The 20th, and final, 364km BDO Tour of Northland cycle race got underway on Thursday in Whangārei.
It is the end of an era for Whangārei pharmacist Iain Buchanan and many other cyclists – after 20 years, this year’s BDO Tour of Northland cycle race will be the event’s last.
Buchanan has competed in every tour since it was first held in 2001. At the time, he had just taken up cycling.
Buchanan got into the sport to prepare for the 160km Lake Taupō Cycle Challenge in 2000.
When the Tour of Northland started, he wanted to get behind the local event, and has been doing it ever since – in the same dog-chewed cycle shoes.
The final race started in Whangārei on Thursday morning for a 364km, three-day journey around the region.
Buchanan enjoys the challenge of the multi-day cycling race. For him, it is a reason to keep fit each year.
He is sad that this year will be the last Tour of Northland and wonders if someone else will pick up the event.
The idea for doing the Sounds to Sounds – a 1500km bikepacking tour from Queen Charlotte Sound to Milford Sound – instead appeals him.
During his 20 years of doing the Tour of Northland, Buchanan has had his share of challenges.
In the 2011 tour, Buchanan slipped in his bike shoes while walking on a painted concrete floor in the morning of day two.
Having been told by the medics later that day. that he had possibly popped a cartilage, he topped up on pain relief and kept riding for two more days.
Weeks later he found out he had cracked ribs and fractured vertebrae.
Buchanan has also undergone two hip replacements. The first one was 16 weeks before the 2014 cycling tour, which meant he only had 12 weeks of training to prepare for the race.
He says the surgery was “really good” though. Buchanan realised he could ride better and was more comfortable.
The Tour of Northland, which attracts elite and recreational cyclists, takes place over four days. This year’s edition will cover 364km, plus a final 10km downhill cruise to McKay Stadium, Kensington, for prizegiving.
The first stage of 104km started Thursday, March 16, from Kensington to Russell.
After Thursday, the course changes from its traditional route. On the second day, the riders will bike to Kerikeri for the first time, where they will also start and finish on Saturday.
The tour finishes on Sunday with a 106km ride from Kerikeri to Maunu Tennis Club.
The new course was first meant to be used in 2022 in an attempt to attract more racers. However, the event did not occur because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Despite the course change, this year’s participant numbers remain low, which is what event organiser Stephen Cox calls a “sign of the times”.
“Unfortunately, all the road cycling events are suffering badly; entries have dropped significantly over the last two or three years,” said Cox.
“I think there is quite a change in the way… people want to have their recreation. A lot of people want to go and do things when it suits them.”
The other major factor affecting road cycling events was the uncontrollable costs associated with traffic management.
“Certainly, requirements around traffic management over the last five years or so have just meant costs have increased significantly.”
To balance the traffic management costs, event organisers need a sufficient number of people taking part. “Your only other option is putting up the entry fees.
“The more you put up the entry fees, the less people want to ride.”
Sadly, this means 2023 will be the last Tour of Northland.
“Road cycling events are taking a hiding, and they just keep dropping off one after another.
“I think, unfortunately, it will be something that continues to happen.”