Champions Rush, Vink take control of race

Defending champions Michael Vink and Tim Rush made an emphatic statement on day two of the Pioneer race by dominating the spectacular 76km first stage from Moke Lake to Arrowtown.

The stage took riders from the Moke Lake village, up Moonlight Track to Arthurs Point, along the Shotover River, up the massive climb to Coronet Peak and then back down into Arrowtown.

With Vink still finding his riding legs in his first decent stint back on the mountain bike since last year’s victory and on just his third ride on a new bike, it was Rush to the fore as the New Zealanders opened up a lead of more than 6min on prologue winners Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams, of Australia.

Third over the line yesterday and third on general classification was the Australian pairing of Garry Milburn and Chris Aitken who were just ahead of Sam Osborne and Ryan Sissons.

Osborne and Sissons were comfortably in third nearing the finish before Osborne went over the handlebars at the final creek crossing.

Luckily, no serious physical damage was done but the Kiwi pair was unable to hold off the Australians in the final few hundred metres.

The mixed category is already living up to expectation.

Defending champions Joe Skerman and Josie Wilcox were impressive in claiming yesterday’s stage over prologue winners Mark Williams and Kate Fluker, of Queenstown.

The open women’s category has been blown apart already.

Kate McIlroy and Amy Hollamby backed up their prologue win to establish a 40min lead over 2017 winners Nina McVicar and Reta Trotman.

McIlroy was pleased with the ride but not so happy with a sluggish start that cost them time and left them without riding company for much of the journey.

‘‘We had a little chat about it, and yeah, basically we got it wrong.

‘‘The guys absolutely boosted off and we thought we might stay out of their race but probably we got bottled up over the fence and missed the front half of the split and then basically spent the rest of the day riding by ourselves, which was a bit lonely,'' she said.

‘‘But the trail was awesome. An amazing course and cool with the big descent coming down here [into Arrowtown] and I actually came off in one of the rivers and Amy was gone, she didn’t even see me, and I was like ‘wait’!’’.

Today's ride is in and around Alexandra before the race shifts to the Bannockburn area tomorrow.

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