Middlemore doctors take on Pioneer cycling challenge

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Media release 18 February 2016 | Last month eight Middlemore Hospital doctors (Graham Morton, Wes Bevan, Andrew Wong, Simeon Eaton, Mark Moores, Andrew Gordon, Craig Birch and Julian Dimech) took on The Pioneer cycling challenge from Christchurch to Queenstown raising $8330 for Kidz First.

The seven-day ride, billed as “not for the faint-hearted”, covered 546km and climbed more than 15,000 metres.  Mark Moores shares his experience of this gruelling and epic event. 

Well the inaugural Pioneer is over and I am sure much will be said about it. Convention says that at this point I say something like "it was tough but we did it and thank you for all the donations".  Sadly that is some distance from the truth. We all knew the Pioneer was going to be tough but none of us realised how tough or the toll that it would take. We weren't a weak team, our ranks include multiple Ironman racers, excellent cyclists and ultra marathoners but this event cowed us all.

The days were long and hard with multiple hill climbs, the weather was extremely hot and the Queen stage on Day five was exceptionally hard for all and simply unachievable for some. The attrition rate amongst all the entrants was high from exhaustion, illness and mechanical failure. The organisers accepted all this and changed the race rules at the six day point to state that everyone who crossed the finish line in Queenstown received a finishers medal, an acknowledgement of the effort put in and the severity of the race.

And so to our teams. TeamW (Andrew and Wes) had been powering along all week, leading the way. At the end of the Queen stage both looked wrecked and sadly Wes's bike was starting to fail. On day seven his suspension failed completely and in a subsequent crash he sustained rib fractures and a pneumothorax. He finished the day in Queenstown Hospital.

Team Brokeback (Craig and Julian). Despite each riding with pre-race back problems they became our most successful team, absorbing all the punishment that the mountains could throw at them. Julian managed to destroy his (borrowed) bike and finish on a jury-rigged single speed. Well done guys, a magnificent achievement.

Team Fat Boyz (Simeon and Graham). The team went well up to Stage 5 and then fell foul of the 2 pm cutoff finishing the stage into Hawea in the SAG wagon (actually the event organisers car) Stage 6 did further damage and by the end of that day Graham was getting dehydrated and irrational (well a little more than usual). He was forced to pull out of stage seven and go off for some IV rehydration but was able to join Sim at the end to cross the line in Queenstown.

Team Middlemore Masters; Andrew G and Mark (me). We quickly realised that our strengths lay in endurance rather than speed (we were coming last) aided by the fact that I was weak up hills and Andrew was weak down them, our lack of speed perfectly complemented by our lack of skill. We had a series of long hot days culminating in a nine hour cooked on Stage 3 which saw both of us weak, shivery and unable to eat much at Tekapo. We realised that we were not going to make the Stage 5 cutoff so elected not to start that day and recovered enough to power through Stages 6 and 7 and reach the finish line, although some mechanical issues on Stage 7 threatened for a while.

Thank you to everyone who has helped, supported and encouraged us, I got a couple of texts at Tekapo, when I was considering pulling out and never ever riding a bike again.  That gave me the motivation to get up and get going the following morning. Thank you to my team mates and their wives and families. Huge thanks to all those who have donated to the cause.  I believe the final total was is in the order of $8,330 which will be a wonderful gift to Kidz First.  This was, after all, the real reason behind all this. The question is will we do it again next year? 

Mark Moores.