The bay where we start our ride begins on a sandy trail along a sandy beach with a river estuary comprising a small settlement on the Banks Peninsula called Akaroa. The area is just over an hour's drive southeast of Christchurch. Okains Bay is the main settlement or Pa of the Ngai Tahu or the prominent Maori tribe of the South Island since the 1300s. The name Okain is an author's name (O'Kane), who was an Irish naturalist.
We begin our journey on a narrow and, at times, sandy gravel road that starts heading up almost immediately for about 5km with Little Akaloa Bay to your left for the first 3km stretch, where you will feel the bite of the climb's approximately 8% gradient. The pain in your legs should dissipate as you get distracted by the spectacular views opening up before you as you weave your way up through the hillside.
The indigenous biodiversity of the varied vegetation, as far as the eye can see over this remote landscape, comprises small-leaved low-lying vegetation of shrub-land on the slopes facing the beach, hardwood forests, and trees dotted and dispersed over vast grasslands.
An ever-changing and spectacular panoramic view will be your reward on every stretch of this meandering road. The land displaying vast dry grassy slopes, rocky outcrops and calm and peaceful beaches change at every bend in the terrain with something new to see at every turn. Some bird species you may catch sight of are bellbird, South Island fantail, grey warbler, shining cuckoo, swamp harrier with black-backed and red-billed gulls.
We take a breather and head downhill for 5km before heading up again for just under 2km, followed by another downhill with views again over the bay. The profile will flatten for a short while before ascending for a challenging 10km climb. There is a section for recovery at 20km before giving your last effort at 24 km from where it's finally downhill with sweeping views of the area along Le Bons Bay to your right.
How to ride it:
You'll need a short warmup of about 10 min as this route begins almost immediately on a relatively long climb. Try and use the first climb to get a feel for the challenging gradients that await you further along the course.
Spin at a high enough cadence at under 70% of your FTP (change your settings to FTP to see this number) until the bottom of the second downhill. From 14km till 24km, you can increase your pace and test yourself on the final climb increasing intensity to 90% FTP if you can. Otherwise, continue at a comfortable, relaxed endurance pace of 70% FTP until the end. You will have done some excellent quality fitness training!