One of the key features about the inaugural Pioneer Mountain Bike Stage Race is the team aspect of the event. The seven-day epic is a two person event, you ride with your partner for the entire journey, and as they say in many team sports, you will only be as good as your weakest link on any given day of the event.
Another saying is you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family, so is doing such an event with a close family member fraught with danger or the perfect opportunity for some building of closer ties?
We take a look at a few of the many family combinations taking on the inaugural Pioneer, with the ride starting in Christchurch this Saturday with the launch and official opening on Saturday afternoon, before stage one on Sunday sees the riders take part in a prologue in Christchurch before heading to Geraldine and their journey over the Southern Alps to Queenstown.
TEAM POINT FIVE - Christopher Boyle (CHRISTCHURCH) and his brother Michael (AUSTRALIA):
Chris calls Christchurch home while brother Michael lives in Australia and each year they try to do something epic together, usually in the mountains in mid-winter and up to 10 days at a time. Like a lap of the Dart Rees track, length of the Tararuas, and then Ruahines, as well as a double crossing of the Heaphy on bike and then up the Whangapeka Saddle to Cobb River on foot.
"Last year we did it a bit different by riding motorcycles off-road across Australia from Perth to Byron Bay (8500km) as part of the ADV-X event", says Chris.
"We're probably as mad as each other so it just works - and both our wives enjoy it when we are 'not' at home.
"Both of us are pretty broken, unfit and aged! Work hard play hard - which has resulted in a number of injuries over the years racing superbikes, off-road bikes and mountain bikes. Keeping moving is a challenge in itself."
Chris believes they are both a little undercooked for The Pioneer. They are doing it because it is a real challenge to climb 15,000m in seven days through what is some of the best scenery in the world. They are aiming to keep the body intact for seven days, and to quote Chris try not to 'piss each other off', and enjoying every moment of the ride.
TEAM BROTHERS ANDERSON - Brett Anderson (CHRISTCHURCH) and his brother Scott (NEW PLYMOUTH):
Brett asked his brother Scott to do the Pioneer with him as they thought it would be a bit of fun and also Scott celebrated his 50th birthday a couple of weeks ago.
"Finishing is the goal for us. It's great that New Zealand is hosting an event like this and we want to support it. Expectation is that what we will see and experience will be special and to do it with my brother will be priceless".
They've faced a few challenges to get to this point with both Brett and Scott finding the demands on each other's time hard.
"Work, family, life and the aches and pains of training and recovery have been hard" says Brett. We are both finding it takes longer to recover as we get older. Fitting in the training is always a challenge. It's been a while since we have ridden together as I am based in Christchurch and Scott in New Plymouth."
Brett knows they'll have to pace themselves and recover as much as possible each evening. "Scott's over 100kg so he claims he is not built to climb, only time will tell on that one."
TEAM POUWHITI - Jeremy Webber (AUSTRALIA) and his brother Matthew (WELLINGTON)
These two brothers currently live on different sides of the Tasman so the Pioneer offers them the overdue chance to catch up and spend some quality time together - it's also the perfect opportunity to settle all those outstanding childhood battles.
Jeremy admits juggling work and training has been tough for both of them.
"Being in the medical profession can be very time consuming, but the best example we can give to our patients of good health is to be out on the trails with them. We come to the race from road and triathlon backgrounds so handling the off-road could be enough of a challenge. Adequate recovery is going to be the major hurdle as the race progresses, to be able to front up every morning and tackle those daunting climbs".
THE G TEAM - Sarah Gilkison and her dad Paul, both from AUCKLAND:
When Sarah and her dad entered the Pioneer they both thought it was a great idea. They both love adventures and the great outdoors and this sounded like a great opportunity to ride in some new places in New Zealand.
"We are at about the right stages in our lives where we might be somewhere close to evenly matched in terms of our pace/endurance. We also have the wonderful support crew of Mum and my fiancé Alex who are piloting the campervan. So it really will be a family trip with some relaxing in Queenstown at the end.
"Dad is definitely fitter than me but I have a slight advantage on the more technical parts, so we have both had to work on matching up our skills, and getting to know how to ride together on the types of terrain we find difficult. Luckily there have been no injuries or major setbacks in the lead up to the Pioneer - except for, perhaps, not enough training!"
The G Team back themselves because they have done plenty of endurance cycling events in the past and luckily they have some new kit from their friends at Kiwivelo to help them through the week.
TEAM SOUTHDOWN - Jason Miller son Andrew, both from INVERCARGILL
Jason and Andrew decided to take part in the Pioneer for a couple of reasons. They both wanted a challenge and they wanted to do something together that in the future they could reflect on.
Jason wants to be able to look back on the camaraderie they create together.
"While my son comes from a cycling background he has been off the bike for some time and I haven't been a bike rider. So getting motivated to train consistently while we both hold down full time jobs has been a challenge for us. We're both just hoping we'll be there at the finish line in Queenstown. We can't wait."
Team CUZZIES ANDERSON - Darren (TAUPO) and Graham (AUCKLAND)
Darren: "I have no experience of this sort of race but have raced many road tours plus MTB events, Coast to Coast longest day and 1/2 ironman races. I am doing this to see and explore new places, plus challenge myself."
Graham: Likewise, I have no experience. I have done the Tour of New Zealand on the road. I guess I got roped in because my cousin asked his wife but she said 'bugger off' so I have to do it!"