OK, so it’s official – I’m mad! I signed up for the Grand Challenge a couple of months ago thinking this was a great idea – now I’ve seen the route and I’m not so sure.
The Grand Challenge involves riding 1000 miles (that’s 1600 km) in 24 hours or less. And what do you get if you complete the challenge within the 24 hours? A badge!
If you arrive one minute after the 24 hour deadline you lose.
So, the trip from Wellington to Turangi which I rode today, is around 345 kms. I couldn’t help thinking that that was less than one fifth of the total distance I’m going to need to ride over Saturday and Sunday. Holy shit! Can I do it? I’m going to give it a shot.
The challenge starts at 3pm on Saturday. Riders leave in groups. I’m in the fifth group which leaves at 3.12pm. So, you see, we ride through the night.
And the route?
Firstly we head south to Mangaweka, inland via a circuitous and windy route to Ashhurst where there is a time check. (223 km)
Then through the Manawatu Gorge to Woodville, south towards Paihatua, then inland via the famous Route 52 through southern Hawke’s Bay. The next checkpoint is at Waipukurau, my home town. Not sure if I’ll have time to have a cuppa with my mum. (158 km)
From there it’s all the way up the East Coast, through Napier to Wairoa, then via Frasertown and the back route to Gisborne. (288 km)
From Gisborne we cut through the bottom of the East Cape to Opotiki, on to Rotorua where the third checkpoint will be found at Karapiro Service Station. (349 km)
Just before Cambridge we turn off to Te Awamutu, eventually linking up with SH3 which will take us all the way through to Hawera, and Patea to the 4th checkpoint. (324 km)
Continuing on to Whanganui, then onto SH4 up to Raetihi and National Park. Cut across SH 47 and SH46 to Rangipo and then on to the finish line at Turangi. (240 km)
Total distance = 1610 km.
Check it out on a map. It’s stunning and daunting and exciting all at the same time.