February 4, 2016

For immediate release from The Pioneer – for further information visit


It was always going to be the longest day on The Pioneer Mountain Bike Stage Race and so it proved on Stage Five as riders made their way from Lake Ohau to Lake Hawea, climbing close to 4000m as they took on 107km of forest tracks, river crossings, flying descents and South island landmark the Lindis Pass.

Anton Cooper (NZL) and Dan McConnell (AUS) continued their dominance of the race winning the Stage by just under nine minutes and may well have shut the door on the chasing Kona Factory teams once and for all, their overall lead of 41:34 surely now only at risk if there is a mechanical failure for either of the two.

Barry Wicks (USA) is one of those chasing, along with team mate Kris Sneddon (CAN) the Kona Factory B team are third, some 45 minutes behind the Kiwi/Aussie duo but just under four minutes back from Kona team mates Spencer Paxson (USA) and Cory Wallace (CAN).

With his wild curly mop of hair and ever present smile, Wicks has been one of the many larger than life characters on the event this week. The 34 year old has pretty much raced every major stage mountain bike event on the planet and is full of praise for the inaugural Pioneer and the New Zealand landscape he is riding through and over.

“It was hard today, but the thing that was nice was the climbs were not ridiculously steep and you could ride all of them, it was pretty amazing out there today, riding on the ridgelines you could just see forever, it was pretty amazing. I have ridden all over
the place - Mongolia, South Africa, America, Europe – these views and mountains are comparable to anything. It is a pretty unique landscape and to be able to ride through on bikes is pretty amazing.

“Obviously Anton and Dan are super-strong, World Cup winners, champions. We came here expecting that they might smash us, we came here on the back of our winter and they are off a summer of riding but even so they have so much class. We are trying to make them ride hard and keep them honest and earn their keep, the rest of the week we will go out there and go for it, having fun.”

Team Torpedo7 Erin Greene (NZL) and Kath Kelly (NZL) are another pairing becoming very familiar with the daily Leaders Jerseys, making it five out of five with another dominant performance today in the Open Female Category.

On a Stage that was otherwise dominated by the respective category leaders, the ride of the day came from Andrew Young (NZL) and Yuri Hauswald (USA). The pair won their first Stage of the Pioneer and in the process took over 11 minutes out of General Classification leaders Minter Barnard (AUS) and Ian Chitterer (AUS), setting up an enthralling final two days in the Male Masters 40+ division. Sadly for fellow contenders Matt Brick (NZL) and Jon Hume (NZL), their hopes were dashed with Hume not starting the day due to illness.

Yet again Kate Fluker and Mark Williams stamped their class on the Open Mixed Category, the Queenstown pair are just getting stronger by the kilometre and came home in 5th place overall today in just under seven hours.

Also enjoying the ride and the challenge are the team from Middlemore Hospital, with a mix of eight doctors and anesthetists riding to raise money for Kidz First. The self titled ‘Motley crew’ is made up of Mark Moores/Andrew Gordon, Craig Birch/Julian Dimech, Wes Bevan/Andrew Wong and Simeon Eaton/Graham Morton.

Their cause and efforts are made all the more amazing when you consider that Dimech was only called in three weeks ago when original rider Chris Smit withdrew with a dislocated shoulder. Dimech explains why riding was the last thing on his mind.

“Talk about the Pioneer race came about a year ago, some friends at work were talking about it and I was pretty keen and they were looking for team mates. One of my friends phoned me and asked if I wanted to partner him for the race. As he was phoning me I was literally waiting in the scan room. I had been diagnosed with lymphoma about two weeks earlier, so I was just getting everything staged. I told him that I really couldn’t commit to it so he went and found himself another partner.

“About four months ago I slipped a disc in my back so I thought well that definitely does it, I couldn’t even walk. Then about a month ago Craig rang me again to say his riding partner had dislocated his shoulder so he was desperate to find someone. By this time I thought oh well I might as well see if I can help him out.”

Dimech is currently in remission and is riding The Pioneer driven by the knowledge that he and the rest of the team are doing something for families and children who do not have the resources to cope alone during their own difficult times.
People wishing to donate can go to the link:

Stage Six of The Pioneer takes riders from Lake Hawea to the Snow Farm, between Wanaka and Queenstown. Riders will take in some stunning river trails and flowy single track, before the ascent up to the Pisa Range which is location to New Zealand’s only cross country ski area, Snow Farm. At just 67km the stage is short and contains the last real climb of The Pioneer, with just the largely downhill run into Queenstown and the finish on Saturday. Stage Six departs from the shores of Lake Hawea at 8am on Friday morning.

Watch video highlights of Day 5 - Lake Ohau to Hawea below:

The Pioneer - Stage 5 Lake Ohau to Hawea from The Pioneer on Vimeo.


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