Gav’s Tips for Whaka100

Originally published August 2021

I’ve competed in the Whaka's 100km mountain bike race so many times I’ve lost count! Could be 8 or 10? Definitely one of the few in NZ that can say he is one of the originals still looking at lining up again come October. No matter what distance you are eyeing up as this season's goal I’m sure I can give you some tips... 

Starting today you should try and ride your bike consistently. I’ve never had a coach and you may want to look into getting one yourself but just start riding. Set some personal goals on weekly ride time (Strava may help keep track here) so you don’t need to worry too much on distance - road rides v MTB rides can bring a way different total. Think about distance on a MTB once a week as well as some elevation. 

Skills will help on the downs. If you panic on every root or corner and need to pedal to get back up to trail speed that will take a lot of extra energy. A skills coach might suit you, or simply practice what you aren’t good at. Ride new trails so you don’t get too used to your favourites and get outside your comfort zone.

Bike set up can help… pick an appropriate bike and parts to help you. I’m not going to pick my DH bike to help with down hills or my Cross bike to help with the climbing! It's always a compromise. If you don’t have a choice here, the next best thing is to help the bike you do have get to the finish line as fast and comfortably as possible. Rotorua is known for its “hero dirt” so you don't actually need much tyre grip (it’s going to be sunny, warm and dry right?). If you wheelspin on a climb you needed to have more weight over the back wheel not a mud tyre! Take off the Minion DHR DHF and fit something like a Recon Race, Vittoria Saguaro… or even my favourite, slightly old-school CrossMark on the rear. This will not only likely save tyre weight but reduce the rolling resistance.

You may want to kit out the bike with tools and water to save the extra weight on your back. The trails are rough on the body no matter how much bike suspension travel you have! The less weight on your back will reduce the weight on your shoulders and bottom.

Trust the Whaka 100 team! They do an awesome job at running this event and providing race day info. You don’t need to pre ride it all or remember every trail - have a wee look at the course map so you know roughly where you are going and if/when your feed and water stations are. Other than that, follow the correct coloured arrows!

Trust the feed zone bag drop off!! I’m ‘near the front’ of the race and when the Whaka team sees a rider coming, they find your drop bag for you by the time you get there. The Whaka helper stays with you and makes sure you’re happy as you scoff ya face, fill up your pockets and refill whatever you are doing with water, then they put it all back into your bag while you ride off. You pick it up again at prize giving later that day. Nothing goes missing and it’s fast and reliable.

You're going to bonk at some stage, let's face it. With some ‘training’ now your goal is for it to happen as close to the end as possible! We all know that one needs to eat and drink, that’s up to you to sort out what works, but you may want some cramp spray just in case that kicks you hard! 

This is, and should be, a huge personal challenge for you. I’m not crazy enough to do the 160km Whaka Miler as the 100km is a challenge enough. With the right prep work for you and your bike, the weekend will be awesome.

Good luck!

- Gav