PEOPLE

The MitoQ NZ tour - the North Island

And we’re off!

Paul Millet and the ‘lads’ of the Glendowie Cycling Crew have now completed the first stage in their journey to cycle from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand. Spread over four days, this initial stage covered 480km of the total 3000km.

21 mins to read
bikers resting during the MitoQ NZ Tour

Stage one

Starting in Cape Reinga the goal was to get all the way down to Auckland.

+ Read an introduction to the tour here

Waking up early in Kaitia on day one, the team were anxious and excited to board their shuttle to transport them to their kick-off point. “We started from Cape Reinga. At the lighthouse. The spiritual tip of New Zealand,” explains Tour organizer Paul Millet. “Everyone was a bit nervous. There was a lot of nervous laughter and a bit of chit-chat.”

The first day of the Tour had the team witnessing breathtaking views, exploring wild countryside and challenging themselves with something they’d never experienced before: riding on a beach. A few hours after setting off, they left tarmac behind and began the seemingly endless cycle down Ninety Mile Beach, a long stretch of sand (actually only 55 miles) that runs along the west coast of New Zealand. Although the tide was out, the sand was wet, the wind was blowing, and the going was tough.

“I don’t think I need to do Ninety Mile Beach again for a long time,” laughs Paul. “It caught us all by surprise, we didn’t know what to expect. But we stuck together and that was important because everyone just rotates around in their fitness, in their motivation. We were quiet, very quiet for a couple of hours – I don’t think we talked. Then we got the music going so it was good fun.”

But riding on the sand was just the beginning. As the team snaked down the coast, they found themselves tackling dirt tracks and climbing some pretty gnarly hills. With elevations of over 1500-metres the legs were a bit wobbly at the end of each day. The team surprised themselves with their ability to recover, something that they associate with MitoQ. “It just surprised us how quickly we were able to get up and go in the morning after such a surprisingly tough day,” says Paul.

Increasingly performance and recreational athletes are taking our world-first antioxidant because of its growing reputation to help them increase their training intensity and recover faster. “Taking the MitoQ has made it a lot easier,” Paul continues. “It’s given us a lot more confidence. The confidence has come from knowing that we can get up in the morning and get on with it. I’ve noticed my ability to get back on the bike and not get the pain in the legs and not get the fatigue and warm up a lot quicker, and that’s just me, right.”

At the end of the four days, the team rode into Auckland tired, a little stiff but with massive grins on their faces and ultimately proud to have accomplished the first hurdle. With a beer in his hand Paul reflected on his experience over the last four days.

“We’re guys who enjoy living life. We enjoy getting out and about. And as you get older, you look for things that will actually help you to do the things that you want to do. And whether or not that’s activity, whether or not it’s just being able to play with the kids. Do things like this.

“When I heard about MitoQ and how it really helps to energise your mitochondria and build up your energy and increase your recovery time, increase concentration, well that fits with exactly where we are. We need our recovery time to be faster. We don’t bounce back as much as we used to do 30 years ago, but now with this we feel a lot more energy. We’re not as fatigued as we would have been normally.”

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Stage two

After a lockdown-imposed hiatus, spirits were high as the Glendowie cycling club were finally able to kick off the second leg of the MitoQ NZ Tour, despite being battered by wind, rain and a fair few punctures. Watch the video below to see the full journey.

Initially planning to complete the three-day second leg of the MitoQ NZ Tour in May (the tour sees a group of friends cycle the length of New Zealand in separate stages), the team of eight cyclists were forced to put things on hold after New Zealand went into a four-week lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once New Zealand’s lockdown lifted, they were raring to get going, starting in Auckland where they finished leg one, and cycling 270km through lush green countryside to finish in the North Island town of Mangakino.

Training In Isolation

Keeping active is challenging at the best of times, let alone in isolation, but despite this the team kept up their fitness and endurance levels by adapting their training. “The lockdown period was challenging for sure in terms of limited time – we couldn’t meet up and cycle together,” says Tour organizer Paul Millet. “Some of the guys went on Zwift and did spin training. I got out and just did local circuits, but you couldn’t go very far. To keep the fitness up required dedication and a target. If we didn’t have a target for this MitoQ next stage, I think a few of us would have just lapsed a bit.”

Better Recovery

The team also continued their MitoQ supplementation, with the knowledge that MitoQ has benefits to endurance, recovery and physical performance. For the last ten months, we’ve been trialling MitoQ on a number of endurance athletes and monitoring them – recording improvements in VO2 max, HRV (heart rate variability) and shortened recovery periods after intense physical training. MitoQ NZ Tour team member Mike Sullivan says that MitoQ helps him to get going the next day, even after an intense riding session the day prior.

