Words: Mike Blewitt                                                                           Photos: Tim Bardsley-Smith

In 2019 the 4th edition of the Nutri-Grain Pioneer will take place in the rugged mountains of New Zealand's South Island. This year, the event runs from 1-6 December. It's a 6-day mountain bike stage race, with a prologue followed by 5 stages. Raced in pairs, the event sits in the global Epic Series, partnering with the Swiss Epic and the Cape Epic. As it's a short trip across the ditch to New Zealand, The Pioneer is the best way to knock off a world-standard stage race, and the ideal next step if you have conquered Cape to Cape, Port to Port, Reef to Reef... or all three.
The 2018 event saw an all new stage plan with a move to Queenstown and Central Otago. In 2019 there are subtle changes but at its core The Pioneer takes riders through familiar terrain of the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago regions, starting and ending in Queenstown with race villages hosted in Queenstown, Alexandra and Bannockburn.


The date change – one week later starting December 1st, has meant that the event now has access to some great trials previously off limits because of lambing.
New Course Manager James Williamson brings his considerable expertise to the event, as the 2017 race winner with Scott Lyttle, but also as a local Central Otago resident and one who knows the many amazing trails of the region.


“My brief was to lift an already stunning event to new levels, combining the challenge of one of the world’s toughest mountain bike stage races with the incredible trails and vistas provided throughout the Central Otago region. This is my backyard so I have taken special pride in helping to deliver a course that will ensure a memorable week for all. For those returning to ride again, expect the best edition yet of The Pioneer, for those attending for the first time, be ready for an event that will give you memories and friendships to last a lifetime after a week riding some of the world’s best trails.”