(1331km, +21519m)

Due to significant portions of the course crossing private land, the route is ONLY able to ridden during the race by tracked riders. 

             Paved          Gravel        4WD      Singletrack    Hike-a-bike

     401                 477             282                136                   35

Screen Shot 2021-04-15 at 9.28.20 PM.png

~400km, +5990m

Starting from the spectacular Cape Farewell at dawn, the northern section of the TTW will be familiar to many who have ridden the Kiwi Brevet or Tour Aotearoa. Large sections of paved riding are interspersed with singletrack, gravel, a beach (!) and a few river crossings. This is the easiest and fastest section of the course with good resupply options. Expect to take 1-2 days to complete this.

Screen Shot 2021-04-15 at 9.29.58 PM.png


~ 600km, +11,400m

The central portion of the route features a number of formidable challenges. With long distances between resupply (1.5-3 days), many river crossings and a number sections requiring hiking or bike carries, this is where the route shows its' teeth. If the weather is unkind it's likely travel will be significantly slower and could be halted altogether on the high mountain passes. Methven and Tekapo provide a welcome reprieve from the exposed mountainous terrain. Conditions dependent, 3-6 days will see you through here.

Screen Shot 2021-04-15 at 9.30.36 PM.png


~300km, +3900m

The final 300+km of the course falls into two contrasting segments. Firstly a trek across the high tussock peneplain of Central Otago before dropping down to the Clutha River and winding your way through the lush Southland farmscape. Nearly all on navigable roads of some description, the topography hides it's undulating nature as the vertical metres stack up unexpectedly. A big final overnighter or a two days solid effort will see you to Slope Point, where there's no more left to do.



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Tour Te Waipounamu 2024

January 28, 2024 @ 7:00 am,  tasman, new zealand    807mi (1,299km).

Tour Te Waipounamu

Next Event Fri Jan 8, 2021

Arrowhead Ultra 135

Next Event:

Arrowhead 135 (2024)

The Tour Te Waipounamu is a bikepacking race following the length of New Zealand’s South Island, Te Waipounamu o Aotearoa— “that land between the mountains and plains”…

Date: January 28, 2024

Time: 7:00 am

Event Website

Organizer: Brian Alder

Email: info@tourtewaipounamu.co.nz

Cape Farewell

Puponga , Tasman 7183 New Zealand

The Tour Te Waipounamu is a bikepacking race following the length of New Zealand’s South Island, Te Waipounamu o Aotearoa. In its purest form it is a solo event, testing your resolve and resourcefulness and your capabilities. You may find it enriching, humbling or demoralising.

In riding the 1300km of the route you will discover the incredible diversity of the landscape of Te Waipounamu. Lush forest with walking tracks traced with tree roots, vast valleys criss-crossed by mountain rivers and endless roads that fade into a horizon of rugged mountain ranges that have unlikely passages through them. Just when you think you have adjusted to each environment, the trail under your wheels morph to something new and once again you are a novice in this landscape.

tour te waipounamu

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Tour te waipounamu 2022 results.

This Kiwi high country epic delivered a fine dotwatching spectacle with foreigner Jakub Sliacan taking the win and shaved six hours off Ollie Whalley's winning time from 2021.



  • Slovakia ( 1 )
  • Ireland ( 1 )
  • NEW ZEALAND ( 2 )

32 entrants have no registered nationality

Finished / Scratched

Female: 25%

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Cati's Tour Te Waipounamu

15 February 2022

Words and Photos: Cati Pearson

I remember reading Dulkara Martig's posts from the first Tout Te Waipounamu (TTW) - storing hot chips in her feedbag and summiting side missions, like the original course wasn’t hard enough. My friend Emily suggested we could do this event as a group. I opened the website and thought "that’s huge". Stuff that, let’s try something like the Timber Trail instead. TTW momentarily forgotten.

Then mid  Papa Ghosty Loop  with Emma Bateup it raised its head again. Emma had received a message from Brian Alder (race organiser) saying we had TTW spots if we wanted them. Emma, being Emma, was like "yeah let’s go, it will be fun". And me being the blind follower to Emma’s plans thought - "if it's like the Papa then how hard can it be"? Anyway hard isn’t an excuse to not do something.

So I signed up, and was disappointed when I missed the first email confirming my entry. Then terrified when I got a second note and realised I was in after all. Things kicked off with a hiss and a roar. I read every blog inside and out in preparation. I found a 4-month bike packing race training guide and even organised Tracey to get me back to the gym. But in typical Cati fashion I got bored and things slipped. 7hr training rides became 3hrs. Overnighters became sleep overs in the comfort of my own bed in my own house. Planned events like the Geyserland Gravel Grind fell by the wayside. I prepped poorly - with only two practice rides on a fully laden bike.

When I arrived in Nelson on the Friday I was still terrified for what’s to come. I had tonnes of lovely messages wishing me good luck, which left me feeling teary - what have I let myself in for.

The bike arrived and probably for the first time in a century of flying with bikes it was fine. What a relief. I built her up and wandered into town for essentials - gas, cheese and crackers. Turns out I had forgotten how hot Nelson gets and by the time I got home I was a sweaty sore mess. The rest of the day was spent in bed eating and reading course notes over and over again. Surely cramming now will help!

On Saturday I woke with a numb left hand (a common occurrence for me since hurting my elbow a few years ago), not a good sign considering I was to be holding my bars for the next 10 days.

A bunch of us shuttled to Cape Farewell organised by the amazing Emma Hadley. It was a good time to meet people; those I had talked to online beforehand, those I had stalked and those whose blogs I consumed in preparation for this. We met Bateup at briefing after she had ridden over from Motueka. We were handed our spot trackers - things were starting to get serious. Surprisingly enough I slept like a log the night before, making the most of having a bed.

tour te waipounamu

On Sunday we corralled at Cape Farewell all jittery but ready to go. I don’t actually remember anyone saying "Go" but next minute the crowd raced off. I jumped on the back of the first group but by the time we made it 400m down the road to the first hill I was out the back. The next group that came across was more my pace (and without me knowing, would contain my riding buddies for the next week). We drafted to Collingwood and had a cruisey roll across the beach to Takaka.

tour te waipounamu

As I got to the Rameka, our first climb (883m) I realised I may have gone too hard too fast, which left me walking sections of a very rideable track. This made me very nervous and was a bad sign for things to come. I stopped at the top for a lunch break, chatting with Cosmo and Adrian who were having a leisurely start to their day. I tried to eat my leftover pesto pasta but my stomach was in knots. I managed a few mouthfuls and a bunch of Tailwind instant energy before pushing on.

I rode solo all day, happy to just be on the road and at my pace. I made my way up Baton Valley Saddle slowly. Seeing a lady on a horse up ahead I pulled over to the righthand side of the road to give her space. She promptly yelled at me for being dangerous and riding on the wrong side of a busy road. After a 15 minute grilling I was allowed passed and limped my way into Tapawera for my next stop.

I joined Cosmo and Adrian at the pub for an early dinner, ordering pizza and coke. Sadly, I was still unable to tolerate food. Having one slice of pizza before wanting to vomit. I couldn’t even stand the thought of packing it and taking the rest with me. So I downed my coke, refilled a bottle of Tailwind and hit out for Nelson Lakes.

