Gav’s 160km Faultline Challenge Recce

Wheelworks Ambassador Gavin McCarthy is also Ambassador for the Faultline MTB Challenge, running for the first time 20-21 April 2024. Over to Gav for his 160km course pre-ride....

I got wind of this awesome MTB/running event over a year ago while at the Wainui 6hr Worldz, which is run by Bengy and the Barefoot Sports team. I was extremely interested and stoked to have a solid MTB event in Wellington. I said way back then if there is anything I can do to help, that didn’t involve a computer, sign me up.  Fast forward to present day and I have just completed a recreational ride of the 2024 160k course, so we can get a slightly more accurate course distance and elevation.

160ks!!  Mostly offroad, in summer, about 5000m elevation, one continuous GPS file and not leaving the course, riding in about 14 different MTB areas that I often ride in, yes I was keen.  I wanted to do this all in daylight so needed to make a plan!

Now, some of you might not be that pleased and some that know me might be shocked, but I thought a E-Bike would be an awesome help!  I can ride my partners e-bike then jump on my “normal” bike when it went flat. Problem.  Bike 1 was in for repair but I was able to source a replacement.  First problem solved.  But why use one when I could use two?  I also borrowed a bike from work, (My Ride Wellington), and threw a 2nd battery into my bag.  Now we're talking, haha!

The plan was to meet up with Bengy at the start line, give him food, water, an Ebike, a normal bike and organize for him to meet me often, to catch up and fuel up. 6.30am meet up. 7.15am and I rolled out under EBike power. Now, I'm not going to go into too much trail details as we’ll be here for days reading, but....

Here we go….

Starting on the beach at Queen Elizabeth Park with the first hill being Whareroa Farm – easy climb.  Down the second half of big ring boulevard just like in the Karapoti Classic, a bit rocky but fast. Climb up Pram track – Dopers Hill - Karapoti Classic's last climb - down is fine.

Next up is Valley View.  If you see the 5km sign, ignore it.  You have gone further than 5k and there is more than 5k to go!  This sign is not for you.  Also a sign saying Deceptive slope ahead in a up hill kinda way.  If this climb is hurting, you're in for a long hard day! 

Dropping down to Totara Park which is feed zone / Hub location #1, about 36k in. 

Hutt Riverbank, one of the few flat sections, then onto the Boulder Hill section.  The first part is not too bad, then flat rollers to a hard steep climb to the top.  Probably the first mega view, no trees and all farmland, next to some old war bunkers, then into the Belmont MTB park for a lap and feed zone number 2 at the Wool Shed.  Back to farmland.  There are some nasty steep pinches, one rocky one that you may walk.  I make it up only half the time when fresh, haha. I had swapped E-Bikes before the Belmont park.

Dropping into Cannons Creek after going under the new highway 1 is cool. Don’t overcook the boardwalks into the swamp! Feed zone 3 and we're about half way.

Onto the Colonial Knob MTB park, after doing a little urban riding through the side of town.  The forest on the way up this 5k climb is so nice.  The gradient is easy enough but it takes ages!  You’ll see signs saying how much further to the top, 1 k to go, nice!  But then you come out of the trail and keep going up!  Now right above the coast line where you started some 6 -7 (possibly) hours ago but about 25k further south down the island.  Again, awesome views.

The downhill to Spicer Forest is normally closed to riding, its farm land.  Go easy on your speed.  The grass is steep and if damp you’ll have no braking traction but boy it's fun.  If you see holes from cow hooves its probably already too late, so just hold on!

A bit of tar seal into Ohariu valley.  Time to eat and drink, maybe a little rest, then its game time again.  Feed zone #4.  For me, 2nd battery on 2nd e-bike here.

On to Old Coach road straight to the northern end of SkyLine walkway, climbing up to Mt Kaukau. This is rather fun. The main climb is all singletrack and not too hard. After the top there are some fun wide rough 4WD trails you can bomb down with blind lips, mega views, a few line choices (don’t worry they are all about the same in distance or speed), a few nasty up hill pinches and a few signs saying kiwis in the area!!

Now you're into the Makara Peak MTB park., the most popular park to ride in the wider Wellington region. 

