The recent Government enforced COVID–19 lockdown will be long remembered as a unique time in our nation’s history.
For the regular Saturday morning group of the Bike Mercury Bay road cycling community, it was also a time when the regular mass gatherings, spirited bunch riding, general chitchat and post ride coffee were put on an indefinite hold. No doubt a similar scenario was being played out by literally hundreds of cycling and sporting groups and clubs around the country.
It was a time when the options all of a sudden seemed somewhat limited for cyclists. Ride outdoors solo or jump on the home trainer for hours on end, day after day, or simply park the bike and wait for the lockdown restrictions to soften or eventually end.
But as so often happens for those willing to look outside the square, adversity can also create opportunities.
It was seen by myself and my old mate and cycling buddy Robbie Stephenson as the perfect time to try something completely different. To find a new way of staying connected, especially on those cherished Saturday mornings while at the same time keeping within the required social distancing rules, and to not venture way outside of local boundaries.
And so with a bit of creative thinking, a 6-week COVID-19 Saturday cycling challenge series was soon conceived and eventually implemented. Guidelines centred on keeping the rides short and sharp, no two rides were ever the exact same, all were challenging, they were ridden solo and gave everyone the opportunity to participate and for the more competitive amongst the group, provide the perfect format to push past normal comfort zones if they wanted.
Most importantly, the format had to provide for the ongoing enthusiasm from riders and for them to hopefully wait in anticipation for details of the next weeks challenge to be revealed.
A key to the overall success of the various challenges undertaken was having details posted on the groups WhatsApp page early in the week along with photos, comments and details of the upcoming challenge. This also provided a platform for general comment which became almost as entertaining and humorous as the rides themselves at times.
Once a particular route had been discussed and agreed upon, Robbie then had the job to pre ride the course, take photos and plot the various segments for Strava. His overall contribution was massive in making the challenge series so successful.
Most of the courses were also designed to have a point where riders crossed on opposite sides of the road at some stage, so a compulsory thumbs up was used as a way to acknowledge fellow cyclists.
Over the 6-weeks the format ran, events included individual time trials, handicap rides, team time trials (average times used to gain a winning team) and points races. There was even a non-stop short 2-stage tour complete with individual stage and GC winners. Riders could also target winning the sprint and hill climbing points on offer plus those imaginary green and polka dot jerseys.
Even a special ANZAC day ride was organised with riders being asked to pin on a poppy on their jersey and have a photo taken starting and finishing their solo rides at the Soldiers Memorial Park in Whitianga.
Another opportunity not missed was Easter weekend where riders received an individually wrapped Easter egg for their efforts.
All up a very enjoyable and successful six weeks. Plus the big bonus is there are now at least 6 new rides and formats on offer in the future, many of which can be easily tweaked to be ridden as a proper team challenge.
Reverting back to the old ways almost seems a little boring and less exciting than those rides undertaken during lockdown.
By Jack Biddle
Bike Mercury Bay is an organisation that coordinates and promotes cycling within the Whitianga, Cooks Beach, Hahei and surrounding areas. Catering for both the road enthusiast and those looking for a bit more dirt there are several ride options available during the week.
President: Grant McDonald
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
022 082 1230