Words by Mark Thomson (komoot profile) | Using The BIB Stealth since March 2021 & The Cargo Bibshort with Pockets since March 2022.
The Kingmaker 1000 is a 1000km event on the New Zealand Randonneurs 2022 calendar. Mark Thomson rode over 737km of the route before bad weather forced him to stop. Here's his account of the event (originally published on Komoot).
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This event centers on the Waikato town of Matamata. A sleepy little shire where the filming of hobbits began, and ended, where kingdom's rose and fell, and battles were won and lots.
But this ride is not about a fictional kingdom. This ride covers the land once ruled by a real kingmaker: Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipipi Te Waharoa. A Waikato chief who was instrumental in the setting up of the Waikato Kingitana movement, and the ordination of the Maori King, the first being Potatau Te Wherowhero. And even today, his descendants still ordain the next heir to the Maori throne. Wiremu Tamehana is memorialized in the Matamata All Saints church on Hohaia Street, in a Stained glass window.
This is an unsupported ride. All legs start and finish in Matamata, allowing riders to use it as a central base. My plan is to carry minimal sleeping gear and get some sleep in the night... where... we shall see.
The event is effectively split into 3 parts, each one starting and finishing in Matamata.
Part 1 - Starting outside the Waikato Information center the first day of the ride covers the South Waikato region of Cambridge, Te Awamutu and Otorohonga, before finishing back in Matamata. The first day has the most hills.
Part 2 - Day two travels North beside the Kaimai ranges through Te Aroha, and heads up to the Waharau Regional Park. On the return leg, the course travel across to Ngaruawahi, and past the original Maori Parliament House. before returning to Te Aroha and then back down to Matamata to finish leg 2.
Part 3 (not ridden due to weather) - The final leg of the challenge again travels North, besides SH2, to Waharoa and heads up through what once was thick Kahikatea swamp, but is now rich dairy farmland. The course heads up through the Western edge of Tearoha before crossing over to Morrinsville, before moving on to Gordonton. From Gordonton the course returns through Morrinsville, and back down through the Western edge of Te Aroha back to Matamata to finish.
I started at 06:00 on the 16th - Easter Saturday. It was cold but not enough for full jacket and winter gloves. Setting off into the quiet Waikato dark, the wrong way... hardly an auspicious start... re-orient... double check, go the right way!
I was mostly familiar with the route to Cambridge and growing up I knew the area around the towns I would be riding. The wind was calm, the traffic quiet as I got to my first checkpoint at Cambridge. Too early for coffee so after a toilet stop carried on. Dropping out of Cambridge was a long flat run across the peatland to Te Awamutu - now that is the time for coffee. Met a family of 5 - soon to be 6 - all out for a morning bimble on their bikes! That was great to see.
Heading to Te Awamutu from Cambridge over peatland
The course loops with and out and partial back to into the King Country and Otorohanga, following the infant Waipa River, and back to Te Awamutu. Rolling country, incredibly pretty. A quick sprint loop (ha ha...) out to Pirongia and I am in good time to make dinner at Cambridge. Found a Turkish takeaway - sadly they only had chicken, but it went down well. Then started the long haul of about 80km back to Matamata.. not much to see when it's dark.
Straight into Part 2, but it's cold. I washed my bibs, put on a new pair, and all my winter gear and headed out. It was just on midnight and I was needing sleep. I started looking for good places to stop. The Golf Course had some attractive looking trees and although on a quiet back road they were very close to the road. Then just at my turn off on the next road I came across an abandoned school... perfect, bike over the fence, quiet, dry corner, set out the gear, was in bed and the alarm set for three hours. Bang on 2 hours I was awake as anything... might as well get up. 03:00, 40 minutes to pack down and get sorted and on the road.
The full moon was making it awesome for night riding, but oh it was cold, and nasty cold as I dropped in and climbed out of river valleys on the gently rolling road to Te Aroha. I was faffing around trying to work out why my Pedalcell unit wasn't charging and ran off the road. Dumb mistake, I decided to leave it till the light turned up so I could see. Turns out I had dislodged the cable. Out of Te Aroha the road turns off to a section that avoids the main road but it is a steep roller coaster... then onto the really flat run across the Hauraki Plains. The road runs parallel to a lot of drainage canals. Into Ngatea for breakfast.
Being Easter morning there were few places open. I got a large coffee (should have got a medium... this one was too watery but it was hot...), sorted out all my gear and changed to day riding stuff and set doff. I am now on very familiar roads this leg. The wind has turned up today and it is helping me up the coast, this doesn't bode well for the return. Tag the top of my course and return, sure enough, the wind is a head wind quartering form my left for some and direct headwinds for other sections of the ride as I work my way back through Ngatea and the Tahuna-Paeroa Road, where it will be a tail wind into Tahuna. Sure enough, this 13km section is fast with the wind. Fortunate as well as this is the most busy section of road I will ride. There is a shoulder for some of it with a rumble strip... pick one side or the other... and the shoulder runs out without warning. I'm not looking forward to the headwind return.
Quick stop at Tahuna and off the Ngaruawahia. The Garmin is playing up, confused with the out and back so it is telling me how far away I am from the turn I just made... not helpful. I've got a reasonable idea of where and when I'm heading but I monitor it carefully... going fast in the wrong direction is not helpful. I had a popsicle in Tahuna and the sugar caused swelling in my feet. After 600km my shoes feel too tight. Nuts...won't do that again. Toilets and a quick dinner and shoe re tie, I gave my wife a call and had a chat. That worked as a great pick-me up! The course looped around the town and back past a BP service station where I stopped for food. The shop area is large, and there was no one in there and as there was no place to lock my bike I walked it in with me. It got a very rude reception with the staff member threatening to call the Police... hmmm... won't bother stopping there again.
The course back tracked all the way to Matamata. My Garmin had a moment and shut itself down. Fortunately I didn't lose much distance. I can sort that out later! I took a 30 minute power nap at Tahuna. That was great except when I started riding again I started shivering so hard I couldn't keep the bike straight. Need to work that out better. When I got to the long section of busy road the wind had died away much to my relief. Took me about 30 minutes to traverse the busy road then that was that. Delightfully uneventful.
Turning off the main road onto the roller coaster, i stopped for a quick pee. As I braked my front wheel rolled out from under me on the gravel and I was very quickly dumped on my right hip - ouch! That could have been a show stopper. I check the derailleur and to my joy it was all working. No apparent harm. Phew... on we go. 2km later... dogs... except these ones are out and chasing me. I get off the bike quickly and put it between me and them, then put my light on high beam which startles them enough and they back off. I shout out they should be under control and hope I woke the owners! You know at 23:00 I wasn't really wanting drama like this... no, no... give me a quiet ride... but the night wasn't finished.
Rolling into Te Aroha, feeling good. Warm, comfortable and happy to carry on through the night to finish early. Maybe another cat nap at the school... yes that works!
The wind. Ah... the weather had other ideas... the wind. I have never ridden in conditions like this. The wind... I don't know if tit was peculiar to the area, being close to the Kaimai ranges but the wind, blowing so hard between the buildings, I had to turn downwind or have the bike blown from under me. I ride through town trying to monitor when and where the wind will strike from. I am counting down the km's now to my next turn.
Heavy gust, brings me to a complete halt... WHAT? I need all my gears - and that is on a touring bike with gears low enough. Grinding a loaded bike up 20% inclines, to move into the wind, only to have it shift 90 degrees without warning. I move on, slowly, wary as I go. The wind settles down a bit and I can pick up speed... but it's just playing with me.
The road is the back road. Very little traffic even during the day - nothing at night. This is in my favor. 3 times I am blown from one side of the road into the grass on the other side. If that happened in front of a car it would be likely death, a truck would be a sure thing. This is very risky to continue on anything other than quiet roads, even without the cars the risk of getting blown into something is high.
My plans are now rapidly changing. I'm not prepared to ride with other traffic in these conditions. First priority now is to keep upright and on the road. Listen out for vehicles and get off as they approach.
The wind continues to use me as a play thing. Sudden wind shear causing strong winds changing direction 180 degrees in an instant. Fast approaches down hill you need to watch the land forms as you come out from behind a cutting or hedge. I am forced off to walk up some of the hills, but I'm close now. I turn off the road and have 6km to the school. The wind is a bit more with me now much to my relief but still intimidating.
I get to the school, it is 01:00 hours. Doing some calculations I have about 15 minutes to take me to the end of this section then start the remain 260km. Going slowly, I can do a 13 hour 200 and complete the 60km in 3 hours, so say 16 to 18 hours riding time to complete given the conditions. I set my alarm for 05:30 with a view to be riding at 06:00, knowing this will put my finish close to midnight if I continue.
05:30 - alarm goes off, wind is no better and rain is moving in. I checked the forecast on the phone and my suspicions are confirmed. I roll over and go back to sleep for another hour... I'm not completing this one.
I get up, pack, feeling a little annoyed but happy with my decision. I get to the Matamata checkpoint and sign off, notifying the organizers I am pulling out, turn off my Garmin to record the final distance of 737km.
All in all a great ride, with too much drama at the end. I finished feeling strong and was satisfied I had maintained my eating, drinking and mental well being. I was happy I made the decision to pull out, and even happier when the rain started later in the morning. But there is unfinished business here!