DEFENDING CHAMPIONS REIGN SUPREME AT 2019 PIONEER

It was multiple back to back success stories at The Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain, with Michal Vink and Tim Rush (Onya Bike North Otago), Kate McIlroy and Amy Hollamby (Stonewood Homes) and Josie Wilcox and Joe Skerman (JoJo) taking out the open men’s, open women’s and mixed categories for 2019, as the race wound up with one of the event’s toughest stages in its history today.

After a weather disrupted week, riders were greeted with the news that the final stage from Bannockburn to Frankton would take place in its entirety, with a staggering 2,130 of vertical climbing metres crammed into the 70km journey over the Nevis Range on the West side of the Kawarau Gorge, a stage never before ridden in the four year history of the event that took riders through back country Central Otago that few have ever set foot in, let alone those riding mountain bikes.

Rush and Vink were supreme over the second half of the week, winning the stage again today to repel the strong challenge of Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams (Giant Australia Off-Road) by just under 15 minutes on general classification, with Ryan Sissons and Sam Osborne (Winger Hamilton) rounding out the podium with fourth on the stage today.

“That means a lot, I had a lot of pressure coming and a lot of people wrote us off with the Aussie boys coming over, especially as they have won so many races,” said Rush. “That is good for me and Vinky to get this one in our home nation, it has been amazing. Thanks to all the supporters, marshals and volunteers on course, we tried to thank them all as per my mother’s instructions, but it was tough for me at times breathing through a straw behind Vinky.”

Vink paid credit to his teammate and the nature of the final stage.

“Tim was incredible all week and I suffered the first few days so I know what he has put into it and the way he has suffered in the weeks leading up to this to be in the condition to be competitive, he deserved to win this and I was motivated to finish it off for him.

“That was beautiful it was nice to have a classic pioneer stage today, one of those back-country climbs with almost unmarked tracks, quite rough but stunning scenery and just a beautiful place in the world to race a bike.”

Johnston cut an exhausted figure at the finish line, after one of the toughest riding weeks he has ever faced.

“It has been a challenge for sure, today particularly, Jon and I rode pretty well up the first climb but from then suffered a bit, that was a big day. We had a couple of flashes of brilliance early in the week and then held on for the rest of it. Michael and Tim were super strong.”

The Winger Hamilton team knew endurance would test them in the end, with Osborne coming from an XTERRA background and Sissons ITU triathlon racing. That proved the case today but did not dampen Osborne’s enjoyment of his first Pioneer.

“I have loved every minute of it, even that suffering today and boy, did we suffer. I was probably the opposite of Ryan today, that first hour and a half I was in a world of hurt over the top, for some reason I came good and was keen to ride down the Giant boys. I got a split and it was only 25 seconds, but Ryan was not keen to come with me, he looked at me and said ‘these legs are no good’.

“It has been an amazing week, everything we thought it would be and so much more. It has been a bucket list race, we have talked about this since the second year, now we finally have we have the bug and already we are throwing ideas around about next year.”

McIlroy and Hollamby were supreme in taking out the women’s category for a second year, winning all six days of racing and the overall title by over two hours from 2017 champions Nina McVicar and Reta Trotman (New World St Martins) and Hannah Buchanan and Sarah Gilbert (Tike Wine and Vineyards).

McIlroy reflected on one of the toughest days in the history of the event.

“That was a big, big day today, I think when we thought we had reached the top we still had a climb to go, it was raining and cold and we were in the middle of nowhere basically. We were happy to see that second aid station when we knew it was the end of the climbing and only had the river trail to go.”

Hollamby said the temptation of the passing wineries through the Gibbston Valley was very real.

“We did joke about stopping and getting a photo of a bottle of red and sending it through to the finish.”

The mixed category promised to be one to watch and so it proved throughout the week, with Joe Skerman and Josie Wilcox winning back to back titles, but not without a fight as nearest rivals Holly and Michael Harris (SRAM MToss Australia) took it to them on today’s final stage. But while the Aussies won the stage by almost ten minutes, the Kiwis had enough up their sleeves to win the overall race by just under 14 minutes.

“That was very tough for Joe today, he was in some very, very dark places for a long time. The last 10k felt like a marathon but I am super-proud of him today, he dug super deep today and this week,” said Wilcox.

“This will be sweet, we had to work very hard to get home, I was suffering from the start really, but Josie supported me all the way and we got there, I am really proud,” said Skerman.

The men’s masters race also went to the wire, with Gene Marsh and Jeremy Forlong (Off The Chain, NZL) riding superbly on the final two days, winning today to confirm their victory over fellow Kiwis Kris Snow and Hamish Lane (Cycle Obsession) and previous leaders Anthony Chapman and Andy Hagan (Optimal Performance), with Chapman incredibly riding the week with a fractured thumb.

Kath Kelly and Peg Leyland (Earnscleugh Express) simply rode away with the women’s masters category, winning every stage to establish an amazing two hours and 42 minute margin over the Outlaw Sisters of Jackie Blay and Sara Prince, with Kim Johnston and Christine Wright (Cycleways) in third.

The Swiss combination of Marc Baechli and Daniel Christen were similarly dominant, taking out every stage to defeat the founding rider pair of Kent Wilson and Graeme Young (The Hub Cycle Centre) by 55 minutes on GC, with Allan Killick and Greg Thompson (Cycleways) in third overall.

The final stage today was a fitting one for the final Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain in Central Otago, with the event confirmed for a move to Rotorua in November 2020. The climbs were demanding, the descents thrilling and at times scary on the loose and wet surface from recent rain, but the scenery was truly stunning as Pioneer entrants rode beyond, found character and enjoyed the welcome of their hosts in the Central Otago for one final time.

Riders will celebrate the week at the final presentation dinner at the Queenstown Events Centre tonight, before heading home or for many, staying on to enjoy the Central Otago region for a few days – no doubt without their bikes!

Countries represented in the 2019 Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain

Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, Wales.

2019 Pioneer, Fuelled by Nutri-Grain

Stage Five Results and final General Classification

 Open Men

Stage Five

1 Tim Rush & Michael Vink, NZL, Onya Bike North Otago, 3:45:23

2 Sam Fox & Sebastian Jayne, AUS, Marathon MTB, 3:49:40

3 Brendan Johnston & Jon Odams, AUS, Giant Australia, 3:51:21

General Classification, Final

1 Tim Rush & Michael Vink, NZL, Onya Bike North Otago, 17:51:04

2 Brendan Johnston & Jon Odams, AUS, Giant Australia, 18:05:54

3 Ryan Sissons & Sam Osborne, NZL, Winger Hamilton, 18:29:23

Open Women

Stage Five

1 Kate McIlroy & Amy Hollamby, NZL, Stonewood Homes, 4:43:46

2 Nina McVicar & Reta Trotman, NZL, New World St Martins, 5:17:13

3 Hannah Buchannan & Sarah Gilbert, NZL/USA, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, 5:24:55

General Classification, Final

1 Kate McIlroy & Amy Hollamby, NZL, Stonewood Homes, 21:54:22

2 Nina McVicar & Reta Trotman, NZL, New World St Martins, 24:36:41

3 Hannah Buchannan & Sarah Gilbert, NZL/USA, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, 25:52:00

Mixed

Stage Five

1 Holly Harris & Michael Harris, AUS, Sram Mtoss, 4:16:23

2 Joe Skerman & Josie Wilcox, NZL, JoJo, 4:26:18

3 Mark Williams & Kate Fluker, NZL, New World-Pivot, 4:29:10

General Classification, Final

1 Joe Skerman & Josie Wilcox, NZL, JoJo, 20:24:57

2 Holly Harris & Michael Harris, AUS, Sram Mtoss, 20:38:54

3 Mark Williams & Kate Fluker, NZL, New World-Pivot, 21:16:30

Masters Men

Stage Five

1 Gene Marsh & Jeremy Furlong, NZL, Off the Chain, 4:21:43

2 Hamish Lane & Kris Snow, NZL, Cycle Obsession, 4:23:00

3 Gordon McCauley & Jarrod Harris, NZL, Daikin Thermal Solutions, 4:38:22

General Classification, Final

1 Gene Marsh & Jeremy Furlong, NZL, Off the Chain, 20:53:44

2 Hamish Lane & Kris Snow, NZL, Cycle Obsession, 21:09:05

3 Anthony Chapman & Andy Hagan, NZL, Optimal Performance, 21:25:43

 Masters Women

Stage Five

1 Kath Kelly & Peg Leyland, Earnscleugh Express, 5:40:47

2 Kim Johnston & Christine Wright, NZL, Team Cycleways, 6:06:05

3 Jackie Blay & Sara Prince, NZL, Outlaw Sisters, 6:07:06

General Classification, Final

1 Kath Kelly & Peg Leyland, Earnscleugh Express, 25:46:25

2 Jackie Blay & Sara Prince, NZL, Outlaw Sisters, 28:27:58

3 Kim Johnston & Christine Wright, NZL, Team Cycleways, 29:07:42

Grand Masters Men (50+)
Stage Five

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, Final

1 Marc Baechli & Daniel Christen, SUI, Terre Active IT, 21:12:43

2 Kent Wilson & Graeme Young, NZL, The Hub Cycle Centre, 22:08:21

3 Allan Killick & Greg Thompson, NZL, Cycleways, 22:32:40


THE PIONEER HEADS TO ROTORUA IN 2020

The Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain, is officially headed to the Central North Island in 2020, starting and finishing in the Mountain Bike Mecca of Rotorua, with The IRONMAN Group Oceania announcing details of the new location on the final day of the 2019 race in Central Otago.

