New Zealand's epic Pioneer mountain bike race returns in 2018

The much-anticipated course overview for the revamped Pioneer Mountain Bike Stage Race has been revealed.

Participants in the third Pioneer Mountain Bike Stage Race are set to enjoy six days of scenic riding from 25 – 30 November 2018 on some of New Zealand’s best back country trails.

The new Pioneer course now starts and finishes in Queenstown, with stop offs in Central Otago towns Alexandra and Bannockburn taking place in between.  

Riders will start their six days of riding with a 22km prologue at the iconic Coronet Peak, with five longer stages following, taking riders as far south-east as Alexandra and the Clutha River, before returning to the finish line in Queenstown. Once over the finish line, participants will have completed 450km of riding, including 15,500m of climbing.

The course will touch on three of the New Zealand Cycle Trail’s Great Rides including the original, The Otago Central Rail Trail. Riders will also get to experience sections of the Roxburgh Gorge Trail, The Queenstown Trail as well as access to trails not open to the public.

Much of the course crosses private land which can only be ridden while racing The Pioneer, so the event offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to gain access to some of New Zealand’s best riding.

Race Director Bec Williams says much thought and planning went into the course announcement, to ensure the long-term sustainability of a race that was quickly established as a world leading event after its first two editions.

“Riders can look forward to a course that will boast plenty of single track and will deliver a grand tour of the most stunning backdrops you could ask for. Riders will be sent deep into remote back country New Zealand, where they will really discover what it means to be a Pioneer.

The Queenstown Trail (stages one and six), Otago Central Rail Trail (stage two) and Roxburgh Gorge Trail (stage three) are part of a network of 22 trails spread throughout the country, known as the ‘22 Great Rides’, which collectively make up the New Zealand Cycle Trail.  

The Pioneer 2018 – MTB Stage Race Southern Alps, New Zealand, November 25 – 30, 2018, 450km of riding and 15,500m climbing  
Stage information 

  • Prologue - Coronet Peak. Distance - 22km Elevation - 1500m
  • Stage 1 - Queenstown - Queenstown. Distance - 66km  Elevation - 2878m
  • Stage 2 - Alexandra - Alexandra. Distance - 114km Elevation - 2750m 
  • Stage 3 - Alexandra - Bannockburn. Distance - 75km Elevation -2600m
  • Stage 4 - Bannockburn - Bannockburn. Distance -  83km  Elevation - 3100m
  • Stage 5 - Bannockburn - Arrowtown. Distance - 67km Elevation - 2800m

Estimates of the type of riding throughout the Pioneer

  • 36% - 4WD/Farm Track
  • 35% - Cycle Trails / Single Track
  • 15% - Gravel Road 
  • 14% - Sealed Road

About the New Zealand Cycle Trail

Spread from north to south, New Zealand’s Great Rides vary from a leisurely few hours to an epic eight days. Mostly off-road and predominantly easy to intermediate, they traverse a remarkable range of landscapes, from sparkling coastlines to rolling farmland and flinty mountain passes. They are a memorable way to reach some of the country’s major sights including world famous natural landmarks, cultural sites, historic settlements, museums and galleries. There are plenty of opportunities to experience other activities along the way, from walking, wildlife watching and scenic flights, to indulging in hot pools, fine dining and wine tours.

Queenstown Trail

Consisting of 110km of easy to intermediate gradients, the Queenstown Trail links a series of popular tourism destinations including Lake Wakatipu, Arrowtown and the Gibbston ‘valley of vines’. It can be cycled as a whole but also provides shorter excursions and day trips for cyclists who want to explore the region at a leisurely pace, whether that’s stopping for a photo of stunning scenery, tasting a local pinot noir or leaping off the famous Kawarau Bridge Bungy.

Otago Central Rail Trail

Renowned for being the original ‘Great Ride’ of New Zealand, the Otago Central Rail Trail is made up of 150km of memorable scenery and gold mining history. Thousands of Kiwis and international visitors alike complete the three-day journey each year through ever-changing dry and rocky landscapes, high-country sheep stations, spectacular river gorges, tunnels and viaducts. With over 20 townships located on and off the trail there are multiple stop-off opportunities along the way, including visits to dams, gold mining relics and New Zealand’s only international curling rink.

Roxburgh Gorge Trail

The extraordinary 34km Roxburgh Gorge Trail follows the mighty Clutha Mata-au River through the Roxburgh Gorge, a seldom-seen world of towering bluffs, huge schist boulders, willow-lined riverbank and remnants of the gold rush era. Starting in Alexandra and finishing at the impressive Lake Roxburgh Dam, the trail follows a wide, smooth path through the rocky terrain, with a few gentle climbs. A 12-km section in the middle is bridged by a jet boat ride featuring thrilling spins and the chance to see schist huts and water races left in the wake of pioneer gold miners. A fantastic day outing, the Roxburgh Gorge Trail can easily be combined with the Clutha Gold and Otago Central Rail trails nearby.