Day 1 of the 2017 Pioneer stage race in New Zealand began in the newly built Christchurch Adventure Park this morning with a 21km time trial. For some teams this was their first meeting for others it was time to hone those tactics they have been discussing for months of preparation. The weather was perfect for the 8am roll out straight UP one of the classy DH trails, riding at pace UP berms and switch backs was pretty cool as riders got stunning visuals as they got higher of the Christchurch adventure park and nearby city. It became clear after the first few time checks that those with some horsepower and experience were to be making up some time on this course. The downhill portion however sorted out the pure roadies from those with a more MTB pedigree. The trails of Christchurch are a trail riders dream, included in the TT was the ‘Flying Nun’ trail which rewarded those who were comfortable letting go of the brakes on some fast, rocky and vertigo inducing trail!
The experienced pairing of former road professional’s James Williamson and Scott Lyttle racing under the Watson & Son Manuka Honey team took line honours on the day, with the Spanish duo of ‘Imparables team’ not far in arrears making for some exciting racing over the bumpy 106km planned for tomorrow..
The mixed category saw storming rides from Mark Williams and Kate Fluker whose time was in the top 6 overall! In the female open Nina McVicar and Reta Trotman finished only 90seconds ahead of the Sujon Thermatech team. Full results:
The race was exciting to be a part of with pairs of at only 20second intervals at times it felt like an XCO race with the associated buzz and excitement of large crowds at the more interesting portions of the course including the now infamous ‘Body bag’ climb which caused many riders to come unstuck. The trails were superb and the organisation of the crew behind The Pioneer made for a very logistically breezy day for competitors. Leaving riders with energy to burn in the competition rather than being confused and nervous about how to organise transport, luggage etc. etc.
For the Subaru-marathonMTB duo of myself and Mike Blewitt we had a mixed fortune day, both feeling well matched to each others capabilities/ strength. However, our fortune was to succumb to mechanical misfortune with Mike experiencing a constantly wayward chainring throughout the course. Setting us back on stage results, however, with many, many miles still to be raced these types of issues will likely affect all riders at some point during the 7days.
All riders are now nestled into the ‘race village’ in the town of Geraldine ready to recoup and refuel for a MISSION of miles, mountains and misery awaiting them on the 6 day slog over the Southern Alps to Queenstown. As an introduction to pairs racing for myself today, made me realise how unpredictable this style of racing can be. Even the most meticulous, prepared and fussy competitor can came across misfortune at any time. Lucky that same meticulous nature means our mechanical issues are now sorted and ready to get into the racing ahead!