The Pioneer is widely acknowledged as one of the most gruelling mountain bike races in the world and in 2020 the event will come to Rotorua.

On the eve of the final day at the 2019 edition, in Central Otago where it has been held for the past four years, Ironman Group Oceania has announced details of the new location.

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2020 will see the Epic Series event celebrate five years. Event founder and Ironman Group Oceania managing director Dave Beeche is excited about the move north, one which is in keeping with the Pioneer spirit.

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"The South Island has created some wonderful memories and left lifelong impressions on all who have ridden the Pioneer in its first four years and in many ways, we are sad to be leaving this part of the world.

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"But, the Pioneer has always been about celebrating New Zealand, welcoming international riders to our world class riding trails and opening parts of the country they and the locals would not otherwise have the chance to ride.

"It is with that in mind that we look forward to a new and equally stunning chapter in the event's history, with Rotorua and the surrounding region set to amaze Kiwis and internationals alike with its hospitality, world-class trails and unique tourism attractions."

New Zealand mountain bike legend, Rotorua's Mark 'Cabin' Leishman has been charged with plotting the six-days of riding and he can't wait for the race to head to his neck of the woods.

"We plan on taking riders on an incredible six-day journey linking together some of the best riding the North Island has to offer in what will be very much a change from the South Island in the nature of the trails and the challenge," Leishman said.

The six-day Pioneer Mountain Bike Race will celebrate all that Rotorua has to offer. Photo / The Pioneer
The six-day Pioneer Mountain Bike Race will celebrate all that Rotorua has to offer. Photo / The Pioneer

Rotorua is ready to welcome riders with open arms, with Mayor Steve Chadwick thrilled the region has attracted yet another international event.

"Gaining another international adventure race for next year's event calendar should make our community extremely proud.

"The fact that these events are choosing Rotorua as their first destination outside of the South Island shows that they have confidence in Rotorua's ability to deliver spectacular events.

"Events like this not only bring competitors and their supporters but also expose Rotorua to a global audience and continue to build our city's reputation as a world-class mountain bike destination," Chadwick said.

Leishman goes on to paint a picture of what the new-look Pioneer will deliver to riders, once again in teams of two.

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"We are working on a course that sweeps down from Rotorua to the west, hitting iconic cycleways and mountain bike trails on the way – all linked up by a network of forestry and gravel roads. The course will hit its most southern point at Lake Taupō before heading back up towards the Rotorua finish."

"Make no mistake, this won't be a walk in the park. The constant undulation and elevation change combined with the abundance of mountain bike trails presents a new challenge – so be prepared to really see what you, your teammate and your bike are made of."

Leishman hints at fewer of the massive climbs that the Pioneer is synonymous with but warns it will still be a tough event to conquer.

"Make no mistake, this won't be a walk in the park. The constant undulation and elevation change combined with the abundance of mountain bike trails presents a new challenge – so be prepared to really see what you, your teammate and your bike are made of."

Entries open on January 30, 2020, with the full course details to be made public in March.

The Pioneer

Rotorua, November 8-13 2020, www.thepioneer.co.nz

• Six-stage mountain bike stage race through the Central North Island, starting and finishing in Rotorua.
• Two person teams.
• Part of the global Epic Series of mountain bike stage racing (Swiss Epic, Absa Cape Epic – South Africa, Port to Port, Cape to Cape and Reef to Reef).
• About 500km of riding with 10,000m of climbing.
• Stage distances to vary between 60 to 110km per day .
• Entries open on January 30, 2020.
• Course launch March 2020.