Everyone appeared to stop at the top of the pylon track where a medical emergency was awaiting help. I was no help so I rode down the hill by myself, boosting into the farm below for my first chat with trail fairies in the pitch black. I rode on until about 10:30 that night. Tired from a big day I found an anglers access track and set up my bivvy for some sleep - but got none as all I could hear for hours on end were all the other riders going past me. Stressed, after a couple of hours of rest I decided to start again…

  • Distance 223.3 km
  • Vertical 2678m
  • Max vert 883m
  • Moving time 13:29 hrs 
  • Elapsed time 15:20 hrs

It transpires I actually did get some kip - remarkable as I woke to a flat sleeping mat and a rocky bed. I got straight on the bike, stressed that everyone had passed me overnight. Climbing into the Porika Track I saw everyone else camping! I pushed up the steep track to the top for a slippery descent to Lake Rotoroa as the rain started.

Passing the lake I stopped for a selfie and some lollies (still not able to tolerate solid food) and headed over to the Braeburn Track. Next minute I hear a large cracking noise and a large deer barrelled across the road in front of me.

I met my first riding buddy Mike who I followed to Murchison for another meal I couldn’t eat. So after a quick coffee and a few hot chips I made my way up to Maruia Saddle where I met Karl, who would be by my side for pretty much the rest of the ride. We cat and moused with Eillen and Andy through the bogs of Dredgeville (Springs Junction) and crested Lewis Pass (which I was way too excited to get to the top of, considering so much worse was yet to come) before dripping in on Boyle Village. The four of us would end up spending a lot of time together over the next few days. At Boyle it was time to restock from our drop boxes. My mouth watered at the sight of Pringles and extra bottles of Coke. I had enough to let me bin the Bumper Bars, "what had been watching me" for two days and making me feel ill. I also binned my stupid mat, no point it taking up valuable food space if it wasn’t going to last the night.

tour te waipounamu

Refuelled, we headed off in search of the Hope Kiwi Track. The landscape was already looking more Canterbury than Nelson. The start of the Hope Kiwi Track was... interesting... fitting the bikes through a hole in the fence and then navigating a very narrow three wire swing bridge with a fully loaded bike. It was slow going with lots of walking. We arrived at Half Way Hope about 10 pm for half a dehydrated meal for dinner. We then carried on, hoping to make Hope Kiwi Lodge. I’m actually glad it was dark as I don’t think I would have otherwise crossed the second shittier swing bridge. This one required weaving bikes on and off under wires. A fallen tree blocking the track also slowed us down. We finally arrived at the hut around midnight to find three others there including Mike. Bed time, finally!

  • Distance 201 km
  • Vertical 3096m
  • Max vert 932m
  • Moving time 15:10 hrs
  • Elapsed time 21 hrs

Being too tired to actually set the alarm the day before I only woke up as the others were packing up. I was half an hour behind schedule, nearly missing Karl heading off, but I packed in 5 min in time to hit the track with the gang. We made our way along the valley through some much more rideable beech forest with much nicer swing bridges.

Popping out at the Hurunui River, we did a giant dog leg up and down river, crossing a ford and avoiding some big bulls loitering by the track. Andy & Eileen caught us in time for the first of the hike-a-bike sections up to Lake Mason. We became a little lost in this section and as we traversed our way back to the gpx route Andy found a poor ewe stuck in a creek. He heaved her water logged ass out and she stumbled along hopefully to be reunited with her gang. 
As we pedalled our way to the base of the Dampier Range I started to get very tight left Achilles. Turns out I like to ride with my seat super high. Thank goodness A&E   had encountered this before and had a trick to ease the pain. I dropped my seat shifted my cleats backwards. on the upside it took my mind off the hardest climb of the race that lay ahead.

tour te waipounamu

We changed into walking shorts and had a full feed before starting our 5 hour climb up the unmarked and untracked route over Dampier to Anderson’s Hut using only the gpx file to navigate. At places the giant tussocks came up to Eileen's and my faces as we battled to find any direction up the hill with loaded bikes on our backs.

tour te waipounamu

The excitement of reaching the top evaporated with the realisation that we had to walk half way down as well! The final section (where we finally met a track) was sick, steep gravel/beech with tight Nelson-style turns. I was in my element. Sadly, it was short lived.

Anderson’s was pretty run down and my fear of spiders wouldn’t let me sleep inside. So I dragged a mattress into the bushes to bivvy on. It wasn’t until later that I realised my campsite was also a pig grave yard and what I thought was sticks were actually bones and a couple of big black ears. While the walking destroyed my Achilles it was nice to give my bum bruising and my achy hands a bit of a rest.

  • Distance 56 km
  • Vertical 1840m
  • Max vert 1463m
  • Moving time 9 hrs
  • Elapsed time 15 hrs

We headed out of Mt White Station as the sun rose - following the fresh gravel road for hours, with beautiful views everywhere. But I was tired and struggled to keep my eyes open. I had to eventually stop for a cold roadside coffee. It didn’t help much.

Finally in Craigieburn I thought it was time for some single track fun but my Achilles continued to give me pain, and my bum was bruised and chaffed. Lollies and more coffee was consumed by the river for lunch. Nothing else seemed appetising. With temperatures soaring I felt sick. I hadn’t been able to tolerate much solid food for days, only one and a half dehydrated meals in four days. I battled on until an unexpected bright pink strawberry liquorice coloured vomit appeared on my shoes.

I pushed on through the Dracophyllum Track dazed and lagging. letting Karl move onto Hogs Back without me. I stripped off all my clothes and lay down to sleep in the shade. After 30 minutes, a shit tonne of water and a dip in the river I felt ok to move again, slowly walking the Hogs Back. Again the descent was fun and gave me a bit of a boost.

As I dropped into Castle Hill Village two trail fairies cheered me on and I used up 0.5 of an allocated cry. They told me I had it easy from there so I boosted onto the highway. They lied... the headwind around Lake Lyndon and Lake Coleridge nearly killed me. Eventually I turned up the valley I was blessed with a tailwind that soared me in the direction of Methven. About 20 km out of town I found Karl on the side of the road. He had stopped to call ahead for a cabin which I jumped in on and secured one as well.

The day took another turn 10 minutes later when the heavens opened and the southerly arrived. The headwind into Methven was unbearable. We were freezing but couldn’t stop. When I finally got to the cabin my hands were frozen in a grip so I couldn’t undress or get my bag off. To make matters worse it was 8:40 pm, we were staying 2 km out of town, it was pouring with rain, and there was no uber eats delivery. Wtf were we going to do for food? I went cabin knocking and was able to convince a lady to drive us to the pub. The pub had shut its kitchen by the time we arrived. After some begging by Eileen, Andy, Keith and Georgie (who had beaten us there for proper pub food) they agreed to produce some deep fried goodness. Time to hang out all clothing to dry and sleep with the heater on full blast in preparation for the next day's backcountry mission.

  • Distance 167.5 km
  • Vertical 2807 m
  • Max vert 1053 m
  • Moving time 12:34 hrs
  • Elapsed time 15:13 hrs

We planned to start early, not waiting for the shops in Methven to open, grabbing stuff from the Peel Forest Cafe. There was fresh snow on the hills as we rode across the boring plains. We dreamed of cafe food. Real coffee, bacon and eggs or creamy pasta if they had it. Our hearts were broken on arrival to find the cafe closed for the day due to a power outage. We conducted an emergency stocktake of our food supplies - deciding whether we needed to backtrack to find some shops or keep pushing forward. A bag of lollies, two dehydrated meals, a quarter of a bag of Tailwind and a bag of 'hot' chips from the previous night’s dinner. I had JUST enough to get through the two days to our next refuelling stop in Tekapo.

