Words: Sebastian Jayne                                                                   Photos: Tim Bardsley-Smith

Riders battled trails, climbs and weather in yesterday’s Stage 2 of the 2019 Pioneer. Today, the weather wanted all the glory of smashing riders to a pulp. The day started off with a morning riding briefing, the first of the race. Due to snow at highest point, the course would be shortened from 80km to 60km with the climb up to Mt Jackson taken out and a descending dirt track taking its place.
 
The weather was grim at the start of the stage and most riders were pretty thankful the warm food and tents of Bannockburn would come quicker than expected. The race at the front started fast with the Onya Bike North Otago team setting the pace for the fast cycle trails and road sections that opened the race. The Pioneer started with a single-trail heavy focus over the opening stages, but the following stages include a lot more faster road sections.

This changes the dynamic of the racing with those used to road racing looking to fair a little better towards the back end of the race. The course is only one factor that will decide this race though as fatigue from the big days of mountain bike riding through the challenging conditions will only rise. Training is one deciding factor to minimising fatigue in a race like The Pioneer but managing yourself, and your teammate, is also critical. Staying healthy in the camp environment and generally living in a camp environment for those who choose to camp is definitely a challenge.

 

Back to Stage 3, the climbing may have been shortened but what remained was still vicious even though it averaged around 7-9% gradient, the swirling wind made it very tough and quite tactical. From the top of the climb the track trended down for around 27km with short pinches keeping the legs warm on the way down. Most of the stage was run in pouring rain with the Fraser river crossing adding to the liquid breakfast! The knee-high flowing water added to the sense of adventure before the real fun began.

 

The rain of the day had turned the 4WD sections into a muddy mess and a technical challenge for a lot of riders. Even though the course lacks single trail for this part doesn’t mean there is no technical challenge. The stage was won in 2:21hrs, so relatively short for Pioneer standards due to the deviation, but the real challenge came after. Trying to get clean, warm and fed while camping is tough on good days but the rain and cold made it immensely tough.
 
The shower crew had the showers set up in record time but they filled up quickly with so many riders. I had been in the medical tent getting my eyes cleaned out due to being without eyewear for most of the muddy stage so by the time I was over at the showers they were full. Thankfully, the shower crew were switched on and brought out a hose from the back of the shower truck with beautiful hot water at 42 degrees coming out! Getting cleaned up like that was amazing after such a tough day.

The race for the stage
 
The Onya Bike North Otago of Tim Rush and Michael Vink had an axe to grind after getting bested by the Giant Australia Team of Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams, the day before. They hit the first climb hard today and Vink had this to say about the teams tactics, “We went from the first climb, it was pretty much a time trial from that first climb all the way to the finish over 40k, I have a few jerseys for racing over 40k in my closet so that is something that usually suits me well. I was pretty motivated not be a ball and chain around Tim’s ankle anymore so that was great that we could ride as a team today.” The Giant Australia Team lost 5:46min to finish in second and lost the leaders jersey.
 
The mixed team saw an Aussie winner with the Sram-Mtoss team of Holly and Michael Harris putting it together to take a convincing win with a 2:54min lead over Yellow Jersey holders Team JoJo. The Sram-Mtoss team currently sit second 22min behind but the race is decided in Queenstown and with some big stages to come it could all change. The same can be said for the other categories especially if we get more adverse weather over the big mountains to come.

 
2019 Pioneer, Fuelled by Nutri-Grain
Stage Three Results and General Classification after the prologue, S1, S2 & S3
 
Open Men
Stage Three
1 Tim Rush & Michael Vink, NZL, Onya Bike North Otago, 2:21:57
2 Brendan Johnston & Jon Odams, AUS, Giant Australia, 2:27:43
3 Ryan Sissons & Sam Osborne, NZL, Winger Hamilton, 2:31:19

General Classification
1 Tim Rush & Michael Vink, NZL, Onya Bike North Otago, 11:46:13
2 Brendan Johnston & Jon Odams, AUS, Giant Australia, 11:51:23
3 Ryan Sissons & Sam Osborne, NZL, Winger Hamilton, 12:09:59
 
Open Women
Stage Three
1 Kate McIlroy & Amy Hollamby, NZL, Stonewood Homes, 2:54:03
2 Nina McVicar & Reta Trotman, NZL, New World St Martins, 3:16:18
3 Hannah Buchannan & Sarah Gilbert, NZL/USA, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, 3:21:25

General Classification
1 Kate McIlroy & Amy Hollamby, NZL, Stonewood Homes, 14:18:51
2 Nina McVicar & Reta Trotman, NZL, New World St Martins, 16:00:32
3 Hannah Buchannan & Sarah Gilbert, NZL/USA, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, 16:59:01
 
Mixed
Stage Three
1 Holly Harris & Michael Harris, AUS, Sram Mtoss, 2:38:30
1 Joe Skerman & Josie Wilcox, NZL, JoJo, 2:41:24
3 Karl Michelin Beard & Emma Viotto, AUS, Shimano Pushys Cannondale

General Classification
1 Joe Skerman & Josie Wilcox, NZL, JoJo, 13:18:20
2 Holly Harris & Michael Harris, AUS, Sram Mtoss, 13:40:48
2 Mark Williams & Kate Fluker, NZL, New World-Pivot, 13:50:07
 
Masters Men
Stage Three
1 Anthony Chapman & Andy Hagan, NZL, Optimal Performance, 2:41:25
2 Hamish Lane & Kris Snow, NZL, Cycle Obsession, 2:44:32
3 Gene Marsh & Jeremy Furlong, NZL, Off the Chain, 2:44:37

General Classification
1 Anthony Chapman & Andy Hagan, NZL, Optimal Performance, 13:44:32
2 Gene Marsh & Jeremy Furlong, NZL, Off the Chain, 13:50:23
3 Hamish Lane & Kris Snow, NZL, Cycle Obsession, 14:04:28
 
Masters Women
Stage Three
1 Kath Kelly & Peg Leyland, Earnscleugh Express, 3:35:21
2 Jackie Blay & Sara Prince, NZL, Outlaw Sisters, 3:39:36
3 Kim Johnston & Christine Wright, NZL, Team Cycleways, 3:50:48

General Classification
1 Kath Kelly & Peg Leyland, Earnscleugh Express, 16:44:11
2 Jackie Blay & Sara Prince, NZL, Outlaw Sisters, 18:40:24
3 Kim Johnston & Christine Wright, NZL, Team Cycleways, 19:05:11
 
Grand Masters Men (50+)
Stage Three
1 Marc Baechli & Daniel Christen, SUI, Terreactive IT, 2:52:59
2 Mike Holland & Greg McGovern, NZL, Velo Workshop, 2:56:59
3 Kent Wilson & Graeme Young, NZL, The Hub Cycle Centre, 2:57:24

General Classification
1 Marc Baechil & Daniel Christen, SUI, Terre Active IT, 13:42:38
2 Kent Wilson & Graeme Young, NZL, The Hub Cycle Centre, 14:28:10
3 Allan Killick & Greg Thompson, NZL, Cycleways, 14:51:26