The longest of the five stages, this race goes from the Te Awamutu township past the historic frontier town of Kihikihi.
Te Awamutu was the home of two major pā sites; Otāwhao and Kaipaka Pā. When missionaries arrived they set up the Otāwhao Mission Station and together with local Māori established a number of farms and flour mills. Two permanent churches were built to service local parishioners, St John’s Church in Te Awamutu and St Paul’s Church in the nearby settlement of Rangiaowhia.
During the Waikato campaign of the New Zealand Land Wars, thousands of soldiers arrived in Te Awamutu and several redoubts were built to house them. The 65th redoubt (now Albert Park) was home to 3,000 men for most of 1864. At the end of the Waikato campaign, the town was settled by ex-soldiers and other settlers. The introduction of the railway in 1880 helped develop the town through farming and paved the way for the Te Awamutu we know today.
The area also marked the end of the Waikato campaign of the New Zealand Land Wars with the battle of Orākau taking place on Arapuni Road just east of Kihikihi. Kihikihi itself became a garrison town housing soldiers during the campaign and its grid layout is a nod to this era. The town is also the site of a memorial to Rewi Maniapoto, on the corner of Lyon and Whitmore Streets. Rewi was a prominent member of Ngāti Paretekawa, a hapū of Ngāti Maniapoto. He was well-known for his leadership, knowledge of traditions and was a key player in the Kīngitanga movement.
Looping around through the rocky and picturesque Ōtorohanga district, riders return past Mt Kakepuku, both a recreation and historic reserve and one of the treasured maunga in the Waipā district. Mt Kakepuku has been occupied by several hapū in its history and there are the remains of four pā sites present in the forests. Hikurangi Pā, on the summit of the maunga, is regarded as one of the best preserved hill top pā in the region.
This iconic part of the Waipā skyline is actually an old volcano. More recently a conservation group was established to help reduce pest numbers on the maunga. You can take a walk to the summit for an amazing view of the surrounding landscape.
Get your spot at the finish line on Bank Street in Te Awamutu and cheer on the riders!