It was the 100th anniversary of my late mother’s birth when I stumbled across the Trans-Canada Ultra. This was starting June 2022 from Whitehorse in the Yukon to Newfoundland—some 12,500 km of cycling across Canada.
Advertised as “The hardest and longest self-supported bike race in the world” my interest was piqued. I still had my residual fitness from racing the Tour Aotearoa and had always wanted to cycle across my country of birth. I was also chaffing for a return after the 2+ years of New Zealand being locked down due to Covid. These five years were the longest period since I left Canada in 1983 that I had not returned. Another attraction was this was the first time the event was run and these are the best rides to take: you have no idea what the ride will be like!
After getting my wife Lis’ approval, I entered and, 51:23:17 and 12,362 km after starting (238 km/day), with 82,454 m of climbing, I won—or should I say beat the only other person crazy enough to start!
With a ride of such magnitude it was really hard to know where to start in describing it. So I’ve taken an unusual approach: I asked a number of people who followed my daily Facebook posts what three questions did they have. The following is an attempt to give a picture of this great adventure based on these questions.
“Unfinished business” is what I would tell people who asked me if I had done the Tour Aotearoa (TofA), a 3,013 km brevet which runs the length of New Zealand from Cape Reinga in the far north, to Bluff in the deep south. In 2016 I was going to ride the inaugural TofA with my riding buddy Rickie Cotter but the legacy of a prostate infection meant it was not a good idea. I came back in 2018 and was doing really well when just after km 750 I woke up in a ditch in the Pureora Forest having somehow crashed my bike. It was a bad crash and I ended up with a helicopter ride to Waikato Hospital, 4 h of facial reconstruction surgery, and a traumatic brain injury (TBI) which has led to post-concussion syndrome. Could have been worse… I could have been killed or drooling in a wheel chair!
With my brain injury having settled in to something that I can generally manage, it was time to get this done. So I trained hard to get my fitness up and was well prepared physically and mentally for this race. Promising my wife Lis that I would not overdo it, I looked forward to an adventure!
It’s time for another attempt at the Tour Aotearoa. On a recent Facebook discussion I posted that my kit weighed in at 12.8 kg for the bike with tools etc. and that I had 5.2 kg of clothes and camping kit. I was asked to provide my gear list so here it is!
I’ve never found quite the right bag for my handlebars. I have tried several, most recently the Apidura Racing Handlebar Bag, but it was just too small. None had the key features that I wanted when bikepacking.
So I decided time to get Michael from Stealth Bags in Wellington to work with me and get what I needed. He’s done me two excellent frame bags and is my ‘go to’ guy for creative solutions. So I went to Michael with my wish list and below is what he came up with …
This is a short film made by Rob Dawson of my Everesting 10k effort, with some background as well. Thanks for documenting this Rob!
With my racing season in Europe cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic, I needed a new goal. So why not ‘Everesting’? It is advertised as:
“Fiendishly simple, yet brutally hard. Everesting is the most difficult climbing challenge in the world”
There are about 4,500 people who have Everested, and a much smaller number who have done the Everesting 10k (less than seven my age (60+) or older) where you continue on to do 10,000 m of climbing. The rules are simple.
- We can pick any hill, anywhere in the world and complete repeats of it in a single activity until we climb 8,848m – the equivalent height of Mt Everest.
- Has to be a single activity which means we can rest, stop for nutrition, but no sleep.
- Has to be a single climb—no loops, multiple ascents on the same mountain, etc.
- You have to record continuously on an approved device, and upload to Strava.
After 118 ups and downs of Tata Beach Hill’s 85 m climb, I managed an Everesting 10k. This is what the ride looked like:
The Kopiko Aotearoa was a new bikepacking adventure across the North Island. The route was between the eastern and westernmost points: East Cape Lighthouse and Cape Egmont Lighthouse. Riders could go in either direction, with two waves of up to 100 riders each leaving at sunrise on February 22 and 23rd. It was an ‘invitation only’ event so not widely publicised and I was able to get entries for myself and my riding buddy Rickie Cotter who I met during the 2014 Transcontinental Race from London to Istanbul and has become part of the extended ‘family’.
I was looking forward to the ride as my post-concussion syndrome had got a lot worse in 2019 so I had skipped any races. With a promise to Lis that we would take it easy, I was looking forward to the adventure. I was not to be disappointed.
The North Cape – Tarifa (NCT) race ran from the northernmost point in Europe in Norway, to the southernmost point in Spain. Spanning 13 countries, it is the longest bikepacking race one can do at 7,390 km with over 65,000 m of climbing. It took me 29:10:30 minutes for 10th place, an average of just over 250 km/day. It was an incredible adventure and I was pleased to participate in the inauguration of what deserves to become one of the top bikepacking races.
Snow graffiti on my way to the top of Pico du Veleta in Spain
It seemed like a good idea at the time …
Andy Buchs—who I met at last year’s Indian Pacific Wheel Race across Australia had the idea for a race from the northernmost part of Europe in Norway, to the southernmost in Spain: the North Cape-Tarifa (NCT) race. Sounded like quite the adventure so I signed up and we start the inaugural race at midnight on 20 June. I’ve just been sent the final route and it’s a bit more than I expected: 7,389 km with 85,000 metres of climbing. Ouch. I’m prepared as best as I can be all things considered, but will be interesting to see how things go!
A week tomorrow I’m starting on the 3000 km self-supported ‘Tour Aotearoa’ which goes the length of NZ from Cape Reinga to Bluff. In spite of my crazy travel schedule I’ve managed to keep to a good training program and according to Xertonline I’m right where I need to be fitness wise which is great. This is the best time—starting to taper. With a few rides this week, then driving north on Friday.