We continued along long gravel tracks towards Mesopotamia Station. I learned that I’m not talented enough to ride while asleep. My eyes kept shutting unintentionally and I would wake up when my bike slid out in the gravel. I had also lost my sunblock somewhere in Craigieburn so my skin was on fire with no shelter. I decided to take off my shirt and ride in my crop top and rain coat to try provide some shade.

Andy & Eileen caught us walking again in the paddocks at the beginning of the climb - the Dampier Dream Team was back for the next hike-a-bike section. We also met Clair and the trail fairies who fed us chocolate before sending us on our way.

At the base of Bullock Bow Saddle we changed into walking shorts. I discovered that my chaffing had broken and was bleeding - something I would have to deal with later.

We climbed and climbed up the 4WD track that eventually turned to a gravel track. A few tahr grazed on the hill. The views were magnificent and the descent past the tarns to Royal Hut was one of my highlights. The downhill popped out at a sign - 2.5 km to the hut. My ass was too raw to pedal so I continued walking, hoping to secure a bunk for the night.

We had been informed that Royal Hut is super busy with Te Araroa walkers and we would be unlikely to score a bed. We raced quickly ahead of A&E and the Hello Mince Pie boys to secure spots only to find the place empty. Lucky us, I nearly cried. The boys carried on. They had also planned to restock at the closed Peel Cafe and didn’t have enough food to linger overnight.

Eventually the hut was full with seven TTW riders. Exhausted from another big day I fell asleep while resting on top of my sleeping bag. Better get a good night's sleep for tomorrow - the biggest climb.

  • Distance 135 km
  • Vertical 2428 m
  • Max vert 1695 m
  • Moving time 12 hrs
  • Elapsed time 16.5 hrs

I sat down in the dark and wet dew to tape hyperfix to the wounds on my ass to hopefully act as a second skin and reduce further chaffing. I kicked off slowly up the hill before the others - knowing I’m the slowest walker in the group. I fell a few times on the rocks, knocking my aerobars and breaking my head lamp. The others caught me at dawn and it was a nicer climb than expected to Stag Saddle, the highest point on Te Araroa.

tour te waipounamu

We breakfasted looking out across Lake Tekapo to Aoraki Mt Cook before starting the best downhill of the event. 8 km of pure fun to Rex Simpson Hut. I would definitely return and HAB this section again hands down. As Andy said “most people think TTW is freakin' brutal but really it’s freakin' awesome”.

Our joy was kind of cut short when we arrived at the bottom of the Round Hill Ski Field climb which jutted up out of nothing straight to the sky. We had expected the section just before this to be horrible (a matagouri bush bash that was voted the worst part of TTW#1) but I had my eyes set on Tekapo so breezed through it.

tour te waipounamu

Thank goodness the Richmond Trail from here to town was fun flowy easy track. We happily refuelled with milk shakes and big breakfasts at in Tekapo. The Alps 2 Ocean out of town was super flat and fast and I was starting to think the hardest part was over. Dang, was I wrong. From Lake Pukaki to Haldon Arms we were beaten senseless for hours on baby head gravel. We arrived at the campsite around 7:30 pm, too early to stop. But with a 30 km no camping zone afterwards we carried on with an anticipated late night before bed.

tour te waipounamu

As we hit  Black Forest  I started to get what I thought was cramp in my left quad. I knocked back a crampfix and stopped to stretch but it didn’t settle. We pushed on for another 10 or so km before I popped a salt tab and tried to massage it out. It started to feel worse and was aggravated by my aching Achilles. I rode on with my foot unclipped and heel on the pedal. Black Forest Station got progressively steeper and steeper and everything in me hurt. Too many false peaks beat me emotionally. What had started as the best day on the TTW quickly crashed to the worst.

We finally made it to the last peak. The descent provided no relief - death gripping the entire way due to losing my light that morning. We popped out at the Lake Benmore Dam. Someone was yelling my name. Cousins Kelsey and Mark where there, at 12:38 am on what could have been the hardest day. I burst into tears. All I needed was a hug and they just happened to be there at that very moment. I struggled to get words out. After being on the go for 20 hrs I couldn’t really afford the energy to stop but they gave me the boost I needed to roll on down to a grass field in Otematata to sleep for a few hours before the next stage.

  • Distance 166 km
  • Vertical 2232m
  • Max vert 1931m
  • Moving time 14 hrs
  • Elapsed time 20 hrs

tour te waipounamu

We allowed ourselves a small sleep in, getting upright just before 6 am. A quick wipe down in the public toilets, retaping of bum wounds and water bottle fill, it was time for another walk - straight into Otematata Station. Over the initial hill we were greeted with a fun descent and gentle roll along the river before our next big hike-a-bike. We rinsed shirts and helmets in the stream to pre-cool us for the day's toil ahead and we slowly started up the zig zag into the Hawkduns. God it was hot. This moon-like landscape was vast with nothing in sight.

This was another TTW special - not a straight up the hill and down the other side. But uphill, traverse with more uphill, descent with more uphill and downhill with a hidden uphill! We stopped at Ida Railway Hut which we had been excited to see all trip. This old building has been dragged up the hill by bulldozer to its current location. A long stop for dehy meals and leg elevation, it was hard to kick off again. Especially as the next section was called walking spur.

I nearly cried. I was hot, frustrated with a tight Achilles and a giant knot in my leg that was getting worse. The strapping tape placed on my bum had moved with all the sweat and was no longer covering my sore bits. To make matters worse my lip balm was blistering my lips rather than soothing them in the 30+ degrees. At the edge of the Oteake Conservation Area we looked over the Maniototo Plains and the Central Otago Rail Trail below. The downhill was chunky, not as fast as the previous descents, but bloody good fun. Relieved with a 14 km road sprint to Otuehura, it was time for food.

Our form so far with cafes and restaurants wasn’t so good so we were excited to see the general store and pub were both open. We woofed milkshakes and topped up on snacks for the next day, then crossed the road to the pub to find "nope, the kitchen was closed". Aghh. Andy rang ahead to the Pooburn Adventure Hub where a crazy man at the end of the phone was keen to have us and could provide us with “a healthy meal 'cos we are athletes and they are athletes, and we don’t want to eat that shit the pubs have, not healthy at all". So off we trotted for another 20 odd km.

Arriving at the Poolburn Adventure Hub we were greeted with a "closed 'cos the guy is not vaccinated" sign. But crazy man was good for his word and had remotely cooked us mince and spuds for dinner, and opened some rooms for us. Finally my first and only shower of the trip. I jumped in fully clothed to clean my one set of kit then got into bed with the clothes wrapped in a towel next to me hoping they would dry overnight. Crazy man was definitely off the scale but his bed and linen choice was 10/10.

