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.
After evading the rain on the previous stage we were hopeful to do the same again. However as we were eating breakfast the downpour began, listening to the pre race briefing we were informed that it was not going to get better. The stage organisers shortened the stage, as apparently there was snow and hail on top of the largest climb of the day, so now with only 60km to do for the day we rugged up against the weather and drank the compulsory three coffees.
Flat out at The Pioneer
With 30 seconds separating the top two teams, it was on from the gun, we began with 15km of road and rail trail that winds through the countryside of Central Otago (usually linking vineyards, but we didn’t have that luxury). Before climbing out of the valley along a thoroughly sodden farm trail, very rapidly the Onya Bike Kiwi duo made a gap, and continued to extend it. The Giant Australia pair of Johnston and Odams worked hard to close the gap, taking with them Winger Hamilton and Maap Shimano, leaving us in their dust, or in this case, mud.
I’m sure we were treated to wonderful views, but with mud covering my glasses and sweat dripping in my eyes, I certainly wasn’t appreciating it. I was however enjoying sliding through the mud, especially getting a little sideways on a few corners. Seb and I worked with another team to try and bridge across the gap, but to no avail, eventually we broke away from the pair and tried to bridge across.
Over the top of the final climb, being battered by the elements Seb lead the charge down the descent, with mud flying left, right, and centre it was only a matter of time until Seb ended up with a large portion of it in his eyes. I took the lead and with me yelling my way down he followed the noise of my now kiwi tinted accent (the joys of living here for too long).
Halfway down we caught the Maap Shimano team, sitting on the side of the road with a flat, again we took the opportunity and jumped into fourth place, landing at the bottom with a couple minute lead on 5th. By this point Seb was entirely blind, and so with both eyes closed he held onto my pack and I lead him along the road at full speed, somehow only ending up in the gutter once… We crossed the finish line in 4th place, moving us into 4th overall as well.
Tomorrow we have 69km and 2700m of climbing, it will be another brutal day and could well result in more overall lead changes.
In the mixed pairs Holly and Michael Harris had a cracking day, winning the stage and moving into 2nd on GC. Coming into the stage the pair didn’t have a plan for the day, other than “embrace the rain” and “go hard.”
Holly took a tumble in the creek crossing halfway through the stage, but thankfully the pair had already made time on the early climb by getting on good wheels, and almost caught Seb and I!
Michael Vink and Tim Rush again move back into yellow, after an early move on the first climb, clawing back over 6 minutes on Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams. The duo were well suited to the stage, with Rush pushing the pace on the climbs and Vink putting his big engine into gear along the flat sections. As we come to the end of the long single track sections for the week it will be interesting to see if the skilled Aussie duo can return to the yellow before the end of the week.
In the Women’s race the Stonewood Homes were consistent again, extending their lead from 1h19 to 1h41 in the shortened stage. The New World St Martins’ team will have to have a cracking stage to make it into the leader’s jersey, but anything is possible in a race as gruelling as The Pioneer.
Full results are online.