“Certainly after a long ride, you wake up in the morning recovered well. 100 km’s yesterday and I felt absolutely perfect this morning. I can honestly say I’ve never ridden 100 km’s and woken up in the morning without feeling a bit tired. So, I’m really happy.”

Powering Through

With the recovery taken care of by MitoQ, there was just one major battle for the cyclists to face: the weather. Strong winds, heavy rain and low temperatures combined to create very tough riding conditions and cause a fair few punctures.

Despite facing the challenges that come with cycling in wet, foggy, miserable conditions, the team dug deep and powered through. After a hearty home cooked meal, a beer and a couple of hours thawing out by the fire, Paul Millet was able to reflect not only on the experience of the past 72 hours but also on the last six months.

“So I’ve been taking MitoQ since January. And quite soon after that I noticed that I was able to recover a lot quicker, I was sleeping better and I was concentrating more at work. To be honest, you kind of get used to that. And you get used to being able to bounce back. And you just take it for granted almost until you push yourself again.”

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Stage three

On the road again!

At the start of the MitoQ NZ Tour there was much excitement about the beginning of an epic journey that would see a bunch of middle-aged mates cycling the entire length of New Zealand. Now at the part-way point, the thrill is in reuniting after a break and helping each other through this third stage.

Watch the video to see the team take on the challenge

On the morning of September 10, 2020, the MitoQ film crew caught up with the Glendowie Cycling Crew in the small North Island town of Mangakino. The atmosphere at breakfast was excitement at being back together and eagerness to hit the road for the next adventure. Most of the team members are self-employed, making getting time away from work a little tough. To ensure everyone can complete as many stages of the Tour as possible, they have broken it up into a staggered affair, moving down the country in stages of 3-5 days at a time.

For this, their third stage of the series, the Crew’s goal was to cover 290kms (or 161 miles) and 2000m of incline from Mangakino to Whakahoro over three days. Exploring beautiful native New Zealand bush on the Timber Trail, involving mud, wobbly foot bridges and coming out the other end in one piece.

“One of the great things about this is that we’re doing it as a bunch of mates, and with the support of MitoQ which is really allowing us to get on and do it,” says Paul Millet, the Tour’s chief organizer.

“It’s like anything you do, it’s easier and better with mates,” adds participant Shane Hughes. “Some of us ride a little bit quicker up hills but we always wait at the top because at the end of the day, you want to enjoy it together.”

The Timber Trail

From the rolling green pasture-filled farming fields of the previous stage, the Crew now took on the foothills of the alpine region of New Zealand’s Central Plateau.

If the highlight of stage one was cycling down the iconic 90-Mile Beach, and stage two was all about battling wind, rain and numerous punctures, stage three of the MitoQ Tour of New Zealand was all about the stunning New Zealand bush. The team entered one of the country’s most iconic mountain bike routes – the Timber Trail – which follows the old logging tracks from New Zealand’s pioneering days, through some of the most pristine native bush in the country.

“Just getting out into the bush, you can’t beat it,” says Ian Todd, who’s been on the tour since the very beginning. “It’s another world. Get away from the city and all the worries, forget about your phone ringing, your emails and all the rest of it and it’s just a total switch-off.”

“Every stage is unique,” adds Hughes. “The last stage was a bit flatter and then this one – it’s scenic, it’s hilly, it’s a struggle, but it’s just amazing scenery. The swing bridges, the New Zealand bush, the ruggedness of it all. It’s just awesome.”

Recovery is key

If it’s all about sweat, toil and laughs during the day, the demands on the body of this Tour mean that great recovery is essential – especially for a bunch of guys approaching or on the other side of 50 who are trying to do things 30-year-olds would be proud of.

“Yesterday we did 100 kilometres and 2000 metres of climbing, which is quite a lot,” reveals Hughes on the morning of day three as he explains how MitoQ helps him take on one long day after another on the bike.

“I’m a roofer, so I’ve got quite a physical job which tires me out and then we do all this biking on the side. With MitoQ, what I’ve noticed the most is probably coming back and training after work isn’t as hard. I’ve found that I have a little bit more energy. ”

“I just think MitoQ resonates with what we’re about,” adds Todd. “We’re a bunch of 50-year-old guys who are not ready to lie down yet, and that’s exactly the point, you know? MitoQ’s helped me out – I know, typically I get to the afternoons, I get a bit weary and a bit slow and now I’m good through to the end of the day and happy days, I’m still going!”

