The Pioneer 2018: Queenstown to play host

This year we were invited to ‘find stunning’ at The Pioneer MTB Stage Race in the sout…

This year we were invited to ‘find stunning’ at The Pioneer MTB Stage Race in the southern alps of New Zealand. The off-road stage race pushed our Cyclist team to its physical limit all the way to the finish in Queesntown. In 2018, The Pioneer serves up a refreshed course and format that has us hungry for more.

Words: Cyclist
Photography: Tim Bardsley-Smith

It was this time last year when Team Cyclist signed up for what would be their first foray into the world of off-road stage racing – of this length. Tim Bardsley-Smith had encouraged are participation and a few months later we found ourselves on the start line at the Christchurch Adventure Park. Seven days and some 550km and 15,000 odd metres of climbing later and we crossed the finish line in Queenstown.

The popular alpine town was a fitting location to finish such a challenging journey and it seems we weren’t the only ones who appreciated the lively surrounds. In 2018, The Pioneer returns but this time around, Queenstown will play host to the start and finish of the revised six-day race – a change designed to draw an even larger crowd to what has rapidly become an iconic event.

Kicking off in Queenstown with a short but no doubt demanding prologue, riders will stay the night in their own accommodation before starting the race proper the following day. A 69km ‘warm up’ will serve as the first real test for the week with plenty of climbing to be conquered around the alpine town before an afternoon transfer to Alexandra. The bunch will spend two nights away before venturing north west to Bannockburn and a touch closer to the final stage back to Queenstown (Arrowtown).

At first glance the 2018 edition of The Pioneer may appear a touch easier, with one less day of racing than in 2017 but a closer look at the detail reveals some serious climbing along the way.

Full stage details have been released so you can rest easy knowing that you’ve got a touch over 12 months to prepare your body, machine and teammate for what is to come.

We’ve already committed to taking on this stunning event once again and we’ll be sharing our journey to Pioneer 2018 over the coming months.

Entries have sold out for the 2018 edition but that just means you’ve got another year to build on your fitness and skills ahead of 2019. As off-road rookies, there were plenty of lessons learned during our first attempt.

Here’s are a couple of features worth reading, for those signed up or thinking about a similar event in the future.

Stage information

Prologue – Coronet Peak (Own Accommodation) – 21km, 1,148m
Stage 1 – Queenstown to Queenstown (Alexandra) – 69km, 2,245m
Stage 2 – Alexandra to Alexandra (Alexandra) – 101km, 2,664m
Stage 3 Alexandra to Bannockburn (Bannockburn) – 77km, 2,558m
Stage 4 Bannockburn to Bannockburn (Bannockburn) – 70km, 3,563m
Stage 5 Bannockburn to Arrowtown (Own Accommodation) – 86km, 2,946m

Full stage details can be found here.

Trail breakdown (approximate)

36% – 4WD/Farm Track
40% – Cycle Trails / Single Track
9% – Gravel Road
15% – Sealed Road

The Pioneer – Key details

Date: 25-30 November, 2018
Location: Queenstown, start and finish town
Number of stages: Six
Distance: 424km
Total elevation gained: 15,124m (ouch!)
Format: Pairs (no Solo entrants this time)
Entry cost: From NZD $3,100 per person (SOLD OUT)
Full details: