Tour of Northland

I did it, this ebiker rode 360km over 4 days of racing. Yes, this is my blog and I’ll brag if I want to. In reality, it was harder than I anticipated and the level of rider ability was really high too. I guess I should have expected that – not everyone is going to enter a stage race. But I met my “soft goal” of where I expected to place overall. Group 4 is where you want to be if you want the scenic option.

As a novice road racer, I really didn’t know what to expect. I trained for endurance and back-to-back days, and I felt great at the end of each day. Where I was weak was intensity: remember I didn’t expect it to be so competitive at my end of the field! What I loved though was the general spirit and camaraderie that went along with every bunch.

Some tips for anyone entering:

  • It is more fun in a team, or at least a bunch of mates who enter together and stay together.
  • Hydrate well and feed well on the way. Any roadie will know this.
  • Don’t do anything you haven’t tried before. That goes for equipment, clothing, food.
  • Train for endurance and intensity. The hill climbs keep coming and you want to stay with your bunch.
  • Make sure your bike and attachments are good for rough road surfaces.

Here are my descriptions of each day:

  1. Whangarei to Russell 105km, 1500m. It starts with a couple of fair climbs, and the ‘big one’ is to Helena Bay. It’s not actually that big at around 130m, but it comes at a critical point. You want to be able to stay with the crowd here. Coming over the top there were lots of tyre lacerations/punctures due to debris (me included). After the down, it goes up and down, up and down with some nasty pinches right to the end. It’s a tough day. Stay in Paihia, there are lots of choices for accommodation and food and it is easier for the morning start.
  2. Paihia to Opononi 90km, 920m. This is possibly the easist stage, but a long steady climb from Ohaiewae to Kaikohe saw me struggling to stay the pace. There are three minor climbs thereafter but nothing major. Stay in Opononi or Omapere. Some people reckon they got sick from the RSA dinner (I didn’t) but I’d recommend going elsewhere.
  3. Opononi-Dargaville 85km, 1300m. A steep climb near the start sets the tone, followed by a giant hike (nearly 400m) up to the Waipoua forest and Tane Mahuta. Another small climb, then glorious sweeping downhills. Enjoy them, because another two biggish climbs follow. What I liked about this day was that you can make your own pace more-or-less and form up into a bunch at the bottom of the hills. It is also scenically really stunning. Stay in Dargaville (or Baylys Beach if you have a support vehicle).
  4. Dargaville-Whangarei 80km, 720m. “It doesn’t get any easier, just faster” goes the saying attributed to Greg Lemond. This is true. Some climbing from 25-32km will separate the pack a bit, but if you can handle this you should be able to go nearly all the way. The road is quite rough in parts.

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