In 2016 i had the privilege of photographing the first edition of a new mountain bike stage race; The Pioneer in New Zealand.
It was by far the furthest I ever travelled for an Event and after spending 1 day in New Zealand I already realized I made a huge mistake… I only planned 2 free days before, and 2 days after the Event to explore New Zealand before flying back to Europe. This country is so unbelievably beautiful that even 4 weeks are way to short not mentioning a few days.
I promised myself if I ever got the chance to come back I would definitely take more time.
Sooner than expected, I got this chance this year. In 2016 the first edition of The Pioneer took place in February and was an epic ride from Christchurch to Queenstown through some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen at an event. Truly “lord of the Rings” kinda stuff! In 2018 due to reorganization there was a shift from February (end of summer in NZ) to November (end of Spring). Also the race was relocated to start and finish in Queenstown and no longer did the 500km epic route from Christchurch to Queenstown. I have to be honest…. Although the trails are still magnificent and landscape is still overwhelmingly beautiful. The new route could not match the original one. In 2016 the surroundings of Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki with views on mount Cook, and the Camp at Lake Ohau, were just stunning beyond words. Sadly, visiting these remote areas was no longer achievable logistically and to keep The Pioneer alive a change was necessary to be able to continue the event. Still the new set up presents some of the best mountain biking possible.
The surroundings of Queenstown has some of the best trails mountain bikers can wish for. The Prologue at day 1 is a perfect example the perfect start for 6 days of MTB heaven. The Pioneer has possibilities for every kind of rider: steep uphill’s for the climbers, fast and technical descents for the better downhillers and if you are good at both this is the place to be… 😊 And all this in some of the best sceneries on this earth.
The organization is still a superb group of people, they are still one of a kind! Friendly, professional and super relaxed. Everything is done to give riders an excellent 6 day experience. I always prefer to do stage races instead of 1 day Events. It is way cooler to hang out with a group of people for a whole week and realy get to know them instead of driving straight home after a 1 day Event.
We met a lot of foreign riders who travelled to New Zealand for this event, in combination with a vacation. A perfect combination, New Zealand has so much to offer. If you love nature, this is the perfect country to visit. And the best part of visiting in November/December. Summer is about to start in NZ and days are about 5,5 hours “longer” compared to Europe. Instead of daylight from 8:00am till 5:00pm you can enjoy daylight from 6:00 till 9:30 and receive some extra vitamin D… 😊
This year I made up for my mistake in 2016, and got to see a lot of New Zealand’s beauty, driving all the way down from Christchurch along the remote westcoast. Driving to the fjords at Millford Sound, hiking in ancient rainforests, horseriding trough “Lord of the Rings” filmlocations, hiking up to lakes with icebergs, seeing whales and seals colonies, New Zealand has it all, and then some…
It doesn’t matter were you go… beautiful beaches aound the world, national parks in the USA, under water in Bali almost everywhere you go, you will find traces of humans and our ever present waste 😦
It was remarkable to not find 1 single piece of plastic on all off the beaches I visited in NZ, or the lack of a single piece of package trown away somewhere in nature. Simply finding no rubbish at all in 3,5 weeks, sadly made me realize how much I have got used to seeing garbage in nature all around the world.
Maybe that was the best part of this journey, to realize there still is a place on earth where nature is treated with respect by almost everyone.
In my opinion Mountain bikers are Mountain bikers for a reason. The combination of being outdoor in nature while being active is inseparable for a true mountain biker.
And if you are a true mountain biker, I think you realy should visit this country! even if it is just once in your lifetime….
text by Marco Kolleppel