Pop to the top, down 80% of the way, then back up via the cool huge swing bridge. 

Once at the top, head to the bottom.  Fun, singletrack trails. 

By now you 'may' be tired so take care. Feed zone #5 and the best toilet stop since you started! 

While riding in the park, during the first DH, I shut off a little.  I stopped concentrating.  No, I didn’t crash but needed to get a bit of sugar and drink.  5 minutes later, up next climb, it was back to ripping about with my mind back in the game.

Up to Wrights Hill next. Heaps of war history with bunkers and gun placements etc… have I mentioned the view? 

I got a little lost up here pre riding the course but you’ll be mint on the day.  Now riding the e-bike on eco, hoping I don't need to get onto the “normal” bike, if only to save it from getting dirty.  Let’s not make this a 3 bike clean up tomorrow I thought.

Past the Fenceline of Zealandia, which has been a big factor in Wellingtons awesome native bird life.  Bengy has got permission to use the Long Gully access road up to the wind turbine which, I promise, you will be mega happy about.  The 4WD up Fenceline is mega nasty and the road is such a pleasure its almost a rest in comparison!

Good fun singletrack down from the wind turbine to Aro Street and now the urban fun begins.  Small walking singletracks, alleyways, steps down (some ridable and some not so much), your call, through a golf course, listen out for the “fore”.  What’s that monkey doing?  Yes a monkey, not some idiot on a bike, as you ride next to the Wellington Zoo.  Last feed zone in here.  This area is fun, you’ll think no one comes here and you’re probably right, apart from this race weekend.  You end up on Mt Albert then over to Mt Vic, with the last view of the city below. Wellington harbour below – the same harbour you have seen for the last how any hours, and the finish line below!

A little zip along the waterfront to the Shed 22 finish line with hopefully someone there to help you to get home or buy you a cold drink.

I used three e-bikes to do this ride, all in the day light… only just.  Getting to the finish at 8.30pm.  About 13hrs, which included talking to Bengy, often, at key cross over points, odd map checks and of course stocking up on food and water.  My Garmin said a max temperature of 32 degrees and at the finish was still saying 24 degrees so it was a hot long day.  Guaranteed it wont be that hot come race day.  Ride time I had just over 10hrs… all on a e-bike! 165ks and…. 5155m elevation.  Solid day don’t you think?

Being the inaugural race, who knows what a winning time will be.  Lets hope the weather man plays nice.  I felt fine in the legs the whole way.  As mentioned I lost it mentally a little at Makara.  Hands, palms, shoulders got tired and sore and the e-bikes had more travel than a XC bike so this will play a big toll come race day.  Good luck there.  You can ride all of this on a cross bike, and I have in parts, but there is no way your hands will survive this in one day.  Same with gearing.  You can push a 36 or 38T ring around but I’m sure you’ll want something smaller come near the end.  The classic 32 ring will be fine and if you spin that out just tuck, eat and drink.

Your support crew can only meet you at the support hubs and I’m picking you will want them there at all of them.  Have a good think about what you want them to take for you, then say yes to all odd ball items you think you’ll never need.  If you have a second something of anything bring it.  Your friends / family are helping you, not everyone else, so they should have room for it.  Second bike, shoes, helmet, glasses, bottle cage, tools, CO2 cartridge, hand pump, tube, lube, wheels, tyre etc etc.  You have set this event as a goal so don’t let a DNF (did not finish) stop you because of having something left at home.  I didn’t see any rules about what spares can be brought with you but I’m sure a DQ is better than a DNF!?

I’m sure you know what works for you regarding eating and drinking during the day or for any other questions for that matter reach out to the Faultline Facebook community chat group, The Faultliners.  I will be keeping an eye on there to see if I can help also.

Bengy and his team are working hard to bring the Faultline race together in what I can see becoming a bucket list race / ride for anyone -  be it for the epic views, the self-achievement of finishing and ticking off your personal goal or the fact you get to ride in so many areas of Wellington in one day, this event should become a classic on the calendar.  There are multiple distances in the run and bike, from the 25km, the 50km, the 100km to the 160km talked about here.  All guaranteed to put a smile on your face. 

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