HOOKER

The Taupo Cycle Challenge introduced the HUKA XL/Challenge MTB race last year to run alongside its road racing. This year saw a stacked field of just under 300 riders line up to take on the 82 km ride. Byron Scott and myself headed to Taupo to take on the 'Challenge' race and continue our head to head, world champs, who's fastest grudge fest.  The following is a graphical representation of the day.....

Traffic heading into Taupo on friday night, the influx of 11,000+ people was obvious!

Friday night "the rockstars" of NZ road racing hit the streets of Taupo for a criterium race, the high speed action drew a sold crowd and was worth a watch.

Also on the go was a BMX competition, with NZ's top riders hucking their carcasses over a wooden ramp setup for a $1000 prize purse.  Here Nick Cooper from Australia attempts a bike flip, he didnt pull it, and I didnt get the shot so you'll have to imagine it!

George Bolter took the $1000 prize, giving him enough money to fly back to Vancouver for another few months of snow making on the ski fields over there.

5.00am Saturday morning, bowl of muesli and a small can of creamed rice, perfect start to the day!

5.45am - Byron, flat white with 1. Me - long black, no sugar.

6.00am. Playing in the Cafe where we were coffeeing was some NZ rock vid with some terrible Mountainbiking at Woodhill. Now Im not one to sling mud or bad mouth anyone but what type of self respecting band would use some lame as mountainbiking in their videos?

After our breakfast and coffee we still had a solid 45 minutes until we had to be on the start line so we lurked around the event area. Here 1000's of relay riders bikes were racked up ready to be trucked out to transition points around the lake. The sheer number of bikes on these racks blew me away!

More bikes on racks....

6.45am. We assembled with all the mountainbikers on the start line, and started to wonder if the last minute 'slash' we'd thought of taking but didnt would have been a good idea after all! Thats the elite & XL riders grouped infront.

6.55am. Bike? Check. Shoes? Check. Road section to start the race? Check.

11.30am ish - Byron fresh off the bike. Unfortunately he didnt get an official time due to his transponder dropping off.... Next year!

Ten minutes after the finish. Byron gets the 'hell cramp' and writhes on the ground for a bit while I stand by laughing.

Lycra, dusty legs, blood, post race brewski.

Burger King, post race food of wanna-be champions.

After showering, beering, burger kinging (?) and re-coffeeing we headed back to watch the flow of riders coming in from their around Taupo experiance. By this late in the day most were looking pretty haggard to say the least!

Caleb and Elliot finishing the kids MTB race.

The Huka is a must do for any self respecting MTB rider or racer. The trails are good enough that if you're cruising at a 'social' pace just wanting to see what it's like to ride 80km off road you'll have an awesome time, and serious racer boys (or girls) going for the win will be tested to their limits.

The trails range from nice hardpacked flowy rolling singletrack to tighter rough and loose technical numbers and everything in between. I was stoked to see some real 'old-school' trails in their natural state instead of the usual over-grooming which goes on at many XC trails.

I'll definately be back next year, and hopefully about 30 minutes quicker!