Unlikely Legends

Gavin Wille and his riding partner, Craig Wylie, have known each other for 40 years. But two years ago when their adventure, at that stage still unknowingly, to become Epic Series Legends began few of their friends would have guessed what they were capable of overcoming.

"My cycling partner Craig and I have known each other for the better part of 40 years! He is my older brother's best mate and they have been dirt biking and taking part in challenges together forever! After my brother refused the opportunity for the Absa Cape Epic, Craig convinced me. I knew that this race would be the challenge of a lifetime especially as I was very chubby at that stage!

Our introduction to the Absa Cape Epic, the first race we did as a team together in 2017, was a baptism by fire. Whenever I discussed the race with friends prior to the event, there was a bit of a double take, looking me up and down and they would say 'I knew someone who did that once… that was by far the toughest thing they have ever done!' Well it never disappointed and we got instant hero status from those in the know directly following the race; due to its enormous global profile. The dry, hot, dusty days splattered with never-ending ups and downs and sandy tracks were killers! Craig and I quickly realised the importance of having each other's back. Very rarely did we peak together. There was always one of us digging deep to survive the day with the other in support. A lasting memory was that of a guy who absolutely pushed his teammate to his limit in the 40 degree heat. His ambition was obviously a better position in the overall classification. His teammate ended on a drip and never started the next day so the chap had to cycled alone for the next 6 days!"

"I had done the 4 day Pioneer in 2017 on my own as a preparation ride for the Absa Cape Epic and absolutely loved it. The whole feeling around The Pioneer was addictive. I made some good mates and had an absolute blast from Day 1. I never found the 4 day too challenging so at the end of 2018 Craig and I teamed up for another adventure to do the full Pioneer team race. We dusted off the same old bikes and kit from the 2017 Cape Epic! I had taken a relaxed attitude to training for the race and totally paid for it, suffering in the hills! Once again we stuck to the same supportive structure of getting through the challenges one at a time. The scenes on the New Zealand South Island were absolutely breathtaking and we once again explored lands that were remote, rugged and a serious challenge! On the last day my sole fell off my shoe and I think Craig had had enough of my complaining by then so he cable tied (a remedy for everything) the sole directly on to my foot and pulled it so tight I could barely feel the blood in my toes. I now had something else to worry about!  His bike also disintegrated as we progressed. After the frame broke, the mechanic epoxied it together which at least stopped it squeaking for most of the day! It was the constant squeaking alone that made sure we pushed the 2 minute gap rule to its limit regularly!"

"I am pleased to say for the Swiss Epic we have a whole new look with new bikes and some new kit!

The Epic Legends medal for both of us will be a massive achievement.  5 years ago you would have said it was highly unlikely! Craig recovered from a massive hear attack and I was overweight, unfit and terrible on a mountain bike!

A couple of months ago I also lost a good friend who unexpectedly succumbed to Cancer. My friend Steve showed a lot of keen interest in my progress and was super supportive. Unfortunately he was unexpectedly diagnosed Cancer in February and only lived a further few months. Things escalated quickly and in a short period of time he was no longer able to enjoy the quality of life that we all take for granted. I will ride this race for Steve and will always remember to do the things that I enjoy whilst I still am fortunate and healthy enough to be able to do so! I will also dedicate this ride to Hospice who are absolute angels, providing such a supportive role in my friends last days.

Craig and I are now in our 50’s and hopefully we can go on to do further Epic Adventures following the Swiss Epic! For now though we focus on the awesomeness that lays ahead on the Swiss Epic. We are super excited as well as a little anxious over what is to come. I worry about what we have to climb and he will worry about the descents, but on average I am sure we will be just fine."


2019 The Pioneer reveals added innovations as entries go live

Entries for the 2019 Pioneer Mountain Bike Stage Race go live on the event website www.thepioneer.co.nz on February 14, Valentines Day, with organisers expecting high demand for the six-day endurance event after a stunning race played out late in 2018.

On the back of that successful and sold out 2018 event, riders are promised more innovation and improvements to the fourth edition of a race that sits alongside the Swiss Epic and Absa Cape Epic in the global EPIC series.

IRONMAN Oceania Managing Director and race founder Dave Beeche says they are always looking to add to the Pioneer experience, all the while keeping what has been a successful formula.

“Our team is working year-round to ensure the success of The Pioneer, and that means doing all we can to deliver a great experience for our riders. With three races under our belts, we have a pretty good idea of what works and what hasn’t worked so well within the context of what is a very special week on and off the bike, riding through and over some of the most stunning countryside in the world.”

Those changes will include five nights camping (up from four nights in 2018) in three remote race villages (up from two villages last year), and the return of a final night awards dinner as part of the event package.

“The feedback from riders after the 2018 race was how highly they valued their time in the race village and tent city,” said Beeche. “That always has been at the heart of the Pioneer, that time spent together off the bikes reliving the day’s riding and looking to the next stage.