  • Distance 112 km
  • Vertical 2384m
  • Max vert 1634m
  • Moving time 11 hrs
  • Elapsed time 15 hrs

We slowly grovelled along the gravel up out of Poolburn towards Lake Onslow. This slow climb wasn’t hard but the knot/pain in my quad progressively got worse to the point that I was gritting my teeth with any movement. If I had been at home I would have thrown my toys and cried multiple times. My Achilles continued to make it hard - often still pedalling unclipped with my heel on the pedal. After about 30 km I clicked that this could be my ITB. I stretched it at our next snack spot... it hurt but I could pedal again. I cried tears of joy. I was even happy to  have lunch in a shit covered sheep shed.

By the time we got to the base of the Lammerlaw, our last hill, I had my beats on, pumped to tackle the last hurdle. In typical TTW fashion it was a long false peak climb, with an uphill traversing section and an 'uphill descent' that involved dodging giant 4WD holes. The drizzle doused us the whole time.

We lost Andy & Eileen on the descent as her knee started causing her pain. But as Karl and I took a breather in the middle of on the Clutha Gold Trail they caught his. We coasted into Lawrence together to finally score our long awaited pub dinner. Waiting outside the pub a car pulled up with a woman waving her arms. Aunty Zelda and Uncle Rodd had been following my dot, hoping to find me for a cuddle, which was greatly appreciated.

By now my body is pretty buggered. My bum bruised and the chaffing held together with tape. My hands were numb, my Achilles too tight to walk. But my quads felt great. I slowly slugged up Breakneck Road with a belly full of some of the best pizza ever (I highly rate the Lawrence pub for food!). That , along with some lovely signs encouraging TTW riders helped bolster my spirits.

However we all faded after Clydevale and eventually had to sleep on the side of the road. Once again I was out cold before the others had even laid down their mats. I woke briefly to the sound of Dan and Aliesha (who were passing us) stopping to eat apples from the tree we were sleeping under. Who knows if they realised that we were there or not!

  • Distance 171 km
  • Vertical 2695m
  • Max vert 1207m
  • Moving time 14.5 hrs
  • Elapsed time 18 hrs

We woke up slightly excited for our last day - donuts, Red Bulls and Coke pick me ups were consumed and ear buds in place to boost morale. In Clinton the strapping tape on my ass was replaced with an entire tub of numbing cream. That day felt physically pretty hard. Not a big day, not many hills, but being so close to the finish just seemed like a chore. We even stopped at the Niagara Falls cafe for coffee and cake, even though we were only 23 km out.

From Niagara the excitement built again. We could see the sea, then we could see Slope Point in the distance, then we made it to the turn. Finally we hooked onto the last road for high fives from Mike who finished a few days before us. The reunited Dampier Dream Team powered up the last 150m climb and horns were thrown as we coasted into the carpark. Rolling to the lighthouse we were greeted by a crowd - riders who had finished before us, and my Uncle David. As promised David was armed with chips, chocolate and Speights. There were no tears but I think I was yet to register that I had actually finished it.

  • Distance 110 km
  • Vertical 1364m
  • Max vert 359m
  • Moving time 7 hrs
  • Elapsed time 8.5 hrs

tour te waipounamu

Tour Te Waipounamu is by far the hardest event I have ever done. Every day (even multiple times a day) I doubted my ability to continue, to push further, to keep pedalling. There were many jokes early on about how hopefully my bike would break so I could pull out. However, my stubbornness would have never allowed that. I don’t think I will ever be mentally or physically strong enough to complete the TTW comfortably but that’s the whole point of the TTW. Knowing I had people at home watching my dot helped push me on.

Of course having Karl with me from Day 2, and Andy & Eileen as well really helped - sheltering from the torrential rain together, dreaming of food, laughing at the continuous climbs. This group not only encouraged me to continue on those hardest days but also inspired me with stories of other amazing bikepacking adventures available. I’m overwhelmed to have been welcomed into the bikepacking community with such zest.

Brian has done an amazing job to provide not only a challenge (and a half) but also access to areas that most people will never have a chance to see. The hard graft of dragging your ass and bike up summits and saddles day after day was rewarded with some of the best views NZ has to offer. There was a large amount of type 3 fun but it never overshadowed the type 1 fun - descending from said summits to the valleys below. This adventure has made me realise just how tough I am, but also highlighted my weaknesses. It definitely has not put me off ultra distance cycling, and am excited for more bikepacking advenutres.

Obviously thank you to everyone involved; Brian and those who helped with the course, the trail fairies, my family, the Dampier Dream Team, all the other riders for their support - and Uncle David for picking up the mess that was Cati at the finish, and looking after me for a week. I couldn’t have done it without my sponsors: Devinici NZ/ADU for my amazing bike, Ground Effect clothing, Tailwind Nutrition and Planet Bike NZ.

“The dirty secret about the TTW is everyone tells you it’s freakin' brutal, but it’s FREAKIN' AWESOME! “ - Andy Hovey

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Highlux Photography

Tour Te Waipounamu 2022 Race Report

Tour te waipounamu: round two, for the 2022 edition of tour te waipounamu, 44 keen racers and a few onlookers and supporters gathered at the stunning cliff edge start line, above the crashing waves of the tasman sea. it was a slightly larger group of riders than 2021, with hana and i among only six returning finishers from the inaugural edition of the race, including race organiser brian alder, steve halligan, matt quirk and pete maindonald..

Tour Te Waipounamu 2022 Race Report, Highlux Photography

Day 1, Sunday: Cape Farewell to Murchison 268 km

3453m elevation gain 15:23 moving time.

Drafting is permitted for the first 30 km, to Collingwood, and being in one of the first couple of groups on the road would ensure a fast start to the day. The race started at 7:00 am and the front of the pack surged quickly over the first small gravel hill and soon settled into a long string of riders as we hit pavement and flat roads for the run to Collingwood. I sat in about 17th place right to town, and as with last year was happy to reach the beach section, where drafting finishes and everyone settles into their own pace.

After the beach the route follows the main road to Takaka, and then tackles the singletrack of the Rameka Track. I was just behind Matt Quirk when we entered the second, technical half, of the track. On his full-sus bike Matt floated over the tricky broken limestone that signals the start of the rougher stuff. Despite already making an agreement with myself not to try to ride this short technical section (knowing I’d be excited and that a mistake could see you fall off a cliff), I was inspired by Matt’s effort. Sure enough; I was not in a relaxed state, lost my balance and tipped over down a very steep bank, with only a small sapling that I grabbed saving me from going further. My bike came down on top of me. With a burst of adrenaline, I managed to throw that and myself back up onto the track in front of another surprised looking rider.

It was a moment of idiocy. I’d gotten off lightly with some bruises and a bent derailleur hanger that took a couple of hurried attempts by hand to set back in the right place (and stayed good for the rest of the race!). I gave myself a very vocal lecture to be more careful as I carried on up the track.

Having done the race before, I’d spent time in the months prior pre-visualising sections and reminding myself how they would feel mentally and physically during the event. This was to prepare myself for those low moments I knew would come, and also to remind myself of the times I felt best. Last year I’d felt terrible on the paved and gravel section between Riwaka and Tapawera – it seemed to take forever, I never felt like I was going the speed I wanted to, my legs and back ached and I was questioning why I was there. This time I was prepared for that feeling, and it made this hot and tedious section more bearable, although I did still find myself questioning why I was there, and decided this would be the last time.

I was happy to reach Tapawera after 161 km, ready for a feed and stretch, and I knew from last year that beyond there my legs and mind had felt much better. Brian Alder and Rob Brown were just leaving as I arrived, and Matt had rolled in just before me. There were another 10 riders up the road.

