Sunday 11 December 2011 was the first time cyclists have been able to ride over the Auckland Harbour Bridge since it opened in 1959. They also got to ride up the Northern Busway. The event was the "Telstra Challenge". Several thousand people took the opportunity to ride the bridge.
The tough guy option was the 110km (68 mile) race. This was a difficult ride including 1550m of ascent (that's 5000ft) and finishing at Kumeu show grounds north west of Auckland. Lucky participants got to ride past the front door of New Zealand's only maximum security prison at Paremoremo then through some great scenery. There was even a 3.5km gravel (lose stone) section just before half way.
The not-so-tough guy option was 15km bike ride equivalent of a "Sunday stroll". It included a leisurely ride over the harbour bride, a gentle cruise up the busway to Constellation Drive and a gentle roll back down to Shakespeare Road.
All money raised by the event will be used to support the work of the MS Society in Auckland and for MS research. The latest estimate of funds raised is $82000.
William Hayman (fresh from completing the round Lake Taupo 160km race two weeks ago) and Jason Laws both get massive congratulations for completing the 110km race. Super fit Jacob Hendrickx also deserves a mention for getting out of bed earlier than normal on a Sunday to roll his bike over the 15km ride.
The 6am start turned into a 7:15 start for most riders due to an "unknown hold up". Even the elite professional group (averaging 1% body fat) were left shivering in 25 knot winds waiting to start. Luckily Jason and William were better prepared for the wind than the elite group and quickly warmed up with all the hill climbing. Both agreed it was a harder ride than Taupo (although shorter).
Jason finished in 05:05 on his single speed bike. William, with 20 gears to choose from, was just behind managing an admirable 05:19. There's a rumour 10% of the 110km starters didn't finish. After taking the smart option and choosing the untimed "Sunday stroll" ride, Jacob was cited in a cafe in Takapuna at 9am.