2020 will see the Epic Series event celebrate five years, with the previous four all in the South Island. Event founder and The IRONMAN Group Oceania Managing Director Dave Beeche is excited about the move to the North, one that is again in keeping with the Pioneer spirit that originally inspired the race.

“The South Island has created some wonderful memories and left lifelong impressions on all who have ridden The Pioneer in its first four years and in many ways, we are sad to be leaving this part of the world.

“But The Pioneer has always been about celebrating New Zealand, welcoming international riders to our world class riding trails and opening parts of the country that they and the locals would not otherwise have the chance to ride. The very heart of the Kiwi pioneering spirit is about exploring new lands and in the case of this event, riding beyond.

“It is with that in mind that we look forward to a new and equally stunning chapter in the event’s history, with Rotorua and the surrounding region set to amaze Kiwis and internationals alike with its hospitality, world-class trails and unique tourism attractions. This is going to be six memorable days of riding and I am sure for many, a few more days exploring all that Rotorua and the central North Island has to offer.”

New Zealand mountain bike legend and Rotorua local Mark ‘Cabin’ Leishman has been charged with plotting the six-days of riding and can’t wait for the race to head to his neck of the woods.

“We plan on taking riders on an incredible six-day journey linking together some of the best riding the North Island has to offer in what will be very much a change from the South Island in the nature of the trails and the challenge. Riders are going to love it.” said Leishman.

“Those who have ridden previous Pioneers will want to be amongst the first to ride in Rotorua, and those who have never been must put this on their to-do list in 2020. The first edition of any event is always special, on this occasion riders get the benefit of four years of planning and experience.”

Rotorua is ready to welcome riders with open arms, with Mayor Steve Chadwick thrilled that the region has attracted yet another international event.

“Gaining another international adventure race for next year’s event calendar should make our community extremely proud,” said Chadwick.

“The fact that these events are choosing Rotorua as their first destination outside of the South Island shows that they have confidence in Rotorua’s ability to deliver spectacular events. It fits with the vision we have and investment we are making to enrich the forest experience, an investment that has the confidence of central government through its Provincial Growth Fund.

“Events like this not only bring competitors and their supporters but also expose Rotorua to a global audience and continue to build our city’s reputation as a world-class mountain bike destination.

“We look forward to welcoming The Pioneer to Rotorua.”

Leishman goes on to paint a picture of what the new-look Pioneer will deliver to riders, once again in teams of two as they share all the week has to offer.

“We are working on a course that sweeps down from Rotorua to the west, hitting iconic cycleways and mountain bike trails on the way – all linked up by a network of forestry and gravel roads.  The course will hit its most southern point at Lake Taupō before heading back up towards the Rotorua finish.

“Riders will experience the spectacular and diverse landscapes of the region, from dense mossy virgin forest, geothermal wonders, lakes, rivers and lush farmland. Without giving too much away, this is going to be special.”

Leishman hints at fewer of the massive climbs that the Pioneer is synonymous with but warns it will still be a tough event to conquer.

“While we move away from the ‘monster’ climbs of previous editions of the Pioneer; make no mistake, this won’t be a walk in the park. The constant undulation and elevation change combined with the abundance of mountain bike trails presents a new challenge – so be prepared to really see what you, your teammate and your bike are really made of.”

Leishman highlighted the change in topography from South to North that will see The Pioneer maintain its place as one of the three EPIC events alongside the Swiss Epic and Absa Cape Epic (South Africa).

“Riders will be constantly challenged, as they take on many of the world class flowing single-tracks the region is known for. All linked together with classic New Zealand Cycle trails, private forestry, farmland, and quiet secluded roads.”

Entries go on sale on January 30, 2020, with the full course details to be made public in March 2020. While Leishman is offering up an approximation of riding distances and elevation now, riders will be given the full course description in March.

With demand expected to be high when entries go live on January 30, prospective riders are able to register their interest and receive further updates from organisers by visiting the event website and Facebook page.

The Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain
Rotorua
November 8-13, 2020

  • Six-stage mountain bike stage race through the Central North Island, starting and finishing in Rotorua
  • Two person teams
  • Part of the global Epic Series of mountain bike stage racing (Swiss Epic, Absa Cape Epic – South Africa, Port to Port, Cape to Cape and Reef to Reef))
  • Approximately 500km of riding with 10,000m of climbing
  • Stage distances to vary between 60 to 110km per day
  • Entries open on January 30, 2020
  • Course launch March 2020

SNOW AND HIGH WIND FORCE COURSE CHANGE AT PIONEER

Race organisers were kept on their toes as two course changes were made this morning as riders headed out on stage four of The Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain, with snow, high wind and yesterday’s rain all impacting on the Bannockburn loop course.

 

The weather front saw the climb over Carrick Range removed before the race start, with snow and high wind making it impossible for riders to negotiate safely, with the ride up Mt Difficulty then also removed as the weather deteriorated further and temperatures plummeted to minus 3 degrees across the top of the climb, with rider welfare paramount for organisers.

 

The end result was one of the fastest stages in the history of the six-day mountain bike race, covering 61km with approximately 1,182 metres of climbing, with riders taking in two laps of the Hawksburn - Pylon Track Road, starting and finishing at the Anderson Farm in Bannockburn.

 

Michael Vink and Tim Rush (Onya Bike North Otago) made light of the changes, with the two ‘roadies’ breaking clear early on lap two to win the stage by almost four minutes and in the process put one hand back on the trophy they won in 2018, with their lead on general classification (GC) now out to 8:53 over Giant Australia Off-Road Team of Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams.

 

“I don’t think it made a difference to the result, but the gaps might be a little closer than they otherwise would have been but I think everyone enjoys those shorter days, it is a bit closer times and more competitive racing which is always good, so in the end it was a really nice stage,” said Vink.

 

Rush was quick to point out the change from the start of the week when he was strong and Vink did not have his riding legs.

 

“We made a break up the second climb on the second lap, Vinky put the hurt on and it split pretty easily and I was just a passenger basically and held on,” said Rush. “He (Vink) was a machine today and he was next level, I was going backwards, and he was going forwards, I am pleased we are done tomorrow.”

 

The Aussies gave all they had today, but just did not have the big climb they needed to try and put a dent into the powerful Kiwis. Odams is not optimistic of a challenge tomorrow but has not given up all hope.

 

“We will see how we are going; I think there might be a couple more course changes coming up but I can’t imagine it will be more than about a couple of percent single track. If it was maybe 90% single track we might be able to bring it back, but this is a different race to what we are used to. I am more suited to single track than the big long climbs, Vink and Rush are just absolute motors on those big open climbs. Trekky (Johnston) can likely sit with them on those climbs, but I just don’t have the motor for that.”

 

Ryan Sissons and Sam Osborne (Winger Hamilton) continue to impress, finishing in third place again on the stage today to sit comfortably in third on the overall standings, with Osborne loving his first Pioneer experience.

 

“We are loving every minute of it. We love the suffering and hurting each other. This is something different, we wouldn’t normally ride this much in a week, but it is quite special, and we have loved every minute of it.”

 

In the women’s categories it was Kate McIlroy and Amy Hollamby (Stonewood Homes) and Kath Kelly and Peg Leyland (Earnscleugh Express) maintaining their 100% stage winning record in the open and masters (40+) women’s categories respectively. Both teams have dominated their rivals throughout the week and barring a major incident, should ride comfortably to victory into Frankton tomorrow.

