The Pioneer MTB Race New Zealand
Guest blog by Libby Hurley - Pushbikes/LIV Ambassador
The Pioneer; the race that goes above and beyond all expectations.
From the course itself to the people you ride with each day; from the event organisation to the personal challenge; it all comes as one 7 day package deal.
The morning of the prologue, while the week that would follow was still so unknown; someone said to me "It'll be a week you'll never get back!" Such a comment would usually mean the week to come was going to be a lot less than extraordinary, but in reflection, it was close to one of the best weeks of my life. Yes, a week I would never get back, but a week I wouldn't want back, a week that was, what I would call 'living life to the full'!
Day 1 - The prologue was tough, it was technical, but it was fun all at the same time. It was 20km and involved 1,260m climbing which covered two separate laps. The first being up through the Christchurch Adventure Park and down, followed by another route up through the park, up the Body Bag, down The Flying Nun and Old Dyers Tracks and onto a very fresh track (finished the day before) which led us back to the CAP car park. Once everyone was back in one piece we were loaded onto buses and taken to Geraldine.
Geraldine was our first experience of Tent City. The Pioneer team (made up of volunteers and staff) were amazing right from the word 'go'. From a competitors perspective, the whole 7 days went without a hitch and the amount of time and effort these people put in is unimaginable. Every individual gets their own 2 man tent. You do get to know your Teamie pretty well over the course of the week, but I think having to share a tent with them after eating so many gels and energy bars would be next level!
Day 2 - Geraldine to Fairlie - 106km with 2,480m climbing. What felt like the true first day. It was good to get this stage out of the way and know that we were in the full swing of things! This stage, like every stage, was (for us) just about getting through uninjured, without any breakdowns and still smiling! We achieved all 3!
Day 3 - Fairlie to Tekapo. Stage 3 had some good climbs (Or so we thought at the time. Our opinion of 'good climb' somewhat changed over the following days). Due to high winds and poor weather conditions, the safety team shortened the course by 8km.
Day 4 - Tekapo to Ohau. This was probably my favourite day! After camping on the edge of the lake we set off on the Alps 2 Ocean trail next to the canals before ducking off onto private farmland (over the whole 7 days we traversed across 50+ private land ownerships). The first 50km was flat really until we got to the big sucker, Ben Ohau. It was big, it was steep, it was challenging and we go the most stunningly beautiful views of Lake Pukaki, Ohau and beyond from the top. I loved it! Such a magical place to be! There was a long descent down to Lake Ohau and then 20 odd km of flat around the lake edge on the Alps 2 Ocean trail.
Day 5 - Lake Ohau to Lake Hawea - The 'Queen Stage' with 112km and over 3,500m climbing. The first 80km was pretty good, we met the cut off at this point and carried on to the final and largest climb of the day. The Aid stations throughout the week were top notch, each one had a medic, bike mechanic (The Team from Bike Therapy followed the whole race for running repairs and overnight fixer uppers - they were awesome!) and volunteers manning a station with brownie, fruit cake, bananas, oranges, GU products, electrolyte drink, water and jet planes. They were brilliant! Today we came into camp after 10.5 hours (our longest day). It was hard, but it was such a good feeling to achieve what you had been nervous about for weeks! Personal challenge and finding the character is a huge selling point for The Pioneer.
Day 6 - Lake Hawea to Snow Farm - 64km with just over 2000m climbing. It sounds easy compared to the day before right? Don't let the distance fool you, it was still a hard day at the office. The human body just keeps on giving, though! Fantastic views were to be had again today. We even got to do a lap of Deans Bank track before heading up to Snow Farm via some cross country skiing tracks!
Day 7 - I felt a wee bit upset at the start line today. It was the last time we would be lining up for the week, and it really hit me just how great the week had been. Today was technical in parts but generally manageable. Amy and I had made it through nearly the whole Pioneer without one puncture or mechanical failure until we got onto the Queenstown Trail in the last 20km. It was smooth, well graded and easy riding but I broke my chain!! Can you believe it!!!! The highlight of day 7 was a 2-minute jet boat ride across the river and of course crossing the finish line! We made it without any crashes and yes, we were still smiling! It was a relief to be done and to have achieved such a mammoth goal, but it also sucked that it was all over. At the finish line someone asked me if I would do it again, and without hesitation, I said 'yes', and a week on my answer is still the same.
Anyone who is mad keen on mtb'ing, adventure, camaraderie, being inspired, hard work and achieving goals should find a buddy and sign up for next year!! 545km & 15,508m climbing! Entries open June 1st 2017! Don't cringe at the entry fee, it's worth every dollar twice fold! Just remember your bum butter and a comfy seat! Ride Beyond, Find Character, Find Welcome - The Pioneer.