Looking forward

After an epic ride through the bush, the team emerges again back into farmland surroundings and are greeted by what’s to come. Rising in the distance are the snow-capped mountains of the Central North Island – featuring volcanoes including Mt Ngarahoe, which is famous for starring as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings films.

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Stage four

On a journey that will eventually take in the length of New Zealand, there are plenty of photos to be taken. Some are good, some make you laugh and some are just better deleted, but every now and then, there’s a photo that defines what this journey is all about. Those are the special ones.

On stage one, at the beginning of the journey, riding down Ninety Mile Beach at the top of New Zealand, one of those photos was taken. In it, the group of riders are lined up across the beach, riding as one towards the camera with huge smiles, enjoying the exuberance of that first day on an epic adventure.

We can now add another to the list. The MitoQ Tour of New Zealand riders have just emerged from the dense New Zealand bush, about 1000km after leaving Cape Reinga. All covered in mud, they stand arm and arm on the extraordinary Bridge to Nowhere and smile for the camera. It was a moment captured forever – of a bunch of mates loving the mud, loving life, and loving each other’s company.

It’s impossible to look at that photo and not be inspired to get out and live life - and that’s the point of the whole journey. Job done!

Stage four to nowhere

Now let’s back up and explain where the story’s at…

Stage four of the MitoQ Tour of New Zealand kicked off on November 12, 2020, right where Leg 3 finished – at the Blue Duck Station on the shores of the mighty Whanganui River.

Planned to take four days, the first part of the ride was to dive into one of New Zealand’s most remote and rugged bush regions before emerging out at the Bridge to Nowhere – an iconic and unique tourist attraction hidden deep in the rugged bushland of the Whanganui region.

“So, the Bridge to Nowhere got its name because it’s a random bridge that’s in the middle of nowhere,” said Rob Campbell, a regular member of the team. “My understanding is that after World War 1, there were a lot of soldiers who came back to New Zealand and the government gave them leases to land there. I suppose that was quite an honor to them. But the reality was that the land they were given was basically untouched, no one had been there before and it was just too tough to farm. I think the irony was that the bridge was pretty much finished as the people were packing their bags to leave.”

A time to reflect

When the guys emerged from the bush all covered in mud to find this extraordinary bridge, literally in the middle of nowhere, it became a moment to stop and reflect.

Later on, when they spent the night at the nearby Bridge to Nowhere Lodge, there was no cellphone coverage, no WIFI, and nothing to do but enjoy each other’s company. It was a time to reflect on how far they’ve come and to wallow in a moment of peace.

“I was just showing Paul [Millet – Tour leader] the map of our journey, and I just think it’s extraordinary how far we’ve come,” said Campbell. “And there have been some hard days, but there have been some really great days too.

“I just think we’re the perfect market for MitoQ. We are young at heart and we just sort of want to remember the good times. Sometimes there’s nothing quite like a 300-400-metre climb - you get to the top wondering how you’ll feel in the morning, so MitoQ is a great sponsor for us because that recovery story is really important to guys our age.”

Time to look forward too

And so, as the team emerged from the Whanganui River and followed it to the city of the same name, thoughts began to emerge of what’s coming down the road on stage five and beyond.

“Next up is the ride to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city,” said Paul Millet, the tour leader. “And what that means is that we’re coming to a major milestone – the end of our ride through the North Island. And I just can’t wait to get to Wellington and look out over the waters of the Cook Strait.

“Because on the other side of that is the South Island – one of the world’s most spectacularly beautiful mountainous regions. It’s just going to be epic.”

No doubt, that means there will be some amazing new photos to be taken. Some that will be great and some that will be not so great. But there will also be some that will make us laugh, and some that will simply inspire us even more.

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Stage five

Waking up in the wine country of Martinborough in the lower North Island of New Zealand is never a chore. Especially on a morning when the sun rolls over the surrounding sun-burned golden hills at the end of summer.

There was a definite spring in their stride as the members of the MitoQ NZ Tour team stepped out of their accommodations and hopped on their bikes to take a short cycle to breakfast. It wasn’t just the still, clear morning and crisp air that excited them. Neither was it the smell of coffee wafting out the open windows of the cafe as they stacked their bikes and congregated inside to fuel up for the day. It was the fact that the prize of the day was a goal they’d worked a year for, to stand on the shores of the Cook Strait at the bottom of the North Island and try to catch a glimpse of their next challenge – the South Island. After cycling the entire length of the North Island in five stages over the past year, a few of these 50-something-year-olds had quietly wondered if it was a moment that would ever happen.