 

McIlroy was in no doubt that organisers had made the right decision to shorten the stage.

 

“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 in to 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.”

 

The mixed category also appears a done deal, barring a mechanical on tomorrow’s final ride into Frankton, with defending champions Josie Wilcox and Joe Skerman (Team JoJo) responding to the shock of yesterday’s stage defeat to win by almost 90 seconds from Michael and Holly Harris (Sram MToss), extending their GC lead to almost 24 minutes with just one day to ride.

 

The men’s masters is quite the race though, with today’s stage winners Gene Marsh and Jeremy Forlong (Off The Chain) surging into the GC lead, but with a margin of just one minute 22 seconds over Anthony Chapman and Andy Hagan (Optimal Performance) the race is well and truly on for tomorrow’s final stage.

 

And while they are out of GC contention, 23-time Tour of Southland legend Gordon McCauley and Jarrod Harris (Daikin Thermal Solutions) are getting stronger as the week goes on, riding through from start zone B today to jump on the stage podium in third for the first time this week.

 

“We decied to go blocks again and try to catch as many group one teams as we could. We opened up a gap straight away with Team Blueblokes and got into our work. I had a super bad patch through the 30k mark, but Jarrod has learned to decipher my sweary, tired ramblings and nursed me through it.

 

“There is certainly a different vibe at these events, once the racing stops it is all smiles and high fives even if you have been battling all day,” said McCauley.

 

The grand masters men’s race (50+) continues to be dominated by Swiss visitors Marc Baechli and Daniel Christen, with another stage win today extending their lead in the GC to 47 minutes, they too look like crowning their week as champions in Queenstown tomorrow.

 

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.

 

Riders spend their last night in the event village at Bannockburn tonight, knowing that for many the comfort of a hotel or air bnb awaits on return to Queenstown tomorrow. Organisers are reviewing the final stage given the recent rain and high river levels in Queenstown, with details of the stage to be revealed to riders at tonight’s presentations.

 

Countries represented in the 2019 Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain

Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, Wales.

 

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

 


VINK AND RUSH GO TO WORK IN THE MUD AND RAIN

Riders overcame the worst the weather could throw at them on stage three of The Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain, as constant rain and cool temperatures were the order of the day on the ride from Alexandra to Bannockburn in the stunning Central Otago basin.

With the forecast rain from the big West Coast storm finally hitting this morning, reducing temperatures to near freezing on the tops of the ranges, organisers quickly implemented a contingency course, taking out the climb over Cairnmuir Range and reducing the overall distance on the stage to a more manageable and yet still testing 60km, with 1200m of climbing.

It was Michael Vink and Tim Rush (Onya Bike North Otago) who best managed the conditions to win the stage and in the process grab back the leaders jerseys that have now swapped hands every day of the event, with Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams (Giant Australia Off-Road) dropping five minutes on the stage to fall 5:09 back on general classification.

Despite the win, a mud-covered Rush had struggled with the cold conditions and for the first time this week, relied heavily on his teammate Michael Vink, who was perhaps channeling some of his Tour of Southland wet weather experience to lead them to the line.

“That was brutal, I suffered bad today, Michael was next level and really gave me a push, a couple of pushes really, that was so cold and brutal.”

Vink by contrast was buzzing and glad to have finally found his riding legs.

“It is all about who has recovered best and who has the most in the tank today, it was only two hours today if anything that is a bit short for us, but we recovered really well and rode within ourselves and rode with confidence and had a plan and it worked out.

“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.”

Vink had also for the first time this week reverted to his more typical lycra race suit, ditching the traditional mountain bike baggie shorts. He suggested it might be a twist on the usual boxing phrase to suggest this race is all on now….

“I guess you could say the baggies are off.”

Third across the line for the second day running was the Team Winger team of Ryan Sissons and Sam Osborne, with Sissons coping well thanks to good preparation.

“That was all about wearing the right gear and to be honest, I didn’t find it too bad. They key was having a couple of layers on and the wet weather jacket did a great job of keeping the cold weather off the chest, but that was so much fun.”

Osborne concurred, with the XTERRA star in his element.

“I just loved that, what a great stage, so much fun to ride in. It brought a new element of bike handling in, but that was a great ride.”

The others to perhaps surprisingly make a move in the wet were Holly Harris and Michael Harris (SRAM MToss), adding a third name to the list of stage winners in the mixed category as the Aussies powered their way to an impressive win and moved to second on GC, ahead of two-time winners Mark Williams and Kate Fluker (New World-Pivot).

Holly was all smiles through the mud and rain at the finish.

“Usually we are terrible in the mud, but on the start line I had this weird thing when I thought, I actually like the rain, so I decided to enjoy it and I did. The creeks are so cold, there are ruts full of mud, it was crazy but so much fun!, said Holly.”

Her brother Michael described the moment when they made their break on overall category leaders Josie Wilcox and Joe Skerman (JoJo).

“We made our move on the first climb, Josie was with us but Joe (Skerman) wasn’t and Josie had to wait for Joe so couldn’t go with us. After that we had a good group and we didn’t see them again.”

Kate McIlroy and Amy Hollamby continue to dominate the women’s race, taking out a fourth stage win to extend their lead on GC to an incredible and likely insurmountable one hour and 42 minutes.

It is a similar story in the master’s women’s category, with defending champions and local residents Peg Leyland and Kath Kelly (Earnscleugh Express) in a different league to the other teams, also keeping their 100% stage win record intact to now lead by just under two hours.

The men’s master’s is proving to be one of the more competitive categories, with the stage won by Anthony Chapman and Antony Hagan (NZL, Optimal Performance) but their GC lead is a relatively tenuous six minutes with two days still to ride.

Swiss visitors Marc Baechli and Daniel Christen are loving every moment of their Pioneer, winning another stage and now lead on GC by 41 minutes from Kiwis Kent Wilson and Graeme Young (The HubCycle Centre).

Another to revel in the tough conditions was road legend Gordon McCauley, he and Daikin Thermal Solutions riding partner Jarrod Harris made up big time and jumped to fifth in the masters (40+) category, with McCauley using all his extensive experience on the Tour of Southland to prepare for today.

“Today was all about layers, it is almost like mountain climbing, you have to be wearing layers at the start. If you heat up, you can peel a layer off, if you dry out, you can peel a layer off. But if you get cold or wet, it is too late to put anything on at that point.

“We just attacked that today, every chance we got we put others around us into difficultly, we knew the course was going to be stop start with a few of the fence and river crossings, so after each we would essentially sprint and over the course of the stage, we broke a few teams and rode through plenty I reckon, that was great.”

Once over the line, riders tucked into welcome hotcups of tea, coffee and milo and got into the hot showers at the Bannockburn site on Anderson’s farm, before settling into the social zone under the cover of the stretch tents, listening to some great music on the sound system, enjoying each other’s company and sharing a few stories of one of the more amazing stages in the history of The Pioneer.

Riders 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 EpicSeries 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.

Riders spend tonight in the event village at Bannockburn, preparing for tomorrow’s (Thursday) 69km Bannockburn Loop stage. Riders will depart from the start line at Anderson’s Farm in Bannockburn at 8am, with the first riders expected back at the finish line at the same location at approximately 11am. The final stage on Friday takes riders to the finish line village on the ridge off Hawthorn Drive, overlooking the Kawarau River and the Remarkables.


AUSSIES THROW THE GAUNTLET DOWN ON LONGEST DAY

A fascinating duel between defending champions Michael Vink & Tim Rush (Onya Bike North Otago) and Brendan Johnston & Jon Odams (Giant Off-Road Australia) took another twist on stage two of The Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain on the longest day, the Queen Stage in Alexandra today.

The Australians wrested control of the race back off the Kiwis with a superb ride today, winning the stage by just over three minutes to move 37 seconds clear of Vink and Rush on general classification (GC), with the Kiwi triathlon/XTERRA pair of Ryan Sissons and Sam Osborne on the podium for the first time and in the process moving to third on GC.

The Giant Off-Road Aussies were just too strong today, in conditions that defied the forecast, with predicted rain and high winds almost completely absent from the 112km stage through the immediate surrounds of Alexandra in Central Otago.

“Today we kind of had to take it to them pretty early, our intention wasn’t to drop them but just to put the pressure on them on the bits that suited us which was probably the early single track,” said Johnston. “But we just opened up a gap on the first climb and kind of went on with it and pushed on and broke the pack up and had five minutes at one point. From there we had to conserve until we got to the final climb which we were looking at all day.”

