Every now and then, it’s a good idea to try or do something that is outside your comfort zone, or in this case, well outside your comfort zone.
12 months ago, a good friend and frequent riding buddy of mine Andrew suggested that we sign up to participate in The Pioneer Mountain Bike race in Queenstown NZ.
The Pioneer is a 2-person teams race which includes 6 days of riding, 420km of trails and more than 15,000m of riding uphill (climbing). Teams must ride together (within 2 min) at all times and must complete each stage within the allocated cutoff time.
With 12 months to train, we signed up with the best intentions of getting race fit. With busy family and work schedules, we managed approximately 150km of (mostly flat road rides) each week, which in hindsight was well below the requirements for this type of event. So with many teams entering with hopes of a strong performance, our main goals were to survive and have some fun.
Flying into Queenstown, I could see from the window seat the mountainous terrain that we would be traversing and knew it was gonna be a tough week.
Each day / stage had its unique challenges including rocky descents, scary (don’t lose your balance) cliff sections, slippery mud, creek crossings, hike-a-bike sections, DIY bike repairs and off course the 101km Epic Queen Stage which included a wrong turn, xtra kms and more than 9 hrs in the saddle (ouch).
Some of the climbs were massively hard and took us to some dark places, but each time we were rewarded with stunning views and rewarding descents. The race organises pretty much took us on a grand tour of the Central Otago region, incorporating all of the best mountain bike trails and every conceivable hill climb.
For the final 4 days we stayed in purpose-built tent cities which provided a unique experience and great atmosphere with the other teams.
By the end of Day 3, we were pretty much hurting all over, including arms, legs and off course butts, and started eating 2 dinners to keep energy levels high. Many of us “tail-enders” felt similar but managed to dig deep and find the courage to continue. This is where it’s important to pick the right partner of similar ability who can help you push through the tough times.
Summing up, the week-long MTB experience will be near impossible to better on a bike and was absolutely amazing. NZ was amazing and I’m definitely keen to return on a hiking adventure with the family. Organisation of the event was top notch in every respect.
In terms of overall results, our team (Brathers) rolled across the finish line in 210th position out of 269 starting teams. Our total ride time was 40hrs 46min. Whilst our time was around 20hrs slower than the winners, our goals to finish and have a great time (and stay safe) were achieved.
The pain of those long hard days in the saddle have already been forgotten (almost) and only good memories remain. Special thanks goes to our loving wives and families for allowing us this indulgence. Just don’t tell them that this event is a stepping stone to the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa.