Riders took joy at crossing the finish line after 7 days of exhausting, stunning, character building and painful mountain bike miles across the Southern Alps of New Zealand in The Pioneer stage race today. On the menu for the final stage was far from a cruisey parade into town. Although the stage profile suggested 59km of predominantly downhill riding, there was over 1500m of elevation still to be gained. Add to this more miles across the type of terrain that has been the topic of conversation this week (soft, grassy, steep farmland). After a relatively gentle roll out of a freezing Snow Farm village this morning riders took to the descending XC ski trail direction- Queenstown the host city for the final stage of the 2017 Pioneer stage race. After exiting the XC ski trail the race headed across yet more soggy, boggy grass for close to 15km. This proved decisive in the race today as those more precaucios were caught behind as the more confident riders took the correct lines through the precarious terrain. In the end it was a change to the norm in the top of the results sheet today with the Spanish ‘Imparables’ team taking line honours. Former World Cup DH legend Tommi Misser and former road professional Ibon Zugasti edged ahead of the GC winning Kiwi ‘Watson & Son Manuka Honey’ team of James Williamson and Scott Lyttle taking a very well deserved stage win at The Pioneer.
As well as more of the same tremendously difficult terrain today’s stage gave rider’s an exciting addition to their hard work today. In order to cross the river, rider’s had to board jet boats in a neutralised section to get to the final part of the course. The course then meandered down the very well maintained ‘Queenstown trail’ to the finish line at the Queenstown Event centre.
After a brutal 7 day’s of racing, each and every competitor can be satisfied they have conquered something truly spectacular. This has been epic, for a phrase that get’s thrown around a lot in cycling circles these days, The Pioneer is an event truly deserving of having ‘epic’ in it’s title. For a fair share of yarns of struggle, accomplishment, disappointment and victory share a beverage with a ‘Pioneer’. These will be memories and moments that will stick with a rider for a lifetime. Definitely worthwhile acquiring.
With the presentation dinner due for later this afternoon, we will have a full debrief of the event in the coming weeks. Full results for all categories can be viewed here.