Words: Sebastian Jayne                                                                 Photos: Tim Bardsley-Smith 

The weather. The 2019 Pioneer route has unfortunately so far been decided by the weather. Yesterday’s Stage 3 was shortened due to weather conditions at the highest point and the views of the snow-capped mountains we were supposed to ride the following day from the camp in Bannockburn after the stage hinted that the Stage 4 might also be altered. It was announced in the nightly briefing that Stage 4 would be shortened with the a good amount of the time we were set to spend at the higher altitudes minimised.
 
Situations like this are what make The Pioneer, and a lot of other races, a bit challenging from a racing perspective. My teammate Sam Fox and I had a plan to attack on the second climb, legs permitting, to hopefully get a gap before the major 40min climb of the day up to the highest point. The plan didn’t go to well, thank legs, but we were at the front and started eating for the big challenge ahead.


 
Then came the call from the marshals that the course had been adjusted again due to snow and wind at the top of the course and instead of a 40min climb we would be doing the starting hour-loop a second time. Mid race adjustments are a tough call for organisers to make but given the weather conditions it was the right call and credit to them for making a cool race loop even if it wasn’t the big alpine passes we were hoping for.
 
The double loop meant tackling short punchy climbs and with an expected race time of a bit over 2-hours, the riders at the front knew it was going to be a lot more intense than expected! The route featured a lot of road sections and a lot of wind which made the racing incredibly tactical. Such a tactical and explosive race this deep into the week made it tough for riders racing for a GC position.
 
I was feeling better than I had done for the last few days but was feeling the effects of the weeks racing. Luckily Sam is one of the strongest riders in the race and our teamwork has been close to the best so the tactical racing, were split second decisions could decide a race, suited us well.

I love following the Cape Epic and always watch the live coverage and highlight videos. Even at the top level, that the Cape Epic essentially is, teamwork can breakdown and small errors like pushing the pace when your teammate is struggling can decide a race. Once you start throwing in tactical racing with crosswinds and attacks it becomes immensely tougher. At the end of the day your second rider across the line is where your finish time is taken from so getting both of you to the finish line is everything. That is the same for those at the front as much as those at the back of the race.

 Sam and I crossed the line 4th, again, at the finish after a great tactical race with the MAAP-Shimano team. Not quite the race we were expecting with a finish time of 2:27hrs (I was carrying enough food for 4.5hours!) but the race was very different to the stages that have come before. Position wise everything is very similar, but something different to spice things up isn’t always bad. Hopefully tomorrow we get to ride some of the big alpine passes that the Pioneer is known for. Sam wants to throw a snowball at me, understandable given he’s been pushing me all week, so hopefully we see some snow on our way to the finish of what has been an amazing week in New Zealand!
 
The Race for the Stage
 
The men’s Masters race has been a great battle all week and leading into the final stage the margin for the win is only 1:22min with Off the Chain’s Gene Marsh and Mark Oakey leading from Shaun and Matt - AKA SHAT (Matthew Jones and Shaun Fahey).
 
The Open Women’s was won by Kate McIlroy and Amy Hollamby (Stonewood Homes)
McIlroy was in no doubt that organisers had made the right decision to shorten the stage and understood that for riders making up the back of the field it would be massive day in those conditions if we went higher, “No doubt they made the right call, we got the news at the first aid-station and while we were maybe thinking we could do the climb and prepared for it, it was already cold out on course as it was. Then we then started lapping some of the slower riders and realized just how much effort they were putting into their ride and that it wasn’t just about us, they are amazing in what they are doing, but going over the top in those conditions today, no way.”
 
Hopefully tomorrow sees better weather and riders can tackle a truly epic backcountry experience. I’m sure most riders know that even if the weather is bad, the right decision will be made.
 
Who races The Pioneer?
 
Competitors in The Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain, range in age from 19 to 72 (average age 44) and represent 24 countries, with Australia the largest contingent outside of New Zealand (211) with 57 riders making the trip across the Tasman. South Africa, home to the pinnacle event in the EPIC Series the Absa Cape Epic, has 24 riders, America 12 and Spain 11 while one of the more fascinating stats is the seven riders registered from Iceland.
 
2019 Pioneer, Fuelled by Nutri-Grain
Stage Four Results and General Classification after the prologue, S1, S2, S3 & S4
 
Open Men
Stage Four (61km, 1,182m climbing)
1 Tim Rush & Michael Vink, NZL, Onya Bike North Otago, 2:19:26
2 Brendan Johnston & Jon Odams, AUS, Giant Australia, 2:23:10
3 Ryan Sissons & Sam Osborne, NZL, Winger Hamilton, 2:23:13

General Classification
1 Tim Rush & Michael Vink, NZL, Onya Bike North Otago, 14:05:40
2 Brendan Johnston & Jon Odams, AUS, Giant Australia, 14:14:33
3 Ryan Sissons & Sam Osborne, NZL, Winger Hamilton, 14:33:12
 
Open Women
Stage Four
1 Kate McIlroy & Amy Hollamby, NZL, Stonewood Homes, 2:51:45
2 Nina McVicar & Reta Trotman, NZL, New World St Martins, 3:18:54
3 Hannah Buchannan & Sarah Gilbert, NZL/USA, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, 3:28:03

General Classification
1 Kate McIlroy & Amy Hollamby, NZL, Stonewood Homes, 17:10:36
2 Nina McVicar & Reta Trotman, NZL, New World St Martins, 19:19:27
3 Hannah Buchannan & Sarah Gilbert, NZL/USA, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, 20:27:04
 
Mixed
Stage Four
1 Joe Skerman & Josie Wilcox, NZL, JoJo, 2:40:17
1 Holly Harris & Michael Harris, AUS, Sram Mtoss, 2:41:43
3 Karl Michelin Beard & Emma Viotto, AUS, Shimano Pushys Cannondale, 2:52:38

General Classification
1 Joe Skerman & Josie Wilcox, NZL, JoJo, 15:58:38
2 Holly Harris & Michael Harris, AUS, Sram Mtoss, 16:22:31
3 Mark Williams & Kate Fluker, NZL, New World-Pivot, 16:47:20
 
Masters Men
Stage Four
1 Hamish Lane & Kris Snow, NZL, Cycle Obsession, 2:41:36
2 Gene Marsh & Jeremy Furlong, NZL, Off the Chain, 2:41:37
3 Gordon McCauley & Jarrod Harris, NZL, Daikin Thermal Solutions, 2:47:40

General Classification
1 Gene Marsh & Jeremy Furlong, NZL, Off the Chain, 16:32:01
2 Anthony Chapman & Andy Hagan, NZL, Optimal Performance, 16:33:24
3 Hamish Lane & Kris Snow, NZL, Cycle Obsession, 16:46:05
 
Masters Women
Stage Four
1 Kath Kelly & Peg Leyland, Earnscleugh Express, 3:21:25
2 Jackie Blay & Sara Prince, NZL, Outlaw Sisters, 3:40:27
3 Kim Johnston & Christine Wright, NZL, Team Cycleways, 3:56:24

General Classification
1 Kath Kelly & Peg Leyland, Earnscleugh Express, 20:05:37
2 Jackie Blay & Sara Prince, NZL, Outlaw Sisters, 22:20:51
3 Kim Johnston & Christine Wright, NZL, Team Cycleways, 23:01:36
 
Grand Masters Men (50+)
Stage Four
1 Marc Baechli & Daniel Christen, SUI, Terreactive IT, 2:50:28
2 Kent Wilson & Graeme Young, NZL, The Hub Cycle Centre, 2:52:40
3 Allan Killick & Greg Thompson, NZL, Cycleways, 2:55:56

General Classification
1 Marc Baechil & Daniel Christen, SUI, Terre Active IT, 16:33:07
2 Kent Wilson & Graeme Young, NZL, The Hub Cycle Centre, 17:20:51
3 Allan Killick & Greg Thompson, NZL, Cycleways, 17:47:22