I downed a pie, a double espresso coffee milk and bought food to get me to Springs Junction, 187 km away. Just before the big pylon road climb I’d caught Emma Bateup who was slowed with a seized pedal, but still admirably moving. I rode alongside her briefly and chatted about her options, before wishing her luck and heading on. As usual I was happy to get my teeth into a sustained climb and find a good rhythm.

Dusk came and darkness had fallen by the time I reached the top of the Porika. The spark had gone from my legs and I had walked more of it than I expected to. A steep and rock strewn descent led to Lake Rotoroa. Last year I’d slept here, feeling exhausted when I’d arrived, so I was pleased to feel motivated to continue to a cabin I had pre-booked Murchison – definitely not done for the day.

I arrived at Riverside campground shortly after 11 pm, had a meal of cold instant mash with tuna and lay blissfully down for 4 hours of sleep.

Tour Te Waipounamu 2022 Race Report, Highlux Photography

Day 2, Monday: Murchison to Home Bay, Lake Sumner 169 km

2368m elevation gain 14:00 moving time.

I woke feeling motivated and reasonably fresh and was away at 4:22 am. Just ahead were two blinking red lights, so I enjoyed a bit of company with Debbie and Emma (team FittoLive) while we rode towards Mariua Saddle. I was on my own again from the base of the saddle through to Springs Junction. 

Unlike last year, at this point in the race, my problematic achilles tendon was feeling ok. Like a lot of people though I spent the first two days struggling with food intake. In the early stages of the race you’re perhaps pushing slightly harder and although you need all the calories you can get, it’s hard to digest them. I was eating less than I’d budgeted for, and could only cope with small amounts of any one thing at a time. As usual, a mix of savoury and sweet was the way forward, and dried banana chips were a sure way to keep nutrition going in slowly as they seem to remain palatable even when you feel slightly nauseous. Gels were helpful too. 

I saw Debbie and Emma again at Springs and then again at Boyle as we collected our food parcels which contained all the calories we’d need to get to Methven, which I’d estimated would take me 30 hrs. After the monotony of the pavement over Lewis Pass and down to Windy Point I was looking forward to the beech forest, technical riding and hike-a-bike. I made Hope Kiwi Lodge in reasonable time, but my swollen, wet feet were starting to get sore so I stopped there to dry them out. During that time Matt, Emma and Debbie all caught up and we were all close together for the start of the next leg through to Lake Sumner. Matt and I rode together for most of the second half, but I rounded one fast corner to find him flat on the ground with his bike, after a stick had gone into his front wheel and caused a violent endo which left Matt a bit shaken and with a cut in his hand. 

The sun was going down as we reached the grassy flats at the lake inlet and golden light spilled down the valley. It was a pretty special moment and reminded me that one of the best aspects of endurance cycling is the great light you get to witness by riding through dawn and dusk. Although I’d found much of the Hope Kiwi track fun and rode most of the bits I expected to, I was still of a mindset that I wasn’t going to ride this event again. The early pressure of the race was still on and I was very much wrapped up in moving forward as efficiently as I could, with little space for reflection.

It was 9:30 pm when I got to the bottom of the Lake Mason farm track climb – early by racing standards, but ahead was a no-sleeping zone until Deep Creek at the base of the trackless HAB of the Dampier Range crossing, which I estimated was 3-ish hours away. I was feeling tired by now and – perhaps inevitably – my left achilles tendon/paratenon had begun to get sore from the technical riding and hike-a-bike (HAB). I decided to sleep where I was for a few hours and aim to be moving again by 2.30 am, figuring that would have me starting up the Dampier in daylight at about the same time as if I’d continued to Deep Creek. Matt and team FittoLive (who caught Matt and I up while we were deliberating) were thinking along the same lines and in the end all four of us camped nearby. Emma Bateup had fixed her pedal, caught us up and continued up the hill in the dark – determined to get back in the race. 

Tour Te Waipounamu 2022 Race Report, Highlux Photography

Day 3, Tuesday: Lake Sumner to Castle Hill Village 136 km

3449m elevation gain 15:51 moving time.

Waking at 2:00 am I was feeling motivated, but with a lot less spring in my step than the morning before. The Lake Mason climb is a cruel warm up and with a stiff and sore achilles I walked a fair bit of it. When I topped the climb I could see Matt’s light off in the distance and eventually caught him at the crossing of the Hurunui South Branch. We rode together most of the way to Deep Creek and started carrying up the steep grassy ridge that heralds the beginning of the 800m climb up Dampier Range. It was 5:30 am. I could see lights over at Deep Creek (Ali/Lizless and maybe Rob Brown) and before long, Emma (who’d bivvied near the base) practically jogged up beside me and Matt. 

The 12 km, mostly untracked, Dampier Range section felt more physical than I remembered and I switched between carrying and pushing depending on steepness and scrub thickness up to the saddle where you descend and begin the big sidle through deep tussock. Towards the beginning of the descent Matt and I caught back up to Emma and also Andrew Laurie. It was quite nice to chat for a moment – the hard work behind us – before dropping down the long ridge to Andersons Hut. The riding on this bit is fantastic; one of those places, deep in the hills, on barely tracked terrain, where a mountain bike is definitely a better tool for the job than a pair of tramping boots.

The crossing took about 4.5 hours, but as with last year it had taken its toll on my achilles and which was now painful. I stopped at Andersons with the other three for a quick bite to eat. Emma was now in the lead of the womens’ race, with Ali’s pace slowed sadly by injury. We joked about how she could begin picking off the men now, and with that she took off across the river. Andrew and Matt then left, but I passed them both a little later on as we rode down the stunning Esk Valley, one of the highlights of the ride. I was trapped in a paradox that afternoon of feeling quite strong, warmed into the ride finally and quite a bit more relaxed, but I was fighting a losing battle with my achilles. Despite feeling great on the climbs, my achilles was so sore I was unclipped and using my heel for most of the 56 km to Andrews Stream Shelter.  

At the shelter I took my shoes off to let my swollen, wrinkled feet dry out and did some static achilles holds that both my physio recommended: like doing a calf raise, but you hold it for 40 sec, 3–4 times. These hurt like hell at first, but are actually pain moderating. They take a while to kick in, so I set the alarm for 20 minutes and lay down for a power nap. I was out like a light, slept well, and as I was about to leave, Andrew arrived looking quite weary. Matt had rolled by shortly before. 

On a positive note, by the time I reached SH73, I was already roughly 16 hours faster than the previous year. Aside from the tendon, everything else was going my way. The static holds had done the trick though and I pedalled clipped in most of the way down the highway to Coal Pit Spur and the Craigieburn singletracks, but I was dreading this 23 km section because I knew the short steep climbs and windy singletrack would put me in pain again.   

I rode conservatively, protective of the tendon, and got off on a lot of the climbs, but I still had a lot of fun on the classic beech forest and tussock singletracks of the Castle Hill Basin, a place I have spent a lot of time over the years. It was dark for the last hour or so and I eventually rolled into Castle Hill Village around 10:15 pm, just behind Matt and with Andrew just a few minutes back. Again it was relatively early, but my plan was to rest the tendon now and get up early again. The community centre by the tennis courts has a good porch, which Matt and I made use of for a 4 hour sleep.

