For the 2019 edition of The Pioneer, Sam Fox has teamed up with Sebastian Jayne to race as the MarathonMTB.com Team. Sam will be reporting each day. He’s also the youngest rider in the race at just 19 years of age.
Stage Two of The Pioneer was the queen stage, covering 112KM and 2500m of climbing, it was always going to be a true test of character, especially backing up from Stage One.
A relative sleep in of 6AM meant after a few coffees and the buffet breakfast we were feeling refreshed from the day before.
Today’s stage began in Alexandra, climbing some dusty singleatrack through fields of thyme that left us gasping for breath. Whether that was the pleasant smell or the blistering pace set by the Aussie duo Brendan and Jon, I will leave you to decide. It was clear from the gun that Brendan meant business, as he spent the first 30km on the front.
After winding along cycle trail in the centre of a gully beside a blindingly blue glacial river, we started the first long climb of the day. The climb, known as the Sphinx trail, was winding switchback singletrack. Sitting in third with a gap to the teams behind us we clung on for dear life. My heart rate was sitting around 186bpm for the entire 6km climb, as Brendan and Jon rode away, with myself and Seb sitting behind Michael Vink and Tim Rush. Over the top we attacked and descended away from the Kiwi duo, with a small gap Seb drove the pace on the front.
Eventually around the 50km mark we were caught and had to work to stay with the Kiwis, Seb started to suffer with the high pace and we dropped off just before the 62km feed zone. We stopped there and refuelled with the plethora of food on offer, I went for the jet planes and grabbed my bottles. Replenished and refreshed we continued, only to see Tim with a flat tyre just around the corner. Knowing mountain biking waits for no one, we continued, hoping to make the most of it. It wasn’t long before Tim came flying back across to his teammate Michael and they disappeared into the distance. Unfortunately Tim had towed the Winger Hamilton team across the gap, and they caught us just as Seb began cracking. We eased off and they continued onwards, as we rounded the corner to the final climb of the day we discovered a howling headwind and sleeting rain that continued the entirety of the way to the final feed zone.
Seb continued over the top and I collected food and water to keep us going for the final 30km, before rejoining Seb. As I’m sure you’re aware, after a big climb, generally comes a big descent, this was no exception.
With a mix of flowing berms, wild rock gardens and blind jumps, we attempted to claw back some time on the other teams by going full noise.
Surprisingly we appeared at the bottom unscathed, and I hopped on the front and began the grind back into Alexander along the rail trail and road. We crossed the line in 4th place, with a time of roughly 4hours 52minutes, most importantly, in front of the other media team from Cyclist (the media wars continue).
At the front of The Pioneer
Odams and Johnston made it to the finish first, and have the race lead again by less than a minute. Garry Millburn and Chris Aitken were a little off today and we have jumped into 4th on GC with our 4th place finish. Amy Hollamby and Kate McIlroy still lead open women.
There was a change in the lead in Masters Men as Optimal Performance won the stage and now lead by a couple of minutes. Team Jojo had a big gap in Mixed, and now lead by over 20 minutes. There were no other changes in GC for any categories. Find the full results online.
Now we are both enjoying Mexican while sitting in the beautiful town of Alexandra, tomorrow there is another 80km on the cards, so hopefully we recover as well as we did yesterday, and enjoy another day in the epic race that is The Pioneer.