Pioneer Press: Stage 4, Bannockburn Blast

The penultimate stage of this year’s Pioneer was meant to be one of the toughest. Last year, we dubbed this stage the Bannockburn Brute but in 2019, it was renamed the Bannockburn Blast. With the weather deteriorating overnight and with plenty of snow falling across the tops of the surrounding hills, Stage 4 was altered in the morning prior to the start and while out on course, modified again.

Words: Alex Malone

Photography: Tim Bardsley-Smith


The Bannonckburn Brute was one of the toughest days the Pioneer has ever served up in recent years and while many of the racers were hungry to conquer some of Central Otago’s toughest peaks, sadly the weather didn’t play its part. Stage 4 of the 2019 Pioneer was shortened in the morning prior to the start and when out on course, the tough decision had to be made to change it once again.

In the end, the modified route, two laps of the Hawksburn – Pylon Track Road, did little to alter the results. Starting and finishing at the Anderson Farm in Bannockburn for a total of 60km and 1,700m of climbing saw Onya Bike North Otago take the stage by a number of minutes with Giant Australia in second and Winger Hamilton sprinting it in for second and third respectively.

“We made a break up the second climb on the second lap, [Michael Vink] Vinky put the hurt on and it split pretty easily and I was just a passenger basically and held on,” said Tim Rush of Onya. “He (Vink) was a machine today and was next level, I was going backwards, and he was going forwards, I am pleased we are done tomorrow.”

Huge amounts of rain over the last few days may have passed for now but the implications for tomorrow’s final into Queenstown remain uncertain. By this time tomorrow, we’ll know just what role the rain has had on the course.

The Mixed teams once again battled it out but team Jojo showed no mercy today over the double lap course, the Kiwi pair crossing the line a little over a minute ahead of SRAM Mtoss with Shimano Pushys Cannondale taking another podium spot in as many days.

As expected Stonewood Homes cleaned up in the Women’s category while Kath Kelly and Peg Leyland (Earnscleugh Express) also took another stage win in the Masters Women’s 40+ to extend their respective leads and maintain a perfect record of stages at this year’s race.

Tomorrow’s stage, whatever the final course, should prove exciting with a the riders heading up to the highest point of the race before plummeting back down through the back country and into Queenstown. With safety and the welfare of riders a paramount for organisers, this will only be possible if the conditions play nice.

Pioneer punters

After a disappointing stage yesterday into Bannockburn, today could have gone either way. While undoubtedly frustrated with my reverse gear on Stage 3, I explained to Dan prior to the stage that I needed to start super easy and not go into the red immediately.

That sort of plan is easier said than done at The Pioneer and within the first few kilometres of the start, the pace of Michael Vink (Onya) had split the first start wave down to just 12 riders. The final two in the bunch were Team Cyclist and while I did my best to hang on for up the first climb up to Hawksburn, the second to the course’s high point proved too much. It did for most of the teams with only the front few staying together over the top.

Unlike yesterday, today I found my rhythm and that proved to be enough to keep any other teams from overhauling our standard position of sixth on the road. The Pylon Track descent proved to our advantage today and with the wind sweeping all the majority of the mud and water away, we relished in the 20-odd minute downhill before coming around for the second lap.

At one point we did see another team hunting us down but knowing what was in store the second lap kept us pushing hard all the way to the line. Sixth again on the stage and with one more remaining, I’m hoping I’ve got enough magnetic attraction to stick with Dan back into Queenstown.

Stage 4 – Results

Full results here.

Track riders during each stage via the Epic Series App for iOS or Android or online.

Follow The Pioneer on Facebook for live updates and video coverage from each day.


Stage 4 – Bannockburn

Strava activity:
Heart rate TSS: 176
Distance: 62km
Wahoo time: 2:33:33
Average speed: 24.2km/h
Total ascent: 1,700m
Max speed: 68.4km/h
Average temperature: 12 degrees Celsius  
Calories burned: 2,285
Cabs consumed: 140
Average heart rate: 151bpm 
Max heart rate: 174bpm (deep for this late in the race)
Bottles consumed: 2