Tour Te Waipounamu 2022 Race Report, Highlux Photography

Day 4, Wednesday: Castle Hill Village to Royal Hut 209 km

3099m elevation gain 15:23 moving time.

By 3:45 am I was on the move again, riding through thick fog towards Porters Pass. Four mornings-in now, the race was starting to take its toll and I felt groggy and stiff when I woke, and it took some discipline to get out of my bivvy bag, when the body just wanted to rest more. 

But by the time I reached Lake Lyndon I was warmed up and enjoying myself alone in the dark. I kept turning my head back, expecting to see Matt’s lights come up behind me, but there was no sight of him, or Andrew. Once I was down in the Rakaia Valley I caught up to Ali, who had passed Matt and I after we’d stopped at Castle Hill. We rode alongside each other in the twilight for a while, but she was still suffering from a sore calf so I continued at my own pace and rode through light drizzle and mist into Methven for 7:45 am. I was still suffering myself, with a sore achilles and had decided that I was going to try and buy some flat pedals in Methven to see if they would offload the tendon by allowing me to pedal with a mid-foot position.

The bike shop wasn’t open yet, so I collected my small resupply parcel at the campground, and then went to the Four Square where I got a second breakfast, and some extra food for the rest of the route to Tekapo. My plan was on track so far; arriving with resupply locations open, and if the next leg worked out, Tekapo would be open too. I sat outside the bike shop and wolfed down a pie, a sandwich, a double espresso milk and a spirulina smoothie and set about repacking until the shop opened. I rode out of town at about 9:00 am with a pair of $27 plastic flat pedals, and my SPDs stashed in my frame bag in case the plastic pedals broke.

In the time I’d been there, I’d seen Ali and Andrew Laurie arrive, and chatted briefly to Scott Ardern who had experienced stomach problems the day before and had been virtually unable to eat. He was resting up before continuing later that day. 

Pedalling down the long straights of the Canterbury Plains I felt like a fish out of water. I hadn’t ridden flat pedals without toe clips on a mountain bike since I was in my teens, and my SPD shoes were not the right thing to be riding plastic flats with, but with an adjustment to my cadence and foot position I started to get used to them. I also dropped my saddle a bit to compensate for the mid-foot position I’d changed to. 

I did get some immediate relief from the tendon pain, but after an hour it was back. By now I had that disconcerting sensation of crepitus, where you can feel the grating friction between the inflamed paratenon and tendon and there was some swelling. I felt despondent. Was I doing the right thing continuing – again, in a second TTW – with an injured achilles? I lost quite a bit of time between Methven and Peel Forest, dithering over the achilles problem and reading messages from my physio and a doctor friend I’d messaged. Their words were encouraging: persevere and try to manage it. 

I stopped on the side of the road and added some more K-tape to the already well-strapped achilles. My calf compression sleeves were helping keep the swelling under control. Shortly before Arundel, Andrew Laurie caught me up, and we rode together through Peel Forest. It was good to have some company for a while, but I was having a low point with the injury and my energy, and imagined I was probably slowing him down. Sure enough, Andrew picked up the pace a fraction and dropped me like a stone. 

I struggled up the easy climb over to the Rangitata and had to get off and walk for a while, but then my energy kicked back in, in conjunction with a vigorous tailwind, and before long I caught back up to Andrew again as the wind kicked up dust and whooshed through the poplar trees. After 20 km the wind changed 180 degrees and we rode the final 10 km to Mesopotamia into a punishing headwind. At the turnoff into the station I chatted for a few minutes to Clare, Brian’s wife and some of the Prouting family, who had been out marking the many deer gates for us. The tendon must have been feeling pretty bad at that point, despite the new pedals, because I remember saying to Clare I didn’t feel confident about making it over to Felt Hut and that I might turn back that evening if I was in too much pain. 

I carried on briefly, with Andrew a few minutes back, and then stopped at the last shelter belt shortly before Scour Stream, planning to have a quick power nap to regain some energy and concentration for the hard climbs over to Royal Hut. I did a set of static calf holds, lay down in the shade with my alarm set for 15 minutes and was asleep in seconds. I woke up feeling fresher, and less sore and quickly got into the rhythm of the long grind, actually feeling pretty good and riding nearly all of the climb – static holds combined with short recovery sleeps were working well for pain moderation and I felt like I could put power through the leg properly again, as long as I stayed mid-foot on the pedals. 

I was in my element again. The Mesopotamia section was a scenic and emotional highlight last year and again this time. It was a calm evening and the light and shadow across the stunning post glacial, tussock landscape was amazing. The thought that Andrew was perhaps 30 minutes ahead of me motivated me too, and gave me a rabbit to chase as I pushed on into the evening. My headspace now was ‘I’d do this again, but maybe with my camera and at a slightly slower pace in a team’.

Passing the Felt Hut turnoff just after 8:00 pm I looked up at the daunting HAB to Bullock Bow Saddle and could see Andrew about 100 vertical metres above me, but despite my best efforts that gap remained and I topped out at 9:50 pm into mist and a strong SW wind. For the second year running I rode the long and sometimes technical descent to Bush Stream in the dark. It’s a minefield of rocks, tussock clumps and ruts and I was happy to make it to the bottom with my tyres intact. Andrew’s light would appear tantalisingly close and then seem to be miles away again, but eventually I caught up just as we reached Royal Hut. Brian’s bike was outside and there were a few trampers in the hut and a couple of beds free, but the sky was mostly clear so I decided to hop into my bivvy outside the hut. I ate cold mash and tuna once again and quickly passed out. 

Tour Te Waipounamu 2022 Race Report, Highlux Photography

Day 5, Thursday: Royal Hut to Otematata 167 km

2152m elevation gain 13:44 moving time.

This was the coldest night so far but I slept well with my head drawn right inside my bivvy bag and under my Big Agnes sleep quilt. But I woke at about 3:00 am to the sound of a squall of hail battering my bivvy bag. I jumped up, bundled everything up and went inside and redeployed on the floor and went back to a broken sleep, disturbed by two tramper/photographers debating whether to walk to Stag Saddle for sunrise or not. I think Brian put them off. 

I woke a bit later to a floor-level view of Brian putting his shoes on. With continued wind and hail on the roof I’d gone back to sleep resigned to the fact that the weather had gone to shit and perhaps I should wait until closer to daylight. In retrospect it was a brief fissure in my motivation and resolve to keep pushing forward. But seeing Brian up motivated me instantly because he’d be great company, and two is so much better than one when you’re travelling in the dark with little to no track – especially in potentially dodgy weather. 

I felt very tired that morning, but I’d readied myself for a quick getaway before I went to sleep, so it didn’t take me long to get moving and I think I left the hut at 4.30am, just before Brian and Andrew. My achilles was really sore as I got underway and crossed the first stream and I thought I might be in trouble, so I kept my footfalls precise and careful while it warmed up. Brian soon caught me up, but there was no sign of Andrew close by, and we moved on as quickly as we could, sharing the route finding in the pitch dark and cold wind. 

We stopped once after perhaps an hour to adjust clothing and eat. I was wearing everything I had except my down jacket. The white speck of Andrew’s light already looked quite a long way away. It was light by the time we reached a sheltered cliff, just below Stag Saddle and we put on our down jackets before pushing on over the route’s highpoint (1953m) into the strong, freezing wind. Brian and I were stoked to have reached the saddle in good time and were feeling pretty excited by the time we crossed the chunky talus and scree over to the top of the legendary Snake Ridge. 

