Insider: The Pioneer – Day 2 – Geraldine to Fairlie
A small grass-covered trail, cut into the mountainside outside of Geraldine, guided them towards Fairlie. In every direction, mountains rose up before falling back down into the valleys below. They felt like specs of dust, in the brutal New Zealand highlands. The stunning beauty acted as a harsh contrast to the deep burn that filled their legs. They were short of breath. The trail narrowed and twisted, snaking along the ridgeline in a cruel tease. The second day of the Pioneer had taken its hold.
Our Cyclist team – Alex Malone and Mike Cameron – started the second stage in 5th position overall, after putting in a measured effort in yesterday’s prologue. Even after that conservative effort, they could not have predicted the challenge that lay ahead for them. Stage 2 was unforgiving, just giving Cyclist a taste of what is to come later this week.
“That was the hardest 100+ kilometres I’ve ever done on a mountain bike, actually, it was the toughest ride I’ve done period – even on the road,” Mike Cameron said after the stage.
The relentless nature of the mountainous course was what made this tough stage all the more challenging, with the need to keep strong mental focus all day.
“Unlike a road race, where you really look forward to descents, here you’re possibly working harder on the downhills. They are just super fast, bumpy and at times loose. You’re focused and on the limit to ensure you stay upright and then you’re faced with the next climb almost immediately,” Alex Malone said.
The raw New Zealand landscape also took its toll on the riders equipment, with our Cyclist team having a small crash and breaking a BOA shoe dial in the early moments of the stage. Closer to the finish, a slashed tyre provided its own challenges.
“It was kind of weird between the two first feed zones. Bikes were exploding everywhere. We saw broken chains, punctures and other mishaps. We thought we’d got lucky but then I sliced the tyre. Changing it or giving it some gas didn’t seem like an option in that moment. We had a team hot on our heels and decided to carry on,” Mike said.
Riding the last 25km with the lowered PSI, the Cyclist boys netted another top 10 finish and held their 5th position on General Classification and 3rd in the Open Category.
Ibon Zugasti and Tomi Misser (Imparables 2) took out the stage with the prologue-winning team Watson & Son Manuka Honey finishing in second.
Story of the day
On the top of the first major climb and the hot sun melting above them, Alex turned to Mike. The rocky trail began to descend as they rode, yet not far in the distance, another climb rose up towards the sky.
“Holy shit, this is actually a very serious race!”
Mike nodded back. What had they gotten themselves into?
Stage 2 – Details
Geraldine to Fairlie
Distance: 106 km
Elevation: 2480 m
Position after stage 1: 5th Overall / 3rd Open Cat
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS TO COME
STAGE 2 – RESULTS
See the full results here>