Sunday, April 9th
Our bikes are packed and we’re ready to roll! …as we, the members of Team Ākina, meet up in Christchurch this evening for the start of the 2023 running of the Tour of New Zealand charity bike ride, involving some 150 riders, this coming week.
Our team’s goal for the five-day, 550 km race is to raise money for Bikes in Schools, a terrific programme that equips and trains young people to ride. We are the only team to ride in all seven Tours, and we’ve raised money for Bikes in Schools in all of them…and had fabulous fun doing so. Only six charities are involved in each Tour.
The origins of the Tour and Bikes in Schools, the passions of Peter Yarrell and Paul McArdle respectively, go back to 2010. Separately, both of them came to us at the Ākina Foundation (then known as the Hikurangi Foundation) to seek our help to build their social enterprises.
It was an auspicious time. Building a national network of bike routes was one of the main outcomes of the Key Government’s Jobs Summit the previous year after the Global Financial Crisis. At Ākina, we were helping local groups engage with the government on cycling.
It’s deeply rewarding to see the great progress people such as Peter and Paul and countless other cycling advocates across the country have made in the 13 years since. Just one glance at Ngā Haerenga, https://www.nzcycletrail.com/ the National Cycle Trails website, will show you the richness and variety of rides we now have around our gorgeous country.
And Bikes in Schools currently reaches some 75,000 children across more than 250 schools around the country. Our Tour Givealittle donation page is: https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/helping-kids-learn-to-ride-bikes-2#donations
Please give generously…because very sadly this will be last Tour of New Zealand.
While the past six Tours have raised well over $2m for charities since its first running in 2012 – and we intend to bump that up considerably on this, our grand finale! – it’s been getting harder and harder for volunteers to organise. Evermore complex and costly mandatory traffic management plans are just one example. Yet, professionalising the management would push up the cost and reduce the money flowing to charities.
So, we at Team Ākina will make the most of our 7th and last Tour…and we hope to have our best adventure yet as we raise money for Bikes in Schools so it can help more children.
We start at 1.30pm tomorrow (Monday) at the summit of Arthurs Pass and sweep down to the West Coast, finishing our first stage at Hokitika. Four more days of glorious riding take us to the Tour finish at the top of the Crown Range.
The Team Ākina riders this Tour are Donna, Katie, Corrie, Geoff, Nick and Rod (who are all veterans of previous Tours) and Russell, a US-based Kiwi, who is a first timer. And again we’re magnificently supported by Andy, our driver and chief co-chief cheerleader, and Lynn, our ‘soigneur’ – to borrow from pro team parlance – and our other co-chief cheerleader.
To give you a glimpse of our fun on the previous six Tours, I’ve included a photo from each at the end of this post.
While there are wonderful common attributes to each of the Tours such as its camaraderie, exhilaration and exertion, each Tour has its unique moments. We’re very eager for all of that this year!
Then there are, of course, often some glitches and testing moments too, as I discovered once again over this weekend. First, I suffered an electrical failure on the gears of my best bike, which rendered it useless. No worries, I thought, I’ll ride my old bike (a veteran of the 2012, 2013 and 2015 Tours) which I’ve only used for spin classes since. But then I suffered a major mechanical on that yesterday…just before my bike shop closed for Easter.
Handily, one can never have too many bikes. So, I reached deeper into my fleet for my fabulous Bike Friday folding bike, which only a few weeks ago I was riding up the Champs Elysée and around the Arc de Triomphe, to mention just a few notable spins in France and the UK on our recent trip.
This is a bike with history…such as my May 2010 ride with friends to the summit of Mount Evans in Colorado – the highest paved road in North America, which tops out at 14,271 feet (4,348m), some 600m higher than Aoraki, our highest peak in Aotearoa.
But of course, it’s never about how high, far or fast you ride. It’s all about enjoying the journey, the company and the cause.
So, it will be with great pleasure each evening this coming week, we’ll post words, photos and videos of our adventures…on behalf the cycling kids of Aotearoa so they too can take confidently and safely to the road.
Just as we were about to leave home for our flight to Christchurch, I’ve found what seemed like the only bike rental shop open this Easter Sunday in Christchurch. Alex, one of the staff, was very helpful over the phone…and he will meet us early evening when we arrive at our hotel with a hybrid road bike I’ll rent for the week.
Still, I checked my Bike Friday in on our Air NZ flight…just in case!