Cycling Holiday in New Zealand: Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

There are a multitude of great races to choose from in New Zealand all year round. If you are looking for a cycling holiday destination, then look no further than New Zealand. The small island nation in the Pacific Ocean is quickly gaining a reputation for one of the best cycle tourism places in the world, especially with the network of New Zealand Cycle Trails consisting of 22 Great Rides including the Great Lake Trail around Taupo and the adjacent Timber Trail in the Waitomo and Ruapehu Districts.

The Giant polka-dot road bike has become one of Taupo’s prominient icons

If you are the type of rider that needs to include an iconic cycling event as part of the overseas holiday, then New Zealand will not dissappoint you. To gain a glimpse of what is awaiting you, have a look at the NZ Road Cyclists calendar of events. Can also head over to the Cycling NZ website to see their list.  Ed Wright and Eugene Bonthuys have published an e-book which is a comprehensive Guide to New Zealand Cycling Events 2017 and it costs a $1.99 which can be purchased off the Road Cycling NZ website.  The biggest and the most inconic road cycling event any road cyclist coming to New Zealand should not miss, is the 160km Cycle Challenge in Taupo. This mega event has been going for more than 40 years and attracts more than 7,000 cyclists to ride around New Zealand’s largest fresh water lake, if you are a fast competitive cyclist then enter the Elite Classic Men and Women’s 160km event, they have some good prize money up for grabs. If you are just aiming to have a good time and wish to ride the event as a ‘gran fondo’ style, then enter the Round the Lake 160km challenge and choose a starting wave appropriate to your fitness levels.

Credit: Nick Lambert/ZeroSeven


More details about the Event

The skies overhead looked threatening as the thousands of riders gathered to take part in the 40th Annual Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. Some rain droplets hit the up-turned riders faces as they were waiting to start in their selected categories for the iconic 160km loop around the spectacular Lake Taupo.

Fortunately, the rains did not come and it was a record-breaking day across all the categories, with the fastest time of 3hrs 39 minutes going to Aaron Gate. The fastest Round The Lake female of the day was Kate Mcilroy who was the first female ever to crack the sub 4hr barrier with just 12 seconds to spare. The 2016 event turned out to be a stunning day, heating up towards the end of the challenge when the sun came out in full force to provide warmth to the elated finishers who spent time mingling around the event village, recounting their epic journey around the Lake and enjoying a picnic style lunch and festivities.

The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is definitely New Zealand’s premier cycling event with fun and serious racing combined, having started way back in 1977 when only 26 riders lined up together to raise funds for the local IHC (, supporting people with Intellectual Disabilities. Since then, more than 200,000 people have taken part in this annual fixture that saw 10,000 riders participate in its heyday.  After a few challenging years where numbers dipped, the event has always retained its title as New Zealand’s biggest cycling event for the masses. This year almost 7,000 cyclists turned out from across all the categories including the solo and elite groups. The mountain bike event categories that utilises the famous Craters of the Moon MTB Park in Taupo attracted one of the largest group of riders of any event in the country.

The author Daniel Carruthers tackling the final major climb during the Cycle Challenge


Taupo is a small city which is bills themselves as the adventure capital of the world, visit the Taupo official website to find out why. Each year when the iconic Cycle Challenge rolls around in November, the small city doubles its population size as riders and their support families pour into the city. Accommodation is usually booked right up to the hilt and it pays to plan well ahead if you are going to include the Cycle Challenge Taupo as part of your New Zealand cycling holiday.

A satisfied finisher of the Cycle Challenge with his family at the Event Village


2016 saw 23 countries across the globe participate with the majority of international visitors coming from Australia. So, if you are looking for an excuse to visit New Zealand this 2017 year, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is the perfect excuse. You can sign up for this event, spend time in Taupo and then when the event is over, you can check out many other stunning cycling opportunities in the Central North Island; take a look at for a more MTB focused website in the region.  As part of the experience, the Great Lake Cycle Trail should not be missed. It is highly recommended to plan your New Zealand trip to allow enough time to visit some of NZ’s Great Rides like the Timber Trail, Waikato River Trails and the Mountains to Sea. All of these rides are within easy reach of Taupo and would make your journey to New Zealand a fantastic cycling-centric holiday.  For

If the fast and furious criterium racing appeals to you, then you can also experience the criterium event which is held on Friday night through the centre of Taupo in front of a good sized crowd with cycling legend Robbie McEwen providing non-stop commentary, for the record Robbie also took part in the160km Round The Lake fun event. If you want to ride in the criterium, you can enter the elite category (provided you have an elite license) and mix it up with the big boys of New Zealand racing. There is an open category also.



The first organised ride around Lake Taupo was in 1977 when local schoolteacher, Walter de Bont gathered 25 others to ride with him to raise funds for what was then the local IHC charity.  Walter, who was the event patron sadly passed away in October 2016.

The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is best known for its 160-km Round The Lake ride, a one-lap circumnavigation of Lake Taupo, but this is just one of the 13 categories on offer with short and longer road cycling and mountain bike course options for individuals and groups, catering to all levels of cycling and fitness abilities, including young children who ride the 5km Kids Heart Ride.  Because it was the 40th anniversary, it was a blast from the past as retro clad cyclists turned up on their retro bikes for pre-event build up the day before the main 160km event. There was plenty of colour about as there were prizes up for grabs for the best 70s costume, best retro bike and first across the line on the criterium circuit which provided ample entertainment for the spectators just before the serious criterium racing begun.

According to Event Organizer Aaron Carter, “The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is a celebration. It’s an incredible, unique opportunity for thousands of like-minded people to spend time together to connect and share what they love, which seems to be getting off the couch and onto their bikes in one of NZ’s truly great regions, Lake Taupo.”

If you are thinking about planning a New Zealand cycling holiday this year, do consider signing up for the 41st edition of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge to be held on Saturday 25 November 2017 and then design the rest of your trip around this amazing New Zealand event. You can jump onto their website to start your planning process, sign up to enter the race this November. Scroll down to see more photos.

Plenty of live music and performances for cyclists at prize giving

Yes, I completed the 160km on this one wheel!


Robbie McEwen is the Ambassador for the Cycle Challenge and took part in the 160km challenge himself

The Retro fancy dress ride!


Serious Action from the GMC boys in the Fun Ride of the Cycle Challenge – Photo credit: Nick Lambert/ZeroSeven


Photo credit: Nick Lambert/ZeroSeven

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