Vink victorious in The Pioneer

Michael Vink (left) and Tim Rush win The Pioneer mountain bike race in Queenstown yesterday....
Michael Vink (left) and Tim Rush win The Pioneer mountain bike race in Queenstown yesterday. Photo: Guy WIlliams
Tour of Southland champion Michael Vink has secured an unusual  double, winning The Pioneer mountain bike race in Queenstown yesterday.

The Cantabrian and his riding partner Tim Rush, of Oamaru, started the final stage of the six-day race with a lead of more than an hour on general classification over South African rivals Alan Gordon and Timothy Hammond, after controlling the race for most of the week.

In perfect riding conditions, the pair finished the 86km stage from Bannockburn in 4hr 14min, more than nine minutes in front of the South Africans.

Vink said he was thrilled to achieve the Tour of Southland-Pioneer double.

"It’s something different and something that was pretty easy to get motivated for, because I felt like they were two completely different things."

Although he found the trails a good break from road riding, there had been some "tough old stages there no matter who you are".

"We certainly suffered a bit this week — it’s been tough, but it’s been character-building."

Rush said he had a "chip on my shoulder" after being disqualified in last year’s race, and could not have had a better riding partner than Vink to have another go at the race.

Former Olympic triathlete Kate McIlroy and Amy Hollamby, of Timaru, finished the stage 19min 46sec in front of Australians Briony Mattocks and Brodie Chapman to win the women’s category.

In the mixed category, Queenstown’s Kate Fluker and Mark Williams were pipped at the post by Joe Skerman and Josie Wilcox, who finished the final stage 9min 19sec quicker to overcome a 6min 11sec deficit and take the title.

Yesterday’s stage started in Bannockburn and took riders through the Kawarau Gorge and over Mt Michael into the Pisa Range in the last big climb of the week.

Riders were transported over the Kawarau River on jet-boats before the final lakeside ride into the Queenstown Gardens.

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