Insider: The Pioneer – Day 7 – Snow Farm to Queenstown
The curtain-closing final stage of the Pioneer, a fast and beautiful route from Snow Farm to Queenstown, was the perfect end to an emotional and unforgettable adventure in stunning New Zealand.
Mike and Alex – having already conquered 480km of racing, including over 14,000m of climbing – rolled out of today’s start line in Snow Farm with smiles on their faces. After roller-coaster of personal victories and challenges, it was time to say goodbye to the Pioneer.
“What an amazing adventure this has been,” Alex said. “The terrain I’ve managed to ride and the absolutely breathtaking vistas will be memories I’ll never forget.”
The final route covered some more breathtaking scenery and included a unique bonus, with riders having to jump onto a jet boat to cut across the Kawarau River.
“It was pretty unique to jump on a jet boat and cross the Kawarau River. The whole thing was over in an instant,” Mike said. “Life jackets on, bikes were loaded and next thing the driver ploughed this thing onto the bank across the other side. Before we knew it, our jackets were off, and suddenly we were riding up a super steep piece of single track and onto the Queenstown trail.”
Alex and Mike fought hard into the finish, cementing a very solid position in the overall (10th). It wasn’t until they crossed the line in Queenstown that everything they achieved that week finally dawned on them.
“There was a real sense of elation at the finish. I don’t really know how to put the last week into words but we’ve just ridden from Christchurch nearly all the way to Queenstown and barely touched a road, it’s just insane,” Mike said. “It’s really something special.”
Although their bodies will be happy to get some rest in the days to come, as Alex explained to Cyclist, it isn’t necessarily all celebrations as they say goodbye to the Pioneer.
“I was asked at the finish line today while waiting for a coffee and a large pizza, if I was happy to have finished?” he said. “Normally, after a stage race, it’d be an automatic yes! Today, however, there was a little bit of bittersweetness to the finale. We gave it everything in the final hour and strangely enough, I felt sad to be finished,” he said.
It has been an event unlike any other – the mix of brutal courses, awe-inspiring landscape, and the sense of community, made the Pioneer a special and unique mountain bike adventure.
“On Monday, we go back to the office and resume normal ‘work-life’ (which is pretty damn good anyway) but the stories I’ll no doubt tell of the race over the coming weeks simply won’t do it justice,” Alex said. “The experience is something you can’t really appreciate until you’re four stages deep, waking up in your Marmot tent and the coffee van where the folks know your order.”
Bound For Home
Tents packed and teams readying themselves for the journey home, there is plenty to miss from the Pioneer.
Tomorrow will feel strange for our Cyclist team, with no mountains to climb and no hair-raising descents to navigate. No food truck lines, or early morning coffees from the mobile van. There will, however, be the memories from the week. The all the ups and downs, the tough challenges and the pinch-me moments. Those are memories that will live forever.
And will the Pioneer see Mike and Alex back again in 2018?
“There’s no doubt,” Alex said.
STORY OF THE DAY
STAGE 7 – Details