Odams said the course challenged them in more ways than one today.

“After the last climb across the top to the last feed zone it felt like 50k an hour headwinds, with some rain and the long grass, after a real steep climb there was some soul searching out there and then there was a quite hairy descent to finish you off so if the climb and the headwind hadn’t finished you off, then that descent probably will.”

Johnston did take in some of the incredible views on offer while on the climbs and across the top of the trails.

“Most of the climbing is pretty slow so you can look around and see how dramatic the scenery is, most of the looking was up to be honest trying to find the top of the climb, but it was spectacular riding today.”

It will be the turn of Rush and Vink to do a little thinking overnight as to their approach tomorrow and for the remainder of the week, but with the margin at just 37 seconds, you know there are more twists and turns in this fascinating race yet.

It was otherwise a day of consolidation in the open women’s and mixed categories, with Stonewood Homes (Kate McIlroy and Amy Hollamby) continuing their dominance of the women’s field, winning the stage in 5:35:30, some 39 minutes ahead of 2017 champions Nina McVicar and Reta Trotman (New World St Martins).

Perhaps the most impressive ride of the day came from Jo Skerman and Josie Wilcox (JoJo), who overcame an early challenge from Australia’s Holly Harris and Michael Harris (SRAM MTOSS) to win the stage and extend their GC lead to 18 minutes over Kate Fluker and Mark Williams (New World Pivot) who held on for third today behind the Harris siblings, who now sit just seven minutes behind the Queenstown pair of Fluker and Williams.

“What plan?” joked Skerman when asked about the stage going to plan. “You really just head out and see how you are feeling, but respect to Michael and Holly for laying down the challenge today and pushed pretty hard right from the start and got a good lead and we had to be patient. Josie had a few moments early on, but she found her legs about halfway through and we managed to pull them in and rode steady all the way home and had a good finish really.”

While the winners were home in and around the five-hour mark, many more were on their bikes for the best part of the day as they took on and conquered the Queen Stage on the 2019 event. The good news for riders is the event is now heading home, with three of the six days complete and the finish line in Frankton getting ever closer on Friday.

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.

Riders spend tonight in Alexandra at the tent city and event village at Molyneux Park. Tomorrow’s stage takes riders 80km from Alexandra to Bannockburn, with the highlights including a rare chance to ride over the top of the Clyde Dam and a loop through the streets of the historic township. Riders then camp at a new event village for the final two overnight stays before arriving back in Queenstown on Friday. Riders will depart from Molyneux Park at 8:30am, with the leaders expected to finish the stage in approx. three and a half hours. The final stage on Friday takes riders to the finish line village on the ridge off Hawthorn Drive, overlooking the Kawarau River and the Remarkables.

 

Countries represented in the 2019 Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain

Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, Wales.

 

2019 Pioneer, Fuelled by Nutri-Grain

Stage Two Results and General Classification after the prologue, S1 & S2

 

Open Men

Stage Two

1 Brendan Johnston & Jon Odams, AUS, Giant Australia, 4:33:35

2 Tim Rush & Michael Vink, NZL, Onya Bike North Otago, 4:36:52

3 Ryan Sissons & Sam Osborne, NZL, Winger Hamilton, 4:43:50

General Classification

1 Brendan Johnston & Jon Odams, AUS, Giant Australia, 9:23:39

2 Tim Rush & Michael Vink, NZL, Onya Bike North Otago, 9:24:16

3 Ryan Sissons & Sam Osborne, NZL, Winger Hamilton, 9:38:39

 

Open Women

Stage Two

1 Kate McIlroy & Amy Hollamby, NZL, Stonewood Homes, 5:35:50

2 Nina McVicar & Reta Trotman, NZL, New World St Martins, 6:14:24

3 Hannah Buchannan & Sarah Gilbert, NZL/USA, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, 6:47:33

General Classification

1 Kate McIlroy & Amy Hollamby, NZL, Stonewood Homes, 11:24:57

2 Nina McVicar & Reta Trotman, NZL, New World St Martins, 12:44:14

3 Hannah Buchannan & Sarah Gilbert, NZL/USA, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, 13:37:35

 

Mixed

Stage Two

1 Joe Skerman & Josie Wilcox, NZL, JoJo, 5:14:52

2 Holly Harris & Michael Harris, AUS, Sram Mtoss, 5:28:39

3 Mark Williams & Kate Fluker, NZL, New World-Pivot, 5:30:11

General Classification

1 Joe Skerman & Josie Wilcox, NZL, JoJo, 10:36:56

2 Mark Williams & Kate Fluker, NZL, New World-Pivot, 10:55:28

3 Holly Harris & Michael Harris, AUS, Sram Mtoss, 11:02:18

 

Masters Men (40+)

Stage Two

1 Anthony Chapman & Andy Hagan, NZL, Optimal Performance, 5:17:45

2 Hamish Lane & Kris Snow, NZL, Cycle Obsession, 5:34:57

3 Wade Wallace & Allan Iacuone, AUS, Cyclingtips.com, 5:41:26

General Classification

1 Anthony Chapman & Andy Hagan, NZL, Optimal Performance, 11:03:07

2 Gene Marsh & Jeremy Furlong, NZL, Off the Chain, 11:05:46

3 Hamish Lane & Kris Snow, NZL, Cycle Obsession, 11:19:55

 

Masters Women (40+)

Stage Two

1 Kath Kelly & Peg Leyland, Earnscleugh Express, 6:28:19

2 Kim Johnston & Christine Wright, NZL, Team Cycleways, 7:23:28

2 Jackie Blay & Sara Prince, NZL, Outlaw Sisters, 7:26:11

General Classification

1 Kath Kelly & Peg Leyland, Earnscleugh Express, 13:08:50

2 Jackie Blay & Sara Prince, NZL, Outlaw Sisters, 15:00:47

3 Kim Johnston & Christine Wright, NZL, Team Cycleways, 15:14:23

 

Grand Masters Men (50+)
Stage Two

1 Marc Baechil & Daniel Christen, SUI, Terreactive IT, 5:22:00

2 Kent Wilson & Graeme Young, NZL, The Hub Cycle Centre, 5:42:05

3 Mike Holland & Greg McGovern, NZL, Velo Workshop, 5:54:37

General Classification

1 Marc Baechil & Daniel Christen, SUI, Terreactive IT, 10:49:38

2 Kent Wilson & Graeme Young, NZL, The Hub Cycle Centre, 11:30:46

3 Allan Killick & Greg Thompson, NZL, Cycleways, 11:51:20


KIWIS MAKE BIG MOVE ON STUNNING STAGE ONE AT PIONEER

Defending champions, Michael Vink and Tim Rush (Onya Bike North Otago) made an emphatic statement on day two of The Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain, dominating the spectacular 76km stage one from Moke Lake to Arrowtown that took riders from the Moke Lake village, up Moonlight Track to Arthurs Point, along the Shotover River, up the massive climb to Coronet Peak and then back down into Arrowtown.

With Vink still finding his riding legs in his first decent stint back on the mountain bike since last year’s victory and on just his third ride on a new bike, it was Rush to the fore today as the Kiwis opened up a 6:18 lead on prologue winners Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams (Giant Off-Road Australia).

“Tim had to push me up most of the climb, including the road part as well which was something I thought would never happen but it is testament to the las of the man, he is such an incredible bike rider and I am lucky to have him as a partner,” said Vink.

The Tour of Southland winner sent an ominous warning to the rest of the field as well, suggesting the best is yet to come.

“That was hard work, I think every day is going to be hard this week. That was good to put a stamp of authority on the race though, just for our confidence more than anything, I think it will only get better for us from here, with both of us being experienced road riders and having done a lot of road tours it will suit us even better going forward.”

Third over the line today and in third on general classification was the Aussie pairing of Garry Milburn and Chris Aitken (Maap-Shimano), but only thanks to a decent stack from Sam Osborne in the Team Winger Hamilton team (riding with Ryan Sissons).

Osborne and Sissons were comfortably in third nearing the finish before Osborne went over the handlebars at the final creek crossing, luckily not doing any physical damage but the Kiwis were unable to hold off the Aussies in the final few hundred metres.

The mixed category is already living up to expectation, with a change in the leader jersey with defending champions Joe Skerman and Josie Wilcox (JoJo) impressive in claiming the stage over prologue winners Mark Williams and Kate Fluker (New World-Pivot).

