in the world."

The Cycle Challenge is also a charitable trust which means that the proceeds from the event go back into the local community.

This includes contributions to the local clubs and groups who provide more than 700 volunteers to help power the event.

The Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge has 12 event categories available, including the 160km Bike Barn Solo - one lap of Lake Taupo, relay options, multiple-lap Enduros, plus the Contact Huka mountain bike challenges, the Kids@Heart ride for children under 10 and elite races.

Brake said seeing that number of cyclists come together in one place was an awesome sight.

"It takes us around 2 hours to get everyone under way and it's amazing to see such a variety of entrants, from beginners to elites, and of all ages taking on the challenge," she said.

Local legend Sheryl Duncan, who will be riding the solo ride for the 12th time, said the atmosphere on race day was unique.

"I have been to a lot of events around New Zealand but none of them have the atmosphere that the Cycle Challenge has, there is nothing like the energy and anticipation of 10,000 riders all packed into a tight space," said Duncan. "It is normally really freezing too, so everyone is huddled in. It is a great mixture of nerves and excitement."

Brake said the Cycle Challenge was famous for being a really social weekend and for anyone with an interest in cycling now was an ideal time to begin training as a team.

"Many participants use the event as an opportunity to catch up with friends and family who they may not have seen for a while," she said.

"We also have a number of off-event entertainment options such as live bands, buskers and kids' entertainment. It's a great, fun atmosphere for everyone."

All of the hard work the athletes have put in to complete the Cycle Challenge makes the finish line a special place. Brake enjoys watching the emotion of a huge number of athletes achieving their goal.

"It's amazing to see the thrill on everyone's faces as they cross the finish line after completing their challenge," she said.

"For many this has been the culmination of many months of training so to be able to share in their joy of finishing is a special opportunity."