For the 2019 edition of The Pioneer, Sam Fox has teamed up with Sebastian Jayne to race as the MarathonMTB.com Team. Sam will be reporting each day. He’s also the youngest rider in the race at just 19 years of age.
Today was another early morning, 5:30AM for a 7:30AM start. With a very refreshing night’s sleep under our belt, rising early to the sun coming over the mountains was definitely a sight worth seeing.
Breakfast is provided all week long at The Pioneer, so we lined up for a few shots of coffee, eggs, baked beans and some slightly frozen Bircher muesli (joys of camping in NZ).
Seb and I decided to start hard and fast on the day, with the idea of breaking up the field early on. The plan worked well, with Seb paying me back for putting him in a bush, by firmly planting me into a fence pole today. After this the race traversed the valley, this time in the opposite direction, before climbing out along some technical singletrack.
Seb and I managed to stay off our feet and close the gap to Michael Vink, Tim Rush, and Brendan Johnston. The stage was looking promising, with both our legs feeling good, in the perfect position. Eventually everyone sat up and a few teams returned to the bunch, we cruised through some beautiful scenery, with winding singletrack and again, phenomenal scenery (even if we weren’t appreciating it).
Around the 50km mark the pace began heating up again, by this point Seb was suffering. We dropped off the back of the bunch on a punchy climb, however with some pacing, and the occasional push we rejoined at the base of Coronet Peak. It was not to be, the pace heated up again and Seb blew, we went into survival mode, I collected his backpack and we suffered our way up the climb. Once we were onto the tarmac I was able to offer some more assistance and could push him up the rest of the climb, only losing one more place (To another media team, the media wars continue).
Finally we hit the big descent of the day, 1200m down Coronet on purpose built singletrack. By this point we were both in the box, so with jelly legs and arms we threw our bikes around, trying to go as fast as possible with as little effort as possible. Unfortunately halfway down was a short false flat for a few kilometres, it hurt, but in no time we were back enjoying the descent, from alpine grass slopes, to lower alpine shrub and finally into rainforest for the last kilometres into the finish.
After a freezing start to the day, it became a true New Zealand classic, with blue skies and perfect views, only impaired by the hurt locker that we shut ourselves in. At the finish were food vans, and the smiling faces of the volunteers to greet us.
Now we are in Alexandra after a bus transfer, with four more stages to go. Hopefully Seb and I recover in time for a brutal stage tomorrow with 2500m of climbing to suffer through (today was 2300m).
A huge thanks goes to all the volunteers, race organisers and media that have provided such an iconic and stunning race, and to the team sponsors that have given myself the opportunity to experience it.
Results at The Pioneer after stage 1
Winners in Open Men were Michael Vink and Tim Rush, who managed to break away from Brendan Johnston and John Odams in second place, on the coronet peak climb. Vink said he “enjoyed getting a little sideways on the descent.”
The Onya Bike North Otago duo finished over three minutes up on the Australian pairing. Fellow Aussies Garry Millburn and Chris Aitkin rounded out the top three, finishing 6:25 back.
In Open Women the Stonewood Homes combo of Amy Hollamby and Kate Mcilroy continued their domination by finishing over 33minutes up on the New World St Martins team of Nina Mcvicar and Reta Trotman. Wrapping up the top three on the stage, all the way from USA was Hannah Buchanan and Sarah Gillbert racing for Tiki Wine and Vineyards.
Team Jojo have taken the lead in Mixed, and Mark Williams of Team New World St Martins had a small crash on the stage.
“I had a bit of a face plant late on and took the brunt of it with the nose, but I am all good, my teeth are all still there so I will be fine! Jo and Josie were amazing today though, just too strong for us, especially on the climb, they rode an incredible stage today and well done to them.” Skerman and Wilcox were delighted with the ride, with Joe delighted he was able to match the pace of Wilcox on the climb up Coronet Peak, as the Bulls farmer ‘got the big diesel engine’ up and running.
Off the Chain are still off the front in Masters Men, Kath Kelly and Peg Leyland leading Masters Women, and Swiss Marc Baechli and Daniel Christen leading the Grand Masters men.