It was still freezing cold on the ridge and we didn’t hesitate, stopping only once for a quick photo before speeding off down the ridge. We didn’t stop until we reached Rex Simpson Hut, by which time we were in sunlight. A couple of centimetres of water that had been left in my bottle as we went over the saddle had frozen as it sloshed around, so we were glad to warm up while we ate. 

The ride out to much-anticipated Tekapo was uneventful, except for me getting distracted while talking to Brian and trying to ride a steep singletrack where I should have been walking. The result was a spectacular endo that I was lucky to walk away from with my body and bike still functional. I’d landed right in the middle of a huge spaniard (aciphylla), so when we got to town, the first thing I did was spend several minutes digging a spine out of my hand. Reaching Tekapo is a psychological moment in the course: the hard HAB is all behind you, and as Brian put it that day, ‘only two sleeps to go…’ (or none if you’re Olli Whalley).

We sat in the sun outside the Four Square while we ate and caught up with Mapprogress. Up until then, I’d barely looked at the tracker and done no social media. I’d made a point of minimising distractions, so the first time I’d checked the tracker had been a brief moment at Castle Hill. Although it didn’t feel long at the time, Mapprogress tells me now that Brian and I were in Tekapo for an hour and a half, which sounds rather relaxed, but we left rested, well fed and motivated to ride on to Otematata. The afternoon was sunny but we had a headwind much of the way towards Lake Pukaki. The Pukaki River Road was bumpy as hell but we smashed it out in a focussed effort and then stopped for water at the loos at Haldon Arm. I phoned ahead and booked us two beds in Otematata, along with pizzas, as well as breakfasts and ‘packed lunches’ for the next day to be left in the room. 

I was starting to really enjoy the pace and focus of the race by this point. It was great to have company. Brian is an old friend, so we chatted a lot as we rode, and our paces were similar. My race satisfaction radar was now reading ‘I’d race this again, this is awesome!’

With company, the hilly Black Forest Station section, high above Lake Benmore, went by quite quickly. But by the time we reached the endless small, steep climbs just before the dam my knees had begun to hold a bit of fluid and were aching intensely, which was not a problem I’d had last year. Encouragingly, my achilles had settled down remarkably well with the combo of easier riding and the flat pedals.

We rolled into Otematata at 10:00 pm, feeling pretty weary. As arranged, there was a huge pizza on each bed and a fridge full of food. Mapprogress told us that Grant Guise, who’d had trouble with punctures that day and had to hitch to Twizel, was also ensconced in the hotel. It was satisfying to see we had a good gap on everyone else behind us. I had my first and only shower of the ride and crashed out between clean sheets.  

Tour Te Waipounamu 2022 Race Report, Highlux Photography

Day 6, Friday: Otematata to Lake Onslow 168 km

3349m elevation gain 14:24 moving time.

The alarm was a rude awakening. Through puffy eyes I could see Brian looked as exhausted as I felt and my legs were stiff and sore. Grant stopped by before leaving. He didn’t look a lot better than us and said something to the effect of not actually recognising Brian at first. We got away at about 4:40 am with Grant about 20 minutes ahead of us. My knees were so sore that Brian dropped me immediately, so I swallowed back a couple of Panadeine and hoped for the best. Sure enough they soon warmed up and the meds dulled the pain as we rode and pushed up the first steep climb over to Chimney Creek.

We caught up to Grant at the top of the descent down to the Otematata River and rode as a three up the valley and into the 400m switchbacked HAB that takes you up onto the Hawkdun Range. Again, it was great to have a change of dynamic and a second person to talk to, although I was also mindful that our pace had slowed with the chatting. We broke up a bit on the easier riding to Ida Railway Hut but regrouped there for a brief lunch break. It was a stunning day to be up there and the hut – fascinating in itself – is in an awesome spot. 

Through the tussocks, rock outcrops and over barren screes we crossed the rest of the range, and regrouped on the big descent to the Ida Valley, rolling into Oturehua together at 2:15 pm. The legendary museum-like Gilchrist’s Store was open, and we all walked out the door with our arms full of treats to eat there and to get us through to Lawrence, 162 km of mostly hilly riding away. Down the hatch went a thick shake, a pie, a double espresso milk, a big sandwich and a piece of cake. We were there over an hour by the time we’d eaten, dried sleeping bags and attended to maintenance. 

The rail trail and gravel roads of the Ida were over quickly in my memory, especially with some conversation to pass the time, and as we started the climb up to the Poolburn Reservoir and Rough Ridge, conversation turned to our destination for the night. Serpentine Church seemed like a good place to aim for, with the huts at Lake Onslow being a second option. Crossing the rolling 4WD roads through golden tussock towards Oliver Burn Hut we were treated to one of those never-ending blazing orange sunsets. 

During a brief stop at the hut we were all feeling the long day and still considering stopping at Serpentine, but the fun riding and descending heading there from Oliver Burn perked us up and I got to the turnoff keen to continue into the night. Brian wanted to continue too, but Grant was feeling particularly wrecked, and stood there indecisively for a moment, before Brian spoke up and said assertively ‘I think you should take a concrete pill and come with us!’. It was quite a hilarious moment, with the three of us standing there in the dark and cold, exhausted. Grant knew he couldn’t say no. 

We carried on purposefully towards Lake Onslow, knowing we’d be there late, but excited that it would be the last night, and anticipating a short sleep and a good final day while the weather held. It was lining up nicely for Brian’s goal of finishing in daylight on the 7th day, while I just wanted to finish! 

We got to the Onslow lakeside huts at midnight, but being Friday night there were a few people around and some lights on so we quietly crept under a shelter belt of pine and nested in among the cow shit. I ate a cold pie and muffin and fell asleep rugged up with all my clothes on.  

Tour Te Waipounamu 2022 Race Report, Highlux Photography

Day 7, Saturday: Lake Onslow to Slope Point 224 km

2531m elevation gain 15:09 moving time.

At 3:00 am it was cold and we got up and left wearing every stitch of clothing, agreeing that we’d eat and sort ourselves out once we warmed up. That didn’t take long, because once we’d collected water from the cold, misty lake edge came a steep climb up towards the Teviot junction, and off came the down jackets. 

Day was breaking as we passed the Teviot junction and followed dirt roads along the ridgeline towards the new Lammerlaw section. We still had all our shell clothing and warm gloves on in the cold wind and had to negotiate a traffic jam of sheep in the deep tussock as the sun began to rise. 

The previous afternoon I’d mulled over how this race might end with the three of us. While I was stoked to be finishing nearly two and half days faster than last year, I still felt the urge to be competitive too. This year has been less of a race against myself and more of a race against others; which was what I’d wanted. As much as I’d enjoyed the camaraderie of the past 48 hours, I didn’t want to ‘tour’ to the finish with the others. I knew I’d suffer more through the last day riding solo, but I was ok with that. While Grant’s pace was a little slower, Brian’s strength was obvious and I assumed that if I showed a moment of weakness he’d probably ride away from me.

