The Pioneer starts and finishes in the adventure capital of the world – Queenstown, New Zealand. In-between is six incredible days of racing which link together the best back country riding in the South Island.
The course boasts plenty of single track and will deliver a grand tour of the most stunning backdrops you could ask for. You will be sent deep into remote back country New Zealand, where you will really discover what it means to be a Pioneer.
Many of the trails cross private land and can only be ridden while racing The Pioneer, so it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to gain access to the best riding in New Zealand. Expect big scenery and big climbs as you ascend tussock covered hills, traverse mountain ranges, explore secluded valleys and revive the spirit of the original pioneers.
Terrain will vary each day, but includes a mix of local trails, farm track, NZ Cycle Trails and single track – so be prepared to really see what you, your team mate and your bike are really made of. Overall, the course is non-technical so a good set of lungs will be your most important asset.
The course is marked, navigation skills are not required, and you will pass several check points and aid stations to keep you on-track and well looked after. Each day’s racing finishes in a host-town with local hospitality on offer, ensuring each stage is unique and enjoyable. To cap it all off you will finish back in Queenstown, an amazing place to celebrate achieving something truly epic!
Each stage is between 49km - 103km, with between 1,900 - 2,800m of climbing.
And so your journey begins…
On day one you will experience some of Queenstown’s best X-Country riding on Coronet Peak. Starting and finishing at the ski field base building, the Pioneer Prologue consists of one loop that is over 40% single track and includes the legendary Rude Rock trail.
Queenstown (own accommodation)
Queenstown to Queenstown
Stage one starts in the heart of Queenstown and takes riders on a loop through Ben Lomond Station. The course is chock full of Intermediate Grade 3/4 trails and covers some of Queenstown’s mountain bike hot spots including Moonlight Trail, Phonenix MTB Track and 7 Mile and the Skyline Gondola.
While the climbing meters are up there, it’s mostly on well surfaced and purpose built tracks, including sections of the Queenstown Trails. This day is truly local riding at its best and will help teams build to the challenging stages to follow.
At the end of Stage 1, bus transport to Alexandra will be provided, where the first Pioneer Race Village awaits.
Alexandra to Alexandra
It’s hard to ignore the lump on the elevation profile of Stage 2. The climb up to the Dunstan Range is a true Pioneer climb, a 10km accent taking riders a mile high in the sky. The day is balanced out and contrasted by some quick flat riding on the Otago Central Rail Trail. This stage is the longest of the week with over 100kms to burn through.
Starting from Earnscleugh Station you will follow a section of the Alexandra river track, traverse through four Central Otago high country stations, and race along a section of the Rail Trail before arriving at Race Village where a cold beverage and massage awaits!
Alexandra to Bannockburn
The journey to the second race village location will be a solid combination of Alexandra cycle trails and remote farm tracks. It’s one of the smaller days in climbing but will still take teams 1000m above sea level on the mountains bordering Lake Dunstan.
The Flat top Hill mountain bike trails and newly constructed decent into the Roxburgh Gorge will be an early highlight of the day before heading towards the Cairnmuir Range.
Bannockburn to Bannockburn
The Bannockburn Loop Queen Stage will be a test on tired legs. The remote high country terrain is home to few on two legs and brushed with golden tussock and crumbling schist. The course heads up to begin, but the good news is that it’s all on well surfaced gravel road.
The second and more challenging half of the day, sees teams cross through Bannockburn Township and head north towards Kawarau Station. The main climb of the day is on well-established farm track up to past Slapjack Saddle. The 1000m+ climb will push riders to the max and well into the hurt box. No sugar coating it. Race village will be a welcome site where you can enjoy your last night in camp.
Bannockburn to Queenstown
The final Stage carries teams back in the Queenstown area through the Kawarau Gorge. While shorter than the last few stages, the presence of Mt Michael will ensure its no walk in the park. This race to the finish will be a roller coaster of emotions as riders push through the last leg of their epic week.
To finish off the day in true Queenstown style, riders hop on a jet boat to get them across the Kawarau River and into the vine covered fields of Gibbston Valley. The final 15km of the Pioneer will be back on the Queenstown cycle trails for the last push to the finish line in Arrowtown where Pioneer glory awaits.
Queenstown (own accommodation)