“We have listened to that feedback and plan on maximizing that experience for riders and their supporters at three stunning locations that while close to neighbouring towns, are in essence isolated from the outside world and help create that very special Pioneer atmosphere.”

The course itself and confirmation of the three overnight village locations won’t be made public until May, when riders will discover the course in more detail. What is known however is that the event will again start and finish in Queenstown and take riders through the Queenstown Lakes District and Central Otago region.

The Pioneer continues to gain in credibility and reputation throughout New Zealand and around the world and is again part of the EPIC Series alongside the Swiss Epic and Absa Cape Epic in South Africa. Once again riders will be chasing guaranteed entries to the Cape Epic through winning their category or failing that by putting their name forward for the lottery. For many this is the only way they might ever get to race at Cape Epic, with entries always selling out in moments online, such is the interest in the event.

It is expected that international interest in the event will continue to grow, building on the 47% of the 2018 Pioneerwho travelled from overseas, primarily from Australia and South Africa. R riders also travelled from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Switzerland, Chile, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, China, France and USA to sample an event that is quickly rivalling some of the world’s leading mountain bike stage races.

Other points of note ahead of Thursday’s entries going live:

  • The 2019 Pioneer dates are Sunday 1 December – Friday 6 December.
  • The race will be six days (a prologue + five stages).
  • Entries open at 11:00 am NZT on Thursday 14 February 2019.
  • Entry fees are tiered – the earlier you enter the less you’ll pay.
  • Plan to arrive and depart from Queenstown.
  • The course will be unveiled in early May, including the three remote village locations.

R2R 2019 Entries Open

Riders are still frothing about the spectacular location, the epic trails, the super fun riding and the good times hanging out with mates, doing what they love.

For 4 days in early August, Reef to Reef brings mountain biking goodness to the home of one of the world's most famed and fabled natural playgrounds.

The tracks and trails of Tropical North Queensland have long been a bucket-list destination for MTB riders from all over the world. Through rainforests and cattle stations, across granite hills and along coast lines, the varied terrain offers a heady mix of fast flowing single trail, farm tracks, groomed downhill, fire trails and a final beach section to the finish line and the festival beyond.

Don't suffer Reef to Reef FOMO in 2019. Enter now and score early bird pricing, when you enter by 28 November 2018.

You'll have heaps of time to train (or think about training) and a cracker MTB holiday to look forward to. Ride all 4 days at 2019 Reef to Reef MTB for $425 (including active entry fee).

Be part of the good times rolling in 2019.


Download The Pioneer App!

The Pioneer is now in the Epic Series Oceania App!

It has everything you need to know about The Pioneer:

  • Team list (find yourself and follow your competition)
  • Event info
  • Daily results
  • Course maps
  • Videos
  • Event schedule

And when you have a spare moment over a quiet beer you can check out the other awesome Epic Series mountain bike stage races in Oceania; Port to Port MTB, Reef to Reef MTB and Cape to Cape MTsearch

Search for ‘Epic Series Oceania’ in the Apple or Google Play App stores.


Registration now open for Swiss Epic 2019

Race is moving to Graubünden and hosts with towns Davos, St. Moritz and Lenzerheide on August 20-24.

Athletes are now invited to register for the Swiss Epic 2019, just over a week after this year’s hugely-successful event came to a thrilling climax in the Valais region under the watchful gaze of the iconic Matterhorn.

The race – which takes place between August 20-24 – will move to Graubünden for the first time, with additional stages being held at Davos, St. Moritz and Lenzerheide. In future years, the Swiss Epic will also visit Arosa, Scuol and Flims-Laax, with three of the destinations joining Graubünden to stage the race.

Graubünden is considered as one of the mountain bike hotspots in the Alps, with its unique landscape and an almost endless, mesmerising network of trails – ideal conditions to inspire mountain bikers from all over the world.

“It’s fantastic to know that the Swiss Epic is coming to Graubünden, a true highlight in the racing calendar. Graubünden has always been my favourite region in the Alps, dating back to my days as a pro competitor. The destination offers unique trails as well as superb hospitality, something amateurs and professional athletes alike can look forward to,” said Thomas Frischknecht, co-founder and team-manager of Scott SRAM MTB Racing Team.

The first stage starts on August 20 in Davos, one of the true sporting heartlands of the Alpine region, where competitors will tackle variations of single trails before they reach St. Moritz the same evening. The extravagant venue will stage a loop course around one of the most famous holiday resorts in the world before the athletes transition towards Lenzerheide. Around the host city of the UCI World Championship 2018, the riders tackle stage four with mountain tops offering great views, fragrant alp meadows and crystal-clear mountain lakes. Finally, the route will bring the athletes back to Davos.

Registration for 2019 is now open and you can start to prepare for the 350km journey, battling through 12,000m of climbing over five days. Athletes can take advantage of the all-inclusive package, which will take care of all of the finer details so all you need to do is ride and rest.

The Swiss Epic team looks forward to welcoming you on this exciting adventure in Graubünden and beyond – true mountain-biking heaven.