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The Pioneer – New Zealand – 7 day Stage Race – 587km 15500m climb

Home MTB Training and Racing Forums Athlete Stories and Race Reports The Pioneer – New Zealand – 7 day Stage Race – 587km 15500m climb

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    • #14313

      Hi Linda,
      Just a brief report for your records and for an outline on this new stage race for any future people looking to complete it.

      Day 1 – Easy – 37km, single tracky loop of Christchurch trails. All good fun.
      Day 2 – Moderate – 106km, from Geraldine to Farlie and slow going over rocky farm tracks and river beds, alot of water crossings.
      Day 3 – Tough, Hot, dry, with minimal flow and no easy miles from Fairlie to Tekapo. The climbs are long, and steep. 18-22% gradients for 10-12km. Hardest 76km i have ever ridden. The last 12km is through a rocky riverbed.
      Day 4 – Flat, Hilly, Flat. Tekapo to Ohau, via Ben Ohau climb. 106km, and 1 massive and very steep climb to 1000m of ~10km. Farm tracks turning into loose gravel, with a few false peaks. Some of the steeps are unrideable. 1 face melting descent for 900m to lake Ohau, 30km of gravel and trail to finish. Supposed to be the easy day before the Queen stage, but is still a big climb, which took ~2 hours for the top end of the field.
      Day 5 – “The big stage” – 119km and 3685m climb. No easy miles, 4 climbs, and the last climb is a 2-3 hour grind up hill to 1500m with 3 false peaks, and very difficult exposed section at the top. Steep drop into Hawea through boulders and loose gravel. 40% of the field did not complete this stage. hardest day had by most people on a bike. For the stage winners, it was 2 hours longer than they’d ever spent on a bike in a day.

      Pioneer Day 5: Toe to toe with the Queen

      Day 6 – Hawea to Snow Farm – Flat and Climb – first 30km is gravel and single track, the last 30 climbs 1500m to snowfarm through tussock and track. A comparitively easy day after day 5, but still a good climb, and we found our legs during this stage and came in at 19th GC.
      Day 7 – Supposedly the downhill to Queenstown. But it’s a downhill battle through spanyards, thistle and streams. No easy miles, and no flow. There are holes and streams to lose a wheel into, there were 3 collar bones this day, and a lot of skin lost. Once out of the high country, the trail follows the Kawarua river trail, with 2 long and very steep/unrideable climbs. Total ascent of 1955m. total descent 2685m. 20km of river trail to finish hard and fast into Queenstown.

      I felt strong all the way through after first completing your 12 week SS PB program and your 12 week 7 Day Stage Race PB with a 3 week gap between. I followed both very close to the minute, with a little more focus on long climbs. I felt good on all the climb sections, with very few i was off the bike for, and did most/all of the draft work on the flats.

      Finding a partner for this event, being a first year race with no real clue on the difficulty was hard, and the one i ended up with was not quite as strong and we ran with different training programs. We also live in different countries, me in Brisbane (i found the heat ok), and my team mate in Dunedin, NZ! This was the theme of the week really, with team disparities opening up. Find a rider with the same goals, same abilities and pension for pain.

      The revised goal was to place inside the top 50, and finish.
      We had an outstanding last 2 days, and came in 39th GC, and 13th in the Open Mens.
      I most definitely could have shaved hours with a stronger team mate. Maybe next year.

      Anyone looking to complete this race should look to complete at least a few back to back 6-7hour rides. Be comfortable on long 1-2 hour relentless climbs, and work on steep, loose terrain sections.

      Bike – 2/3 field were on Epic’s. I rode a Yeti ASRc Small with smaller wheels, which i think makes the climbs a little easier. Finding flow over the rough stuff is quite hard, i’m not certain an Epic is the right option. The road/Flat sections have no bearing in the race. 2x is probably the right option, i ran 1×11 with a 30T, i wished for a 28 at times, but would have left me well short on the flats. Maxxis Ikons – choice of most looking to avoid flats, there are a lot of sharp rocks, and thorns. Dropper – not needed.

      Feel free to message me for my Train Peaks files for an idea of profiles and mapping. It would seem they plan to make the first few days a little less punishing for 2017 to set up for a better day 5-7, which will remain the same.

      Tough race, great terrain, riding and views, definitely very challenging.
      Well run, on par with BCBR/CapeEpic. Will be a big event in years to come for Asia/Pacific dwellers not wanting to shell out the travel costs to get to BC, Europe.

      Other reviews:

      Pioneers descend to Queenstown


    • #14317

      Thanks for the informative post. That is really helpful. Congrats on finishing! It looks like a fantastic event in a beautiful location.


    • #14360


      Thank you for your great post. I am planning to do the pioneer next year, I wondered if you could share your TP files with me. My email address is


    • #14361

      Mark, sent you a PM with field.


    • #14362


    • #18613

      Hi Marcus,

      Thanks for the detailed post. I am competing in the pioneer this year and am wondering if you could please share your TP files with me to give me an idea of training? My email address is


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