When Tauranga's Ali Brownlee and Cole Burmester decided to take on The Pioneer they knew of the huge personal challenge but they also had extra motivation.

The duo took on the six-day mountain bike stage race, in Central Otago this week, hoping to raise awareness and money for Movember, and the work it does for men's health.

They had to defer their race plans last year as both found out their wives were pregnant, but with the subsequent arrival of Jake and Toby, the many hours of training and planning are finally being put to good use.

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Burmester said they were aiming to raise $15,000 for the cause, more than a dollar per metre of the climbing elevation (13,000m) they will tackle during the week.

"Not enough Kiwi men are prioritising their wellbeing and this is having a massive impact on our lives and those around us. As the Handlebar Dads, we are taking on The Pioneer mountain bike race in an effort to raise funds and awareness in support of the important work the Movember Foundation are doing to change the face of men's health. We are proud to be riding as Movember ambassadors, an organisation at the forefront of men's health," Burmester said.

"We are regular guys and wannabe 'athletes' who both became dads for the first time at the end of 2018. Just as men all over New Zealand are doing, we are juggling family, friends, health and wellbeing, and careers, endeavouring to find balance between it all."

And so far so good, with the boys chatting after the conclusion of the Queen Stage on Tuesday, 112km in and around Alexandra, taking in some amazing single tracks and some brutal climbing up into the mountains surrounding the Central Otago town.

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Brownlee admitted the early going was tough.

"About 30km into today, I thought we were in for a big day, but the last 70km seemed to go by a lot quicker with some epic climbs and it was just awesome. We were riding with a couple of guys we befriended and stuck with this week and stuck together with all day, it was cool."

Brownlee says the outdoors and being active is key to his own mental health management and knows it works for others too.

"The training is massive - science proves it is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Personally, for me, I know if I don't exercise at least every couple of days I turn into a grumpy bastard and I know when I am feeling out of sorts is I can do some exercise and it gets me back on track, it is a huge part of it."


Burmester quickly agrees, saying it is not just the race itself.

"All the training leading up to the event as well, it has you out with your mates the whole time training for a year in advance, having banter and talking a lot and complaining about your wives every now and then but mainly talking about how amazing they are in backing you up. That is great."

Burmester loves the nature of the trails on a course that tested riders to the full.

"That was such an awesome course, so much good single track in there, some amazing downhills through the rocks and the last endure track was epic as well. But the best part is coming to the village every night and having a beer and don't move for about three hours, that is where you meet everyone, it is awesome."

To donate to the cause, go to nz.movember.com/team/2341506