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ALL PHOTOS: DUNCAN PHILPOTT

Christchurch, New Zealand – The Kona pain train of Cory Wallace and Spencer Paxson (“Team A ‘Bogan Burnouts'”), Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon (“Team B ‘Grumpy Old Men'”) dispatched of the short but punchy Stage 1 of the inaugural Pioneer Stage Race, finishing the day comfortably in the top-3.NZ_Pioneer_Prologue-8876

The first of seven days of mountain biking began with a neutral rollout from Hagley Park in Christchurch, where all 240 racers (racing in teams of 2) were greeted by a 23km time trial on some of the area’s premier trails. The misty morning was just right for a civilized start to over 530km and 15,000 meters of vertical gain that the race will cover between today and the final stage 7 in Queenstown on February 6.NZ_Pioneer_Prologue-7372

Setting off in 20-second intervals, the Kona boys were amongst the first handful of teams to start, up against the likes of reigning U-23 World Champion Anton Cooper (on his home tracks) and top-ranked World Cup star Dan McConnell, as well as many other accomplished endurance specialists.NZ_Pioneer_Prologue-7357

“The four of us came together on the first 5km of rolling road and got a good rhythm going into the first climb,” described Wicks, “then Cory and Spencer made the jump when things got steep, working to keep Mcconnell and Cooper at a manageable gap.”NZ_Pioneer_Prologue-8901

Picking their lines past the cows and up the steep tracks above the scenic Lyttelton Harbour, the Kona boys settled into their groove, tried and true over thousands of kilometers and years of mountain bike stage racing. “Feels good to get the nerves settled and into the week,” said Cory Wallace, “stage 2 is where the work really starts.”NZ_Pioneer_Prologue-7349

Indeed, day 2 begins and Geraldine, and will cover 106km and 2,480m of climbing, setting the real tone for the week ahead. Be sure to follow along here on the COG, as well as the race website where you can track the riders progress live (via their on-board Spot trackers) as well as results and photos.NZ_Pioneer_Prologue-8816