Like Osborne, Williams had an off late in the stage, but was effusive in his praise of team JoJo.

“I had a bit of a face plant late on and took the brunt of it with the nose, but I am all good, my teeth are all still there so I will be fine! Jo and Josie were amazing today though, just too strong for us, especially on the climb, they rode an incredible stage today and well done to them.”

Skerman and Wilcox were delighted with the ride, with Joe delighted he was able to match the pace of Wilcox on the climb up Coronet Peak, as the Bulls farmer ‘got the big diesel engine’ up and running.

The category is clearly one to watch though, with just 11 minutes separating the top three on general classification, with plenty of big days to come and little margin for error or a mechanical issue.

The open women’s category however has been blown apart already, with Kate McIlroy and Amy Hollamby all powerful in backing up their prologue win to establish a 40-minute lead over 2017 winners Nina McVicar and Reta Trotman.

McIlroy was pleased with the ride but not so happy with a sluggish start at the back of the first start wave that cost them time and left them without riding company for much of the journey.

“We had a little chat about it, and yeah, basically we got it wrong. The guys absolutely boosted off and we thought we might stay out of their race but probably we got bottled up over the fence and missed the front half of the split and then basically spent the rest of the day riding by ourselves, which was a bit lonely.

“But the trail was awesome, an amazing course and cool with the big descent coming down here (into Arrowtown) and I actually came off in one of the rivers and Amy was gone, she didn’t even see me, and I was like ‘wait!’.”

Elsewhere in the field road riding legend Gordon McCauley and teammate Jarrod Harris (Daikin Thermal Solutions) are having a blast. The Commonwealth Games medalist and only man to win the road, time trial and criterium national titles was as always wonderfully honest in his assessment of the day with the team sitting eighth in the masters (40+) category – even when reminded that his road record is second-to-none.

“To be fair my record on the mountain bike is more like second-to-last! I didn’t enjoy the climbing cause that sucks anyway, and I didn’t particularly enjoy Rude Rock because I seem to struggle on the really fast bermy rides fast. But I was in my element coming down the slippery wet crap as that is exactly what we ride at home. So, I was brakes off and politely asking people to get out of my way!”

The beauty and variety in the 76km stage was wonderfully received by the field, with Australian rider Alex Malone (Cyclist Magazine AUS) lavish in his praise.

“Today had an amazing variety of everything, from a scenic opening loop around the lake to the technical Moonlight Trail, and who could forget the brutal ascent up Coronet Peak and the thrilling ride down Rude Rock and the Bush Creek Track into Arrowtown to a welcome finish line, that was a great day riding.”

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.

Riders now rest up tonight at the event village in Alexandra for the next two nights, with a 112km out-and-back stage in Alexandra tomorrow, the longest day and Queen Stage on the event. Riders then head to Bannockburn on Wednesday for a two night stay before heading head back to Frankton on Friday December 6, with the final stage taking them to the finish line village on the ridge off Hawthorn Drive, overlooking the Kawarau River and the Remarkables.

Countries represented in the 2019 Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain
Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, Wales.

2019 Pioneer, Fuelled by Nutri-Grain
Stage One Results and General Classification

Open Men
Stage One
1 Tim Rush & Michael Vink, NZL, Onya Bike North Otago, 3:35:42
2 Brendan Johnston & Jon Odams, AUS, Giant Australia, 3:38:47
3 Garry Milburn & Christopher Aitken, AUS, Maap Shimano, 3:42:07
General Classification
1 Tim Rush & Michael Vink, NZL, Onya Bike North Otago, 4:47:23
2 Brendan Johnston & Jon Odams, AUS, Giant Australia, 4:50:04
3 Garry Milburn & Christopher Aitken, AUS, Maap Shimano, 4:53:42

Open Women
Stage One
1 Kate McIlroy & Amy Hollamby, NZL, Stonewood Homes, 4:24:00
2 Nina McVicar & Reta Trotman, NZL, New World St Martins, 4:57:39
3 Hannah Buchannan & Sarah Gilbert, NZL/USA, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, 5:12:54
General Classification
1 Kate McIlroy & Amy Hollamby, NZL, Stonewood Homes, 5:49:16
2 Nina McVicar & Reta Trotman, NZL, New World St Martins, 6:29:49
3 Hannah Buchannan & Sarah Gilbert, NZL/USA, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, 6:50:02

Mixed
Stage One
1 Joe Skerman & Josie Wilcox, NZL, JoJo, 4:03:19
2 Mark Williams & Kate Fluker, NZL, New World-Pivot, 4:06:34
3 Holly Harris & Michael Harris, AUS, Sram Mtoss, 4:13:18
General Classification
1 Joe Skerman & Josie Wilcox, NZL, JoJo, 5:22:03
2 Mark Williams & Kate Fluker, NZL, New World-Pivot, 5:25:16
3 Holly Harris & Michael Harris, AUS, Sram Mtoss, 5:33:38

Masters Men
Stage One
1 Gene Marsh & Jeremy Furlong, NZL, Off the Chain, 5:23:42
2 Gianluca Valsenti & Matthew Webber, NZL, Rivet Racing, 5:43:01
3 Hamish Lane & Kris Snow, NZL, Cycle Obsession, 5:44:57
General Classification
1 Gene Marsh & Jeremy Furlong, NZL, Off the Chain, 4:05:19
2 Gianluca Valsenti & Matthew Webber, NZL, Rivet Racing, 4:20:43
3 Hamish Lane & Kris Snow, NZL, Cycle Obsession, 4:22:14

Masters Women
Stage One
1 Kath Kelly & Peg Leyland, Earnscleugh Express, 6:40:31
2 Jackie Blay & Sara Prince, NZL, Outlaw Sisters, 7:34:36
3 Kim Johnston & Christine Wright, NZL, Team Cycleways, 7:50:55
General Classification
1 Kath Kelly & Peg Leyland, Earnscleugh Express, 5:05:02
2 Jackie Blay & Sara Prince, NZL, Outlaw Sisters, 5:49:50
3 Kim Johnston & Christine Wright, NZL, Team Cycleways, 6:03:27

Grand Masters Men (50+)
1 Marc Baechil & Daniel Christen, SUI, Terreactive IT, 4:06:56
2 Kent Wilson & Graeme Young, NZL, The Hub Cycle Centre, 4:24:28
3 Allan Killick & Greg Thompson, NZL, Cycleways, 4:31:24
General Classification
1 Marc Baechil & Daniel Christen, SUI, Terreactive IT, 5:27:38
2 Kent Wilson & Graeme Young, NZL, The Hub Cycle Centre, 5:48:41
3 Allan Killick & Greg Thompson, NZL, Cycleways, 5:56:40


SPRINT FINISHES, FRACTIONS OF A SECOND; CAPE TO CAPE COMES DOWN TO THE WIRE

After four days and more than 200km of the toughest and fastest racing the iconic Cape to Cape MTB stage race has ever seen, it was a happy, dusty and beat up group of riders who rolled across the finish line at the Margaret River Distilling Co.

None more happy, than the GIANT Shimano team of Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams who wrapped up the Epic Series ‘Triple Crown’ of Port to Port, Reef to Reef and Cape to Cape with another stunning performance against the best riders in the nation.

For Brendan it was also his eighth Epic Series win on the trot, but it nearly didn’t eventuate. With a tough stressful night threatening to derail everything on the eve of stage four.

“I was feeling really rough and didn’t get enough food in last night and really struggled this morning. I woke up and didn’t want to race, so I knew it was going to be a tough one. I kept it from Jonny because I didn’t want him to just worry about himself. He rode really well and we got to the finish, but I wasn’t quite strong enough on the road at the finish. It was pretty hectic run home and the Trek boys were going for time on second place overall, so we were just along for the ride.”

“It is unreal to think that I have strung together eight Epic Series wins, and Jon and I pulling together the Triple Crown for the Men’s Pairs. To have all those individual wins and roll into the pairs and have the same amount of success straight away at all three events, is pretty cool.”

“I love the Cape to Cape week. Everyone comes over and I have really good friends with the riders and the crew. I will keep doing it as long as I can and to share it with Jonny and living the battle together is something new and exciting. It is really cool,” Brendan said.

Jon Odams was delighted to pull off the victory in an incredibly tough event.

