4 December 2018


The Pioneer for 2018 is complete, the results are in, the bikes are packed away for the next few weeks, and tired bodies are back at home for some rest or the abrupt reality of a return to work.

But the tales from the trails will grow larger with every passing day and drink shared amongst fellow riders, family and friends, and a week spent riding a mountain bike through and over Central Otago landmarks leads to memories that last a lifetime.

Many teams were not riding purely for their own reasons, be it pleasure or the challenge of an event quickly ranking alongside the world’s best such events. No, many teams were riding for causes unrelated to mountain bike riding, but clearly close to their hearts.

Jetmaster is one such team, James Anderson (Auckland) and Lyndon Smith (Blenheim) are both keen bikers, but they were also riding for Autism New Zealand, looking to raise awareness of an often overlooked charitably organization doing great work in our communities, a charity that is very close to home for Lyndon, who has an autistic son.

“It gives you motivation, all the amazing support we have for an organization that helps families in need. It is a challenge to bring up kids, let alone kids with special needs, so organisations like Autism New Zealand fill some big gaps and quite honestly, they don’t get enough support.

“This is not just about boys on the bikes, we have tried to tap into a few friends that have some dollars to spare. We are looking to raise a dollar for every meter that we have climbed on the Pioneer, we might be a little short of that now, but we are hoping we can still chase a few more dollars for a great cause.”

After an exhausting and yet incredibly rewarding week, it was no surprise that emotions were close to the surface for the pair as they contemplated a finish to the six-day ride, one that sits comfortably alongside the Swiss Epic and the Absa Cape Epic as one of three Epic Series Events on the global calendar.

“It is extra special, that was always in the back of our mind, Lyndon has a son with autism, it is special and very emotional,” said James upon crossing the finish line.

To help James and Lyndon build on their $15,000 donation to Autism New Zealand, CLICK HERE

For 12-time IRONMAN New Zealand champion Cameron Brown, The Pioneer was about spending a great week training with mate Andrew Smith in team Vital All In One, in a very foreign and yet challenging environment for a man more used to road riding, running and swimming at a steady heart rate for hours on end, not the ups and downs that an event like The Pioneer presents.

“It has been bloody hard, but I came here to see the scenery and the different places no one can ever get to, that is what is very unique. It is tough, very tough, but at the end of each day you sit down, forget about that toughness and get ready for the next day.

“It was very different to my normal training or IRONMAN racing. We were looking to get through the week, stay upright and not break a collarbone. You have to be mentally on your game the whole time, if you have a couple of second slip up you go down in a heap.

“It was probably one of the toughest weeks I have ever done on a bike, 452km with over 13,000m of climbing in six days! But it was a fun week as always with my team mate Andrew Smith. Now it will be back to swim bike and run tomorrow.”

Brown did lose his phone on the final day, on the descent off the top of Mount Michael, but it proved no problem for the indefatigable 46-year-old, he just went running back up the next day.

“I lost my phone on the way down the mountain but checked with the organizers and I was okay to go running back up the next morning, and sure enough, I found it!”

Ex-pat South African Loan Burger has ridden a previous Pioneer and other international races including the Absa Cape Epic, the team Jaffa and a Saffa rider had a wonderful week pushing his limits on the trails of Central Otago.

“It was another wonderful event, world class and better than the last one. The climbs were stunning, taking us to some amazing places. A little bit of walking didn’t hurt anyone and anyway, this is part of the Epic Series for a reason, it is not a cross-country race!”

The Jaffa part of the team, Daryl Soljan echoed his riding partner’s comments.

“The organizational detail was amazing, so many logistics in remote places. Out on the course staff and volunteers had such kind words when you needed them most, always with smiles. That was the most physically and mentally tough event I have ever done, and anyone who finishes The Pioneer has accomplished something incredible.”

Greg Pain rode in team Biosport alongside fellow Aucklander Scottie Chapman, and wrote on social media after the event.

“The high of coming off completing this race is beyond qualification. Very emotional, very proud and hugely motivated to come back and race it a whole s**t load harder next year, thank you from the bottom of my highly fatigued heart, Greg.”