“How good is this?” said Paul Millet, the tour organizer on the morning of their final day of riding in the North Island. Even the thought of the rugged Rimutaka mountain ranges standing between the team and their goal couldn’t dampen that enthusiasm, after all, what was one more dirt track up and down some hills after what they’d already achieved?

“What a great achievement this has been,” said Millet. “For the whole of the North Island, it’s something like 1700kms (1050 miles), and we’ve still got the South Island to go. So, it’s going to mean so much to the guys when we get to Lyall Bay and look across the Cook Strait. And hopefully, we’ll even get to see the South Island.”

The journey so far

Looking back, the journey so far has passed by without too much drama. There have been no major injuries, and apart from one horror day on leg two in the rain, even punctures have been rare.

Starting with a massive ride down the famous 90-Mile Beach from the Cape Reinga lighthouse at the tip of the top of the North Island, the first day was probably the hardest, Millet said.

“The North Island for me was just full of a lot of experiences. Some highlights for me would be the Timber Trail and the Bridge to Nowhere. Then there was the bad weather and the punctures in the Waikato. But really, the most unique experience was that first day riding down 90-Mile Beach.

“So yeah, it was a tough day because riding on soft sand is not easy. But it was also the most unique and memorable day.”

Friendships to last forever

The other part of the journey that will resonate with everyone for years to come will be the friendships and the laughter, said team member Damian O’Connell.

“Look, I think I’ll remember the camaraderie. It’s been a great bunch of guys and the fact that we’ve got through it, and we’re all still really enthusiastic, we’re all still really good mates, I’ll take that away.”

That – along with what he describes as both the best and worst moment of the journey so far:

“Probably the worst day was when I went off the side of the Whanganui National Park Trail,” he recalled. “Which anyone who’s seen it, will know that it falls away quite steeply. So, it was a terrible day when a lack of skill sent me flying over the edge.

“Luckily, I managed to grab hold of a tree a couple of meters down, and I was a little bit shaken and quite nervous because I knew what lay below me, which was a deep canyon!

“So the boys had to help me up and they formed a bit of a human chain to do that, but not before they all stopped and took photos, which I thought was an odd order of doing things!

“But afterward we looked at the photos and had a laugh. You just think ‘my goodness me, that could have been so bad, but instead it was just part of an amazing day’. So yeah – that’s both the worst day and the best day!”

Sponsor’s duties

For many of the team, the interest of MitoQ has always been a curiosity. After all, the team is made up of guys who are all on the wrong side of 50 and “mostly broken” as O’Connell observes. But over the 1700kms of riding from the top to the bottom of the North Island, the reasons have become pretty clear.

“You know, when MitoQ approached us,” said O’Connell, “I was quite surprised because we’re all 50-something and we’re no oil paintings.

“But the more I think about it, the more it does make sense because MitoQ is really about looking after yourself at a cellular level. At our age, we need that kind of help because we do a lot of self-sabotage, and we really need to overcome that and put back in because it’s really taxing doing legs of this trip and then to go home and be present with your family and try and share the experience with them.”

And that’s the core of the message right there – that it’s not just about being able to ride an insanely long distance in middle age. It’s more-so about having the energy to live a balanced and fulfilled life of passions, family and work without having to compromise on any of them.

“I think that’s the reason MitoQ were interested in sponsoring us,” reflected Millet. “They were proving a point about how we can look after ourselves at a cellular level. So, I’m not wiped out after doing all this adventurous stuff, and when we get home, it’s our family and work that actually also see the benefits.”

One big happy family

After another hot, hot day, the MitoQ Tour of NZ team arrived in Wellington at a fast clip, looking as fresh as they had when they’d left Martinborough in the morning.

Having made it to their destination, they stood on the shore at Lyall Bay snapping photos to mark the occasion. Then, they enjoyed a couple of beers at a nearby pub before packing up their bikes and heading back home to Auckland where they’ll plot their assault on the South Island.

“We’re probably now going to wait until the winter’s over,” said Millet when asked when the next leg will be. “The South Island's a lot colder than the North, and being so isolated, we’ve got to make each leg a bit longer. But we can’t wait and it’s just going to be epic.

“I think that’s the word, really – epic. As one of the guys said just now, he never thought a year ago he would be here, even halfway. So, you know, I think everyone’s got something out of it and we’re just loving being together as a bunch of mates and then going home to our families to tell them all about it afterward.

“And that's the thing, it’s not just about the guys here. It’s also about our families back home – My son in Australia follows us on Instagram and sends me messages saying ‘Dad, I’m so proud of you’, and my daughter is really getting into her cycling as well. So yeah, it affects the whole family. It’s just brilliant.”

Stay tuned. Because there’s much more to come!

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