“When you look at how close the times are and the average speeds on the stages, they are super, super fast and everyone is just trying to ride everyone off their wheel, so the pace is certainly up. We have had a sprint finish every stage and the 20 metres today was the biggest gap of the week. It has been super exciting and just shows you how tough the racing has been. No-one can get away and it is just the mix of which teams are in the front bunch that has varied.”

The racing was fast and furious in every category, but the Men’s Open Pairs racing produced the highlight of all highlights.

Going into the final Margaret River stage the third place Trek Shimano Team of Cameron Ivory and Calllum Carson needed to find 54 seconds to rein in team Double Trouble and grab second place on the podium, as Ivory explained.

“We had a bit of time to make up and we knew it was going to be on and we had to leave it all out there. With about 10km we got a bit of a break and it was us and the GIANT Shimano guys and we all got away and tried to stay away from Reece Tucknott and Brent Rees (Double Trouble). We just emptied the tank out there and came onto the tar finish and Cal launched it and expected me to get on his wheel. I could barely hold it so, we lost a few seconds there. I was absolutely cooked but it was nice to get the stage win.”

What Cameron was unaware of was that after four days his spectacular dash for the line would leave his pair a mere 0.2 of second short, with Double Trouble holding on for second place in the most dramatic circumstances.

“It is very exciting and has been an awesome four days,” Double Trouble’s Brent Rees said. “But having a crash when the race was just starting to come together was unfortunate and we lost about 30 seconds there. Thankfully we got over our disagreement very quickly and Reece pulled on his ‘power pants’ and brought us home strong.”

Reece explained that in the last moments of sprint finish Brent pulled off what was a inspired move coming half a bike length up on him, as they went across the line.

“That put his transponder half a bike length closer than just being on my wheel. That simple move can buy you half a second on where you are on the timing mat. That is almost unbelievable really,” Reece said.

After four days, it proved to be the move of the race, holding off Trek Shimano by two tenths of a second.

“0.2 second over four days. It just goes to show what an awesome race this and that anything can happen. It is not over until it is over. Holy shit, lucky I came off your wheel,” Brent proudly told his team mate.

Holly and Michael Harris continued their outstanding form, with the Cape to Cape victory wrapping up the mixed pairs “Triple Crown” for the Armidale siblings.

“We had someone challenging us every day and it made for really fine racing,” Holly said. “We were racing each other but cheering for each other as well. We love the single trail here and you honestly don’t get better single trail than here in Margaret River. We were loving the Pines, they are schmick.”

“Winning the Triple Crown and getting a belt buckle is what I have been waiting for. I am going into Margaret River this afternoon and get myself a belt because I got my belt buckle. I am pretty excited,” she declared.

Michael said the brother sister combination took to the pairs racing like ‘ducks to water’.

“It was fun and I couldn’t ask for a better pair. We haven’t even had a little tiff or anything although Holly claims I pushed into a tree and used her as a speed hump.”

Holly is also pretty happy with how things are tracking but is keeping her brother on his toes.

“I am very content, but applications are always open, but we will see,” she jibed. “I had an awesome week and a great way to tie up the year. It was the best group of people and the best trails. What more can you ask for? I am chuffed.”

Fox and Racoon (aka Briony Mattocks and Anna Beck) eventually got their act together to wrap up the women’s open pairs but it wasn’t without its comical and traumatic moments.

“The Fox and Racoon really felt more at home when we got some stages with some single track. We are little bush creatures and we like riding in the outdoors. The single track allowed us to play to our strengths and use it as a way to catch back on, if we had mechanicals, or to get a gap. I think we played it pretty well.”

“We haven’t had the greatest luck this week but we never really gave up. There were times when we thought we might chuck it in, but we just kept going. We didn’t cry on the trail at all. After the trail maybe, but not on the trail.”

“I really love pairs racing and it brings another dynamic. I have raced Cape to Cape as a solo a number of times so it was really great to do it as a pair. It adds something different and it changes the way you race the race,” Briony said.

“It also brings some riders out of the woodwork,” Anna added. “We have some really strong junior girls who are testing the waters with this type of racing and getting some good experience. Of course, the road girls came across and had a really good dig as well. Hopefully we will see more them at up coming races, we need more girls racing.”

 

GC Teams: Open Men Pairs

1          GIANT- SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                                07:49:15

2          DOUBLE TROUBLE R&R                                          07:50:36

3          TREK-SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                                  07:50:36

4          NANKERVIS CUP                                                      07:53:02

5          VDP BANDITS - GIANT BIKES - SHIMANO             08:03:59

 

Stage 4 Teams: Open Men Pairs

1          TREK-SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                                  01:39:44

2          GIANT- SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                                01:39:47

3          DOUBLE TROUBLE R&R                                          01:40:37

4          NANKERVIS CUP                                                      01:41:41

5          VDP BANDITS - GIANT BIKES - SHIMANO             01:44:44

 

GC Teams: Open Women Pairs

1          FOX AND RACCOON                                                09:15:21

2          Specialized Duo                                                          09:25:02

3          Motion girls                                                                 10:17:34

4          Sparkly Unicorns                                                         10:38:53

5          TEAM 4T2/KALAMUNDA CYCLES                           11:11:45

 

Stage 4 Teams: Open Women Pairs

1          FOX AND RACCOON                                                01:59:20

2          Specialized Duo                                                          02:02:20

3          Motion girls                                                                 02:08:20

4          Sparkly Unicorns                                                         02:13:59

5          TEAM 4T2/KALAMUNDA CYCLES                           02:19:26

 

GC Teams: Mixed Pairs

1          SRAM MTOSS                                                           08:33:46

2          SHIMANO PUSHYS CANNONDALE                        08:43:44

3          MORONI BIKES BENDIGO                                       08:45:09

4          Trek Shimano Australia                                              08:57:45

5          GIANT WOLLONGONG                                             09:29:22

 

Stage 4 Teams: Mixed Pairs

1          SRAM MTOSS                                                           01:52:55

2          SHIMANO PUSHYS CANNONDALE                        01:53:36

3          MORONI BIKES BENDIGO                                       01:54:48

4          Trek Shimano Australia                                              01:56:38

5          GIANT WOLLONGONG                                             02:00:52


LEARNING NEW TRICKS AND PICKING UP STICKS AT CAPE TO CAPE

Cape to Cape’s 76km Boranup Forest stage tested riders to the limit, producing some remarkable efforts and a few upsets, as the iconic four day stage race reached the halfway point.

Despite some sensational riding from Double Trouble (Reece Tucknott and Brent Rees), the GIANT Shimano Australia team of Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams kept things under control in the men’s open pairs.

But it was a different story in the open women’s and mixed pairs with Fox and Racoon (Briony Mattocks/Anna Beck) and the Maroni Bikes (Peta Mullens/Jarryd Maroni) turning the tables and grabbing very classy stage wins.

Fox and Racoon’s Anna Beck must have wondered what MTB gods she had upset, collecting every stick along the course, in a manic attempt by the environment to derail her team’s chances of a stage win. In a gutsy display of mental toughness and sheer determination they finished victorious with Fox and Racoon 1, Mother Nature 0.

“Leading into the forest Anna had mechanical and I was standing with the spectators for three or four minutes as everyone was riding past. Then the poor girl just picked up every stick on the course and stopped maybe four times to get sticks out of the drive train. She did very well to hang in there and we just didn’t give up and kept riding back to the group,” Briony said.

“Having done this stage before I knew about all the sketchy, skatey stuff through the top section and I put on a bit of speed to try and throw the Specialised girls off. We held them off on the grass but given they have a bit of time they might have let us have the stage win. There cannot be any more bad luck left, so we are really excited for the great single track of stage three and four.”

Stage two was a welcome return to winner’s circle for former Cape to Cape champion Peta Mullens. Riding with Jarrod Moroni in the mixed pairs, they found the course to their liking and turned the tables on the in form Harris siblings.

“I haven’t done a MTB race for about eight months I really surprised myself today after struggling on stage one. I haven’t done much on the MTB or the bike at all and I had a crash last week and my knee was kind of sore. But I really like this course and feel like I ride into it very well and I knew I would suffer on the first couple of climbs, so we let three or four of the pairs distance us and one by one we brought them back. Then like a real roadie, Jarryd wanted to whack it on the fire trail with 2km to go. So, we did. I feel like I am just warming up but we won’t get ahead of ourselves. It is really nice to have strong mixed competition and I am just happy to get a stage win.”

The ever smiling Holly Harris wasn’t too disappointed with second place in the stage and was delighted to have her mentors take the honours.