At about 7:00 am we reached steeper climbing just before the road breaks right onto a 4WD track and climbs to the summit of the Lammerlaws. I’d been eating well and had quite good energy flowing and without consciously trying I realised I had created a gap on the first steep climb. Nearly all my riding is in the hills and I run very easy gearing to make loaded climbing manageable, as well as to protect my knees, and I’d noticed in the Hawkduns my 50t sprocket/28t chainring with 27.5” wheels enabled me to ride stuff the others had walked.

More steep climbing followed, so I pushed a little harder to see if I could drive the gap open more, and soon had 200m. I rode on up towards the summit, with the others out of sight, and stopped to take a quick photo when I got to the trig. The rolling, tussocky landscape looked amazing in the early light and I was riding a wave of euphoria, high up and alone on the range. On the following downhills I rode as fast as I could get away with. With the sun now right up, the day was quickly warming, so I stopped to take off a layer and my overpants. I was still alone, so I decided I’d try and hold the gap I had to the finish. 

I checked Mapprogress as I rode on the rail trail towards Lawrence and saw I had roughly 20 minutes on Brian, with Grant further back. When I resupplied in Lawrence I did it as quickly as possible, partly because I didn’t want my legs to go to sleep before the brutal climb up Breakneck Road, and I didn’t want Brian to catch me while I was there. 

It’s 56 hilly kilometres from Lawrence to Clinton, the last resupply, and about 15 km out I began to feel increasingly sleepy. My concentration went, and with that my power, and then I began to fall asleep on the bike. I persevered for a while, but realised I might crash if I didn’t do something. I still had approx 20 min over Brian, so I went for a strategic 10 min nap, knowing that even if he did catch me, I’d be better off than I currently was. 

I lay down in the shade by a farm gate, my pack under my head, and was asleep almost instantly. When the alarm went 10 minutes later I was up immediately and away feeling much better. I could push again. 

I bought my final supplies for the road in Clinton, including a pie to eat at the finish, and was just hopping on my bike for the final 93 km when Brian arrived. We chatted for a moment, and then I left, still eager to finish alone with my best effort. 

Some big waves of emotion hit me as I spun up the paved climb out of Clinton. I felt very satisfied with how things had worked out overall. As with last year I seemed to get better as the race progressed, and despite my achilles beginning to get very sore again, at least I’d had two settled days out of it, thanks to the flat pedals. It was the ride I’d wanted. 

While the early morning’s ride has a lasting clarity, the rest of the day is a blur. I remember pedalling squares in too hard a gear up gravel climbs, an emergency poo in a paddock, constantly eating, and never being able to find the right thing to listen to. Phone signal came and went, but I got an enthusiastic message from Hana telling me to hammer it, and that Brian was 3 km behind me – which did not seem far enough. 

When I reached Waikawa, 20km from the finish, I tried to pull it together and concentrate harder and before I knew it I was on the final climb, which I mashed up pedalling on my heel because my achilles was killing me. Bruce, Mojo, Emma and Clare were there at the finish to welcome me and Brian in, which was so much appreciated. I felt surprisingly unemotional – that moment had already passed leaving Clinton. I just felt deeply content, and I was looking forward to my cold pie. 

6 days, 14 hours, 14 minutes. 

Would I race it again? Hell yes.

Tour Te Waipounamu 2022 Race Report, Highlux Photography

Where my higher intensity training for the 2021 edition started late and was ad hoc, for the 2022 both my partner Hana (who also raced TTW but sadly withdrew at Tekapo due to multiple tendon problems and knee pain) and I decided to start with a really solid base and then do Kurt Refsnider’s Ultra MTB 4-month training program . We also strength trained through winter and autumn. We bought heart rate monitors, read up on LTHRs, nutrition, recovery and enjoyed the methodical process of training. I seemed to respond better and faster than Hana, but we both saw significant improvement in strength, speed and recovery times. I haven’t trained to a program for racing since the mid 1990s so it was a great learning curve rediscovering it all again and also seeing how far the science has come. Some of the education and habits I picked up during that training period (particularly to do with nutrition) have stuck with me since and informed how I think about exercise and incorporate it into my life, so it has been a rewarding process and I would go through it again.

Achilles tendon issues

During my 2021 attempt at Tour Te Waipounamu I developed a significant paratenon/tendon flare which resulted in a lot of crepitus, swelling and pain. Despite efforts to determine why that happened, nothing conclusive resulted but I remained determined to have another crack at TTW in the 2022 edition. I spent much of 2021 rehabbing the injured achilles, with regular physio, calf raises, eccentric loading and heel drops. I also addressed muscle imbalances in my legs with a progressive strength loading program which I continued right through to late 2021 before shifting to maintenance loads a couple of months before the race. Signs were pointing to a good recovery and the tendon was responding well to rides up to 7–8 hours in length. 

But another milder flare developed during an attempt at a 3-day Kahurangi 500 in Nov, which made me realise I was still susceptible to issues on 12 hour plus days, so I revisited my set up with Anthony Chapman (physio/bike fit specialist) and we changed my cranks to 170mm (from 175mm) and I bought some slightly wider shoes. I left no stone unturned during 2021 to prevent the issue happening again, including getting ultrasound guided high volume IV saline injections (not cortisone) into both tendons in January, after the Nov flare. This rid me completely of milder issues with my right achilles, but it did not help the left one, as it still flared during TTW 2022. I have no doubt that strengthening has helped, along with 170mm cranks, and daily K-Taping, as my flare in 2022 was less severe, but it is still an ongoing issue I’m yet to resolve. 

Tour Te Waipounamu 2022 Race Report, Highlux Photography

More about Tour Te Waipounamu

Tour Te Waipounamu Website Tour Te Waipoumanu: Taking the Scenic (and hard) route, by Eileen Schwab Dotwatcher full commentary Dotwatcher Riders and Rigs 2022 Facebook (official page) Facebook (race commentary)

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Great reading Mark. Total respect for doing this twice!

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Thanks Simon – glad you enjoyed it! Hope all’s well & regards from autumnal NZ.

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Tour Te Waipounamu Loose fit 3/4 Sleeve Jersey

Tour Te Waipounamu Loose fit 3/4 Sleeve Jersey

PRE-ORDER ENDS DECEMBER 24th for delivery before the event starts.  If orders received after this date, it will be processed but no guarantee of delivery before the event (although we will try our best!). GreenMonkey Velo's Tour Te...


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Additional information.

PRE-ORDER ENDS DECEMBER 24th for delivery before the event starts.  If orders  received  after this date, it will be processed but no guarantee of delivery before the event (although we will try our best!).

GreenMonkey Velo's Tour Te Waipounamu jersey is a comfortable fit made out of a Recycled Polyester lycra blend of technical material.  

The  tag-less printed collar prevents irritation and the crew neck collar to keep things comfortable and casual when you are out riding the trails.

  • Tagless printed collar
  • Comfortable fit that is slightly longer at the back for riding position
  • Hidden pocket features zipper closure to keep some small essentials safe
  • 88% Polyester and 12% Lycra

tour te waipounamu


  1. Tour Te Waipounamu: Taking the Scenic (and Hard) Route

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  2. Tour Te Waipounamu: Taking the Scenic (and Hard) Route

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  3. Tour Te Waipounamu: Taking the Scenic (and Hard) Route

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  4. Tour Te Waipounamu 2021: Event Recap

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  5. Tour Te Waipounamu 2021: Event Recap

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  6. Tour Te Waipounamu: Taking the Scenic (and Hard) Route

    tour te waipounamu


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