Full disclosure – this article could have been written months ago, focusing on important details like how to set your bike up for The Pioneer. And of course I could recap what to carry at The Pioneer, or even what you should be taking with you to the event start in Queenstown. But I have written that before, and a slight update isn’t really required. At this point when some of you may already be strolling the gold-paved streets of Queenstown so instead I’ll look at the items that might make or break your race – these will keep you comfortable one way or another!
Fresh socks for each stage
Yes, I could say fresh kit for each stage but that’s a lot of matching gear. Plus there is a laundry service anyway. But as this is about things that make your life easier – fresh socks for each day is a considerable but potentially worthwhile luxury. They don’t need to be new – just cleaner than what can come out of a wash bag in a commercial washing machine full of other riders stinky kit. Bonus points if the laundry detergent you have used smells like home.
A power bank for your devices
You probably have this organised already. But with at least a phone and a GPS you have a few toys to charge. You can charge things in the camp, but if you charge a power bank you can then use it to keep your phone charged overnight, meaning you’re not losing battery when you text your partner back home complaining about how hard it is, why your team mate just isn’t right, and how you really wish you were there. All before using your phone to post #inspo photos to social media showing off the sunrise, epic views and generally boasting about not being at work.
And don’t forget the correct charging cables.
A decent headtorch
It seems obvious, but there are enough early starts that fumbling around in your tent is made all the more difficult if you’re trying to use the torch on your phone, while keeping it plugged into your USB battery pack that it has been charging off. Get a small head torch. You don’t need to be able to spot wildlife with the beam but if it can help you find clean socks and chamois cream in a dark tent that’s pretty good.
An Aeropress and keep cup
New Zealand does good coffee. But with boiling water in an urn on tap, you could be making your own each morning – and reducing the waste from the daily catering. An Aeropress is perfect, and some sort of keep cup (AKA just a random mug). You could go full hipster and take a grinder – but I think that’s too hard. Just buy some ground coffee in Queenstown. And drink in bulk!
So cleanliness is next to godliness when it comes to stage races. Hygiene counts, and you have to clean those bottles that have sheep poo mud splashed on them. And always have some hand sanitiser in your pocket around the camp. Yep, they’ll be pouring the stuff out, but just at that point when the portaloo basin has no water, you need to be covered.
Your own roll of toilet paper
Ok, still on toilets. But there are a couple of things here. One, you never know what the TP situation will be like, in both quality and quantity. So take your own. The #protip is to stock up at your pre-race accommodation. Pop a roll in a ziplock bag (this stuff doesn’t do so well wet, as you know) and keep it on hand for any visit. Bad paper? You’re set. No paper? You’re set. No more emergencies.
A really warm, soft jacket
I’m going to assume you no longer have a safety blanket. But, that’s the role this jacket will take. The Pioneer is hard. “Not as hard as the first two years!” but it’s still quite an undertaking. When the temperature is dropping, everything hurts, and you’re left wondering if it’s too soon to start messaging your partner back home about how much you wish you were there – it’s time to snuggle into your big jacket. It should be down from a reputable outdoor manufacturer, to maintain appearances.
In all seriousness though – stay warm. You don’t recover when cold!
A set of slides
Firstly, as wearing socks and slides as super pro. But also they are smart to use in showers, and they are light and easy to throw in your bag. Plus the campground at Alexandra is almost always an open shoes sort of place.
Your go to luxury item
What is it – a big jar of nutella? Chocolate? A can of Coke? It might be something you take, or something you treat yourself to each day. But don’t neglect it – if you’ve just finished a stage of The Pioneer – you have earnt it.
A strategy for when things go bad
So, what do you and your team mate do when you get a flat? Or when you crash? Or when you get sick? You should have a plan for each stage, from how you will pace yourselves, which feedzones to use, what to carry and where to push hard. But you need to have a plan when things go a bit pear shaped – just so you don’t lose your shit. You will be tired an emotional, and possibly not able to message your partner back home at the time, so ‘make a plan’ as our South African friends would say – and act on it if need be.
It depends how you sleep, and what you like to listen to. But the tents you camp in are close together. So if you’re not keen on hearing a Kiwi farmer get irate about the new standards in wheel nuts for farm machinery, take some ear plugs.
If you’re lucky enough to have the time and resources to go and race The Pioneer – make sure you grab some photos for memories! This is an epic mountain bike experience and one worth cherishing. Take photos, meet new people, and race your heart out.
A local SIM card
As all those messages back home when you are tired and lonely in the morning are going to get pretty expensive if you are not using a local SIM card. Pick one up at the airport with $40 credit or do so in Queenstown.