“It is so cool to be racing with Peta and Jarrod, they are like my heroes and I have always looked up to them. When I was young I was on a team with Peta and she taught me so much and she is such a good role model for the sport. So, to be able to race with them was really fun. We were with them until a km to go and they hit us pretty hard. Mick worked really hard to keep me there, but I just didn’t have the legs to go with them.”

Keeping the GIANT Shimano Australia Team honest, Double Trouble have really been living up to their name but the boys know that with a 30 second deficit, and Johnston and Odams on fire, they have to pull out all stops in the final two days.

“It was a bit unexpected today,” Reece Tucknott said. “There were a few points in the stage where I didn’t expect to be anywhere near the lead but we managed to come back. At 5km to go we had a bit of a gap but I wasn’t sure how Brent was feeling. I knew I was half decent, so we thought we would give it a crack and decided to drive it. But of course all Brendan and Jon have to do is follow the moves which they did. Tomorrow have to follow the moves too, but we also have to be the instigators. We have to ride smart and stay in good position to be in for a shot.”

At the mid point of the race, GIANT Shimano Australia are in the box seat but there is a lot of riding to get through before they can afford to celebrate.

“Today was a cool stage, it was fast and I thought we might have had everyone come together but Reece and Brent really sensed it at the creek crossings and the gap opened up and they chatted for a while to see whether they would commit or not. And they did. But for us it was just a matter of sitting on. We don’t have to drive the group. So, it was our job to just follow them in,” Brendan said.

“It is very competitive this year and the difference between the teams isn’t much, so it is all about tactics and positioning. Jon was awesome today and followed all the moves and we covered everything, so I am really pleased with how we are doing that.”

Despite a novel preparation Kathryn McInerney is riding strong in the solo women’s, enjoying every twist and turn of the trails and everything Cape to Cape has to offer.

“I find it hard to motivate myself over winter, so I spent a lot of time running, trail running and the last couple of weeks I have done a few big rides. It is a funny preparation for me, but it seems to be working. Surprisingly I am feeling quite good and I am a lot more relaxed this year and just taking everything in my stride. It has been really fun. With two stage wins I am really happy with how it is has worked out. But there are always people you want to chase down, so in the coming days the plan is to be mixing it with the elite women’s pairs, so that is the goal for the second half of the race.”

Team GC Teams: Open Men Pairs

1          GIANT- SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                    04:02:23

2          DOUBLE TROUBLE R&R                              04:02:53

3          TREK-SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                      04:03:47

4          NANKERVIS CUP                                          04:04:15

5          GIANT WA RACING                                       04:06:44

 

Team Stage 2 Teams: Open Men Pairs

1          GIANT- SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                    02:33:13

2          DOUBLE TROUBLE R&R                              02:33:14

3          NANKERVIS CUP                                          02:33:29

4          GIANT WA RACING                                       02:33:29

5          TREK-SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                      02:33:29

Team GC Teams: Open Women Pairs

1          Specialized Duo                                              04:45:37

2          FOX AND RACCOON                                    04:47:37

3          Motion girls                                                     05:17:11

4          Sparkly Unicorns                                             05:39:53

5          TEAM 4T2/KALAMUNDA CYCLES               05:52:07

Team Stage 2 Teams: Open Women Pairs

1          FOX AND RACCOON                        02:56:39

2          Specialized Duo                                  02:56:43

3          Motion girls                                         03:14:18

4          TEAM 4T2/KALAMUNDA CYCLES   03:25:00

5          Sparkly Unicorns                                 03:27:23

 

Team GC Teams: Mixed Pairs

1          SRAM MTOSS                                               04:21:15

2          MORONI BIKES BENDIGO                           04:27:06

3          SHIMANO PUSHYS CANNONDALE            04:29:30

4          MTRX - CHOP CHOP RACING TEAM          04:30:14

5          Trek Shimano Australia                                  04:36:53

 

Stage 2 Teams: Mixed Pairs

1          MORONI BIKES BENDIGO                           02:43:46

2          SRAM MTOSS                                               02:44:26

3          SHIMANO PUSHYS CANNONDALE            02:46:22

4          MTRX - CHOP CHOP RACING TEAM          02:47:35

5          Trek Shimano Australia                                  02:51:54

 

Solo GC

Male

1          Open Men       Trevor Spencer                       04:10:23

2          Open Men       Michael Rice                          04:13:22

3          Masters Men   Damon Willmore                     04:14:17

Female

Pos      Cat      Name  Gun Time

1          Open Women              Kathryn McInerney     04:45:23

2          Masters Women          Kristen Gardner          04:55:58

3          Masters Women          Fiona Crowe   05:12:38

The State Government of Western Australia is proud to support the Cape to Cape MTB through Tourism WA's Regional Events Program.

Cape to Cape – MTB Stage Race, Western Australia 16 – 20 October 2019

Time Trial Wednesday 16 October, 2019

4:30pm Top 20 Elite Open Teams - Leeuwin Estate Winery, Stevens Rd, Margaret River

Stage 1 – Cape Leeuwin 17 October, 2019

Start and finish: Cape Leeuwin - Distance: 40km - Climbing: 840m

Race start 9:00am      Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, Leeuwin Rd, Augusta

Stage 2 – Boranup Forest 18 October, 2019

Start and Finish: Leeuwin Estate - Distance: 72km - Climbing: 620m

Race start 8am - Leeuwin Estate Winery, Stevens Rd, Margaret River

Stage 3 - Cowaramup - Middle Earth 19 October, 2019

Start and Finish: Colonial Brewery - Distance: 56km - Climbing: 540m

Race Start 8am - Colonial Brewery, 29 Osmington Rd, Bramley

Stage 4 – Margaret River Special Stage 20 October, 2019

Start and Finish:  Margaret River Distillery - Distance: 37km - Climbing: 460m

Race Start 8am           Margaret River Distilling Co - Carters Rd and Maxwell Rd, Margaret River


RECORD SET AND PACE ON AT CAPE LEEUWIN

Since 1895, the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse has had its fair share of historic moments but none like this, with a record of more than 1 300 mountain bikers assembling to tackle this iconic stage, and kick off the MTB celebration that is Cape to Cape.

With time bonuses on offer, Wednesday evening’s fast and furious prologue at Leeuwin Estate had offered a chance to not only blow out the cobwebs but also grab a welcome time advantage. The result was only seconds separating the main pairs on the clock, and the guarantee of an exciting morning on the trails.

The men’s pairs were flying, covering the 39km stage in less than 90 minutes. In a desperate drive to the line the stage honours went to team “Double Trouble’, Reece Tucknott and Brent Rees, who edged out the GIANT – Shimano team of Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams.

“We were third in the prologue yesterday but crossed the line with Jonny and Trekky here today, the time is usually taken on the two closest team mates, so we focused on that. We were also mindful that we didn’t want Cam Ivory and Callum Carson (Trek Shimano) to catch us,” Tucknott said.

“We worked nicely together on the descent and the run home and it is great to be able to pick up the stage win and be second overall. There are good and promising signs for the rest of the week and based on who was together until the last 5km, the next three days are going to be unpredictable. So, we will see how we go in the single track in coming stages.”

Adjusting for time bonuses, GIANT-Shimano grabbed the leader’s jersey and with an unbeaten record on the line this year, they are determined to defend it all the way to the finish at the Margaret River Special stage on Sunday morning.

“There was some pretty serious riding going on out front with ten or twelve of us at the front of the race most of the day,” Johnston said. “There are some good climbs at the end of the stage which made it really hard and we were trying to keep it together and all up, I think we did pretty well.”

“I think this year’s race is going to be very tight, especially with the pairs format it will be harder to get away which always makes it that much more difficult. We will see. This race is always close and while it is hard to get the leader’s jersey, it is also hard to lose it, if you are riding well.”

Cam Ivory and Callum Carson will revel in the conditions in the following stages and they were pleased to be in the mix on day one and having a fun day out on the bike.

“It was nice to have the legs and we pushed it pretty hard and managed to get into a nice bunch working together to pull away but we just dropped off on the final climb. It is always close at Cape to Cape but the pairs has changed the tactics and I am expecting to see bunches at the finish all week with everyone trying to get the uphand coming into the sprint. It should be good for the spectators but is definitely fun out there on the bike. It is awesome,” Ivory said.

Leading the Mixed Pairs and in eight place overall, Holly Harris and brother Michael have launched their assault on Cape to Cape in style. With the Port to Port and Reef to Reef titles in the bag, they looking for a threepeat to wrap up the Epic Series.

