Kiwi riders sweep top Pioneer categories

Kiwi riders Michael Vink and Tim Rush, Kate McIlroy and Amy Hollamby and Josie Wilcox and Joe Skerman have won the main categories at the Pioneer race.

The weather had made for tough going this week, but the final stage from Bannockburn to Frankton took place in its entirety.

It was a big ask for the riders, with 2130m of climbing crammed into the 70km journey over the Nevis Range on the west side of the Kawarau Gorge.

Competitors must be within a couple of minutes of each other at all times.

Rush and Vink were supreme over the second half of the week, winning the stage yesterday to repel the strong challenge of Brendan Johnston and Jon Odams by just under 15 minutes on general classification, with Ryan Sissons and Sam Osborne rounding out the podium with fourth on the stage yesterday.

"That means a lot. I had a lot of pressure coming and a lot of people wrote us off with the Australian boys coming over, especially as they have won so many races," Rush said.

"That is good for me and Vinky to get this one in our home nation. It has been amazing. Thanks to all the supporters, marshals and volunteers on course — we tried to thank them all as per my mother’s instructions, but it was tough for me at times breathing through a straw behind Vinky."

Vink paid credit to his teammate and the nature of the final stage.

"Tim was incredible all week and I suffered the first few days, so I know what he has put into it and the way he has suffered in the weeks leading up to this to be in the condition to be competitive, he deserved to win this and I was motivated to finish it off for him."

McIlroy and Hollamby were supreme in taking out the women’s category for a second year, winning all six days of racing and the overall title by over two hours from 2017 champions Nina McVicar and Reta Trotman and Hannah Buchanan and Sarah Gilbert.

McIlroy reflected on one of the toughest days in the history of the event.

"That was a big, big day today. I think when we thought we had reached the top we still had a climb to go, it was raining and cold and we were in the middle of nowhere, basically. We were happy to see that second aid station when we knew it was the end of the climbing and only had the river trail to go," McIlroy said.

The mixed category won by Skerman and Wilcox was a close run thing. Nearest rivals Holly and Michael Harris, from Australia, took it to the duo and won the final stage by nearly 10 minutes.

Skerman and Wilcox had enough up their sleeves to win the overall race by just under 14 minutes.

Next year’s Pioneer race will be in Rotorua.


 

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