Marlborough cyclist Craig Harper sets new world record for riding length of country

Craig Harper  passes through Blenheim on his attempt to cycle the length of NZ in record time.
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Craig Harper passes through Blenheim on his attempt to cycle the length of NZ in record time.

A Marlborough endurance athlete has decided to take some time off to recover after smashing the world record for cycling the length of New Zealand.

Craig Harper broke the previous record of four days, 17 hours and 40 minutes by more than seven hours.

Harper, speaking from Fox Glacier on Sunday, said the 2100-kilometre ride would take time to recover from, both physically and emotionally. 

Craig Harper feels strong as he rides into Invercargill, with plenty of time on his hands to break the record.
JOHN HAWKINS/FAIRFAX NZ

Craig Harper feels strong as he rides into Invercargill, with plenty of time on his hands to break the record.

"It's been a very big effort and such a big thing for so long," he said. "When it finishes it doesn't just end." 

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He set off from Cape Reinga at 8am on February 20 and arrived at Bluff at 5.45pm on Friday.

Craig Harper looks focused as he crosses the Wairau River bridge on State Highway 1 outside Blenheim on Wednesday.
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Craig Harper looks focused as he crosses the Wairau River bridge on State Highway 1 outside Blenheim on Wednesday.

His final time was four days, nine hours, and 45 minutes. 

In order to achieve his goal he slept for only short periods of one to two hours along the way, and it was a relief to have a normal night's sleep. 

"It's certainly nice lying down and sleeping," Harper said.  

Craig Harper was able to stop for a few minutes to greet supporters in Blenheim on Wednesday.
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Craig Harper was able to stop for a few minutes to greet supporters in Blenheim on Wednesday.

There were some "big highlights" during the four-day trip, dubbed "The Long White Ride", including some "pretty amazing scenery". 

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Harper raised about $50,000 for the Graeme Dingle Foundation Marlborough, which runs Kiwi Can courses teaching positive values to primary school children. 

A member of Harper's support crew, communications manager Angela Wilson, said the public response to Harper's ride on "The Long White Ride" Facebook page was amazing.

Craig Harper some 200 kilometres into his journey after leaving Cape Reinga at 8am last Monday morning.
SUPPLIED

Craig Harper some 200 kilometres into his journey after leaving Cape Reinga at 8am last Monday morning.

"It's uplifted people. The support messages were overwhelming and the people were just so engaged with it, willing him on. It was quite overwhelming." 

Aside from the money raised, the ride itself had been inspirational, she said. 

Harper made his way through Blenheim around 3.30pm on Wednesday where he was met by a large crowd of supporters, including his young daughters.

However, he was only able to stop for a few minutes before continuing on in order to make the cutoff time to use the Rainbow Road to Hanmer Springs.

Arriving in Blenheim was one of the highlights of his trip but it was also difficult - people were cheering him on as though the journey was over, but he knew he still had a long way to go. 

"It was almost like everyone was celebrating and it was hard to really accept that when I knew I was only halfway. I needed to just keep focused and keep going," Harper said. 

The support he received from Marlburians was a "really big buzz". 

The most difficult part of the journey was the last day, cycling from Dunedin to Bluff, Harper said. 

The hills around Dunedin proved a challenge and although he knew he was on the home straight, he still had about 10 hours of cycling left. 

Sleeping for only one or two hours a night also made it difficult to get going again, as his body cooled down and seized up, Harper said. 

Support crew member Mark Hawkins said the ride had gone without a hitch, with no rain and only a serious headwind on the first day. "We haven't even had any mechanicals, not so much as a puncture over some 2000km," Hawkins said.

"He has had his highs and lows. It has been absolutely incredible to witness what he has been through."

Graeme Dingle Foundation Marlborough regional manager Kelvin Watt said they were in awe of the progress Harper made.

"It's just incredible. He has been so strong the whole way - he is a machine."

It was "fantastic" so many children were aware of what he was doing, Watt said. 

"We had the expectation that he'd raise a whole lot of money. 

"Probably what we didn't expect was that it would catch so many people's attention. It was just amazing." 

Harper was interviewed during the ride by Radio Sport, and he also featured on other radio stations. Before he set out he appeared on the AM Show on TV3, Wilson said. 

Harper, a respected endurance cyclist, won the 640km Maxi Enduro at the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge in 2015 and the 1010km 10-lap Mammoth race at the Forrest GrapeRide in 2014.

Harper said he had no immediate plans to take part in any more big cycling trips. 

The previous record for cycling the length of the country was set by fellow Kiwi endurance cyclist Colin Anderson in 2007.

 - The Marlborough Express

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