“I am in so much pain, there was a lot of climbing, sticks and fire roads and I even saw two metre long snake and nearly jumped onto Mick’s bike,” Holly laughed.

“I am a little bit weaker on the time trial and it is not my forte, so it was good to minimise the damage there yesterday. So, it is nice to have a good stage today to consolidate a handy lead. Mick has just come back from tonsil surgery and he can breathe properly, so he is flying. I was glad to be able to pedal a bit harder today and keep up.”

After the time trial and winning stage one of Cape to Cape, you would never suspect that Canberra based roadies Lucy Bechtel and Ella Bloor were making their off road debut. Normally racing for the Specialised Women’s Racing Team, the pair have gone to the ‘dark side’ for a bit of fun and a change of environment.

“I took a year off, so this is my comeback, coming out of retirement, so I am pretty fresh. Racing was a last minute decision, about two weeks ago we put it all together. I have had a few injuries, so this year for me is to do everything I have wanted to do and Cape to Cape was one of those things. I am living life this year and this race was on the list,” Lucy said.

“This is our first stage race, so we thought we would pick a good one to start with,” Ella said. We have always talked about riding Cape to Cape, so when the opportunity presented itself, we thought ‘Why not?’. We haven’t thought too much about the next few stages and are just taking it day by day. Although we have been getting some tips from the very fast riders we are staying with.”

Team GC Teams: Open Men Pairs

1          GIANT- SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                    01:29:09

2          DOUBLE TROUBLE R&R                              01:29:39

3          TREK-SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                      01:30:18

4          NANKERVIS CUP                                          01:30:46

5          GIANT WA RACING                                       01:33:15

 

Stage 1 Teams: Open Men Pairs

1          DOUBLE TROUBLE R&R                              01:30:09

2          GIANT- SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                    01:30:09

3          TREK-SHIMANO AUSTRALIA                      01:30:33

4          NANKERVIS CUP                                          01:31:31

5          GIANT WA RACING                                       01:33:31

 

GC Teams: Open Women Pairs

1          Specialized Duo                                              01:48:54

2          FOX AND RACCOON                                    01:50:58

3          Motion girls                                                     02:02:52

4          Sparkly Unicorns                                             02:12:30

5          TEAM EFFORT                                              02:21:17

 

Stage 1 Teams: Open Women Pairs

1          Specialized Duo                                              01:49:54

2          FOX AND RACCOON                                    01:51:43

3          Motion girls                                                     02:03:22

4          Sparkly Unicorns                                             02:12:45

5          TEAM EFFORT                                              02:21:17

 

GC Teams: Mixed Pairs

1          SRAM MTOSS                                               01:36:48

2          MTRX - CHOP CHOP RACING TEAM          01:42:39

3          SHIMANO PUSHYS CANNONDALE            01:43:08

4          FOCUS ATTAQUER                                      01:43:20

5          Trek Shimano Australia                                  01:44:59

 

Stage 1 Teams: Mixed Pairs

1          SRAM MTOSS                                               01:37:18

2          MTRX - CHOP CHOP RACING TEAM          01:42:53

3          FOCUS ATTAQUER                                      01:44:05

4          SHIMANO PUSHYS CANNONDALE            01:44:08

5          Trek Shimano Australia                                  01:45:14

 

The State Government of Western Australia is proud to support the Cape to Cape MTB through Tourism WA's Regional Events Program.

Cape to Cape – MTB Stage Race, Western Australia 16 – 20 October 2019

Time Trial Wednesday 16 October, 2019

4:30pm Top 20 Elite Open Teams - Leeuwin Estate Winery, Stevens Rd, Margaret River

Stage 1 – Cape Leeuwin 17 October, 2019

Start and finish: Cape Leeuwin - Distance: 40km - Climbing: 840m

Race start 9:00am      Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, Leeuwin Rd, Augusta

Stage 2 – Boranup Forest 18 October, 2019

Start and Finish: Leeuwin Estate - Distance: 72km - Climbing: 620m

Race start 8am - Leeuwin Estate Winery, Stevens Rd, Margaret River

Stage 3 - Cowaramup - Middle Earth 19 October, 2019

Start and Finish: Colonial Brewery - Distance: 56km - Climbing: 540m

Race Start 8am - Colonial Brewery, 29 Osmington Rd, Bramley

Stage 4 – Margaret River Special Stage 20 October, 2019

Start and Finish:  Margaret River Distillery - Distance: 37km - Climbing: 460m

Race Start 8am           Margaret River Distilling Co - Carters Rd and Maxwell Rd, Margaret River


ROK’D UP - DESTINATION CAPE TO CAPE

There are many ways to prepare for Western Australia’s iconic four day MTB stage race Cape to Cape, but Brisbane couple Ben Lehmann and Lena Anson-Smith have probably found the most entertaining, slowest and adventurous on record.

In April 2019, they rented out their Brisbane house, said goodbye to their family and friends, packed up their belongings, the dog and their MTBs and hit the road. The only thing they knew for sure is that they had to be in Margaret River in time for Cape to Cape, the rest of it they were making up on the fly.

Currently on schedule and heading down the west coast, Ben, Lena and Lewis the Bischoodle, aka Rok’d Up Adventures, are on the journey of a lifetime, travelling in their trusty VW Amarok and towing their luxury off road caravan through iconic Aussie towns such as Airlie Beach, Mt Isa, Mataranka, Katherine, Darwin, Derby and Broome and squeezing in some unbelievable MTB training along the way.

An ‘underground Sparky’ who works fly in, fly out in a coal mine in central Queensland, Ben originally got the idea to ride Cape to Cape from an MTB magazine he picked up on his way to work.

“I sometimes buy a magazine at the airport when I am on my way to work. That week I bought Australian Mountain Bike magazine and someone had done a story on Cape to Cape. I thought that would be pretty cool to go over and do a race/ride type of thing with a festival feel, craft beer and food at the end of it.”

“I have had that idea in my head for a couple of years but only recently found out there were three other races in the Epic series. Before we started the trip we booked in Cape to Cape to make sure we would get into Margaret River in time for the race.”

Ben has always ridden road and dirt bikes but when he got into MTB ten years ago it was just casual weekend warrior thing with mates. Eventually he introduced Lena to the excitement of heading off road and she hasn’t looked back.

"I have been riding my first bike for about three years now and loving it. Then after taking our bikes to NZ last year and doing some downhill mountain biking in Queenstown we decided to upgraded my bike for a better fit and to be more downhill specific. Since training for the event I have upgraded again for a bike more designed for cross country and to keep up with Ben. I am really enjoying it and love a good challenge"

“We are riding a bit while we are travelling. When we were in Darwin we were near some MTB trails we found on Trailforks and we were getting in 30-50km about three times a week. We have also been getting in plenty of small rides along the way, just riding the gravel roads as far as we can go, just to get the saddle time.”

“We are getting a really good feel for the country being out on our bikes, like in Derby when we went out to the sandy mud flats, to the wharf and through town. It was a nicer experience and being on a MTB really affords us some cool opportunities to see different places.”

After 15 years in Real Estate and seven running her own business, Lena said the ‘endless’ road trip was all about a life change.

“We bought a house last year and we decided that domestic life wasn’t for us, so we thought we would hit the road. We thought we either do it now or when we are older, so we bit the bullet and did it. Originally it was a bit daunting to be driving, not knowing where you are going with no real destination, except that we had to make it in time for Cape to Cape. It took a bit of getting used to, but then you get in the groove and it is normal now. Since then we haven’t looked back and we love it.”

“We have never done a MTB race before, but we have entered as a pair and we thought Cape to Cape would be a great way to see the area. I don’t mind a glass of wine and really do want to go to the vineyards, so Margaret River was another motivation for doing the race.”

“We really haven’t been roughing it. We have a luxury caravan, it is pretty schmick, so we aren’t doing it hard at all. It has been a blast so far, really good. It has its challenges, but the good times far outweigh any stresses. We a really are living the dream.”

Lena said that most people do the camping thing to get away but she said they are more in touch and connected with people than ever before. “People can keep up with our YouTube videos, Instagram and Facebook. With all the social media stickers on our car it says come over and have a chat. It is great and gives people the opportunity to say hi,” she said.

Catch up with the Rok’d Up Adventures crew and their Cape to Cape journey at:

https://www.instagram.com/rokdupadventures/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaR3p-2XdCjqxYst7FppC4Q https://www.facebook.com/rokdupadventures/