Back From The Brink and Ready to Race

Laurence Mote hard at work training for The Pioneer

Long-time friend of Spoke, even longer time member of the Ground Effect empire, all-round good guy and pretty handy bike rider, Laurence Mote's story of recovery from his near-death experience in 2013 is one of pure determination and a lot of hard work. Next week he lines up for the Pioneer stage race, something that might not have seemed conceivable after the bee-sting gone horribly wrong incident. We wish Laurence the best of luck in the Pioneer, and a warning to fellow racers: he'll probably crush you!

Photo: Caleb Smith

Photo: Caleb Smith

Riding for seven days over the Southern Alps, covering over 500km and climbing over 15,000m is tough enough for the fittest of us but how about if your heart stopped for 20 minutes and your life hung in the balance in an induced coma for 24 hours?

Imagine how each pedal stroke will feel, how amazing every stunning view will look and how incredible the sensation will be when Laurence Mote takes on The Pioneer next week after coming back from just that near death experience.

Life changed significantly in March 2013 for the Christchurch resident who on Sunday will ride off on the 7 Day Epic with close to 300 other hardy bike riding souls. He was out helping his wife do a bit of bee keeping and got stung on the ankle. Mote went into anaphylactic shock and lost consciousness. His heart started slowing and then it stopped, CPR was performed and his heart stopped fully for 20 minutes. 

“The ambulance took me to hospital where I was put in an induced coma for about 24 hours. I came out of that ok, I was able to talk to people and I answered emails and that sort of thing and then I started going downhill again. I had a blood clot in my brain, so I had a stroke and started having seizures. They put me in another coma. Then I woke up out of that one, I gained consciousness but I couldn’t really talk and I couldn’t walk. 

“Things were pretty dire, I had a catheter and things like that. I just knew from that point I was in deep shit and that I had a long road ahead of me, that’s when my recovery started. But at the same time my family had been through a huge amount of trauma, basically they didn’t know whether I would survive and they thought I would be a vegetable for the rest of my life. It was all very traumatic but we’ve come a long way.” 

The 41-year old from Sumner has a cycling background so taking part in the Pioneer race, which takes place from Sunday January 31 to Saturday February 6, was a no brainer. 

“I used to race for New Zealand for a number of years and I raced for three years on the World Cup circuit back in the late 90’s. I retired about 16 years ago, now I’m just a regular commuter cyclist. Because of the brain injury I suffered from the accident I can no longer work. I’m legally blind so it’s a bit challenging finding work that I can do.

“I’m doing a bit of volunteer work though, for Trail Fund NZ. At the moment I’m helping to plan a new track which is going to be built in Christchurch, but basically I cycle everyday because I can’t drive so that’s my form of transport. I also find that it gives me energy and clears my head and gives me a good dose of oxygen and a good dose of adrenalin.”

The Pioneer race takes riders through outstanding terrain, with great climbs and descents on New Zealand Cycle Trails, farm tracks, DOC trails and along world-class single tracks between Christchurch and Queenstown, traversing the stunning Southern Alps.

Photo Caleb Smith

Mote has come out of his accident on the right side and is getting his life back on track. He’s doing The Pioneer race with good mate Huw Kingston. 

“Huw’s an Australian. He’s actually an event organiser over in Australia and so he runs a really big event called the Highland Fling and his company is called Wild Horizons. He was the guy that actually ran the Mountain’s to Beach race which I’ve done in south New South Wales.” 

Mote is feeling a little nervous about the race because it’s quite an undertaking, but now he’s seen the race guide he’s feeling slightly better. 

“I had a really good ride last week. I rode about 65km and did about 2500m of climbing and felt really good. So all things are indicating that I will be ok but I’m still a bit nervous, especially around recovering after each day. It’s going to be a definite challenge but I’m looking forward to it.” 

He carries his EpiPen around with him everywhere, so it will be on hand during the Pioneer race. Although he has been desensitized to bee venom, getting an injection every six weeks, which is equivalent to two bee stings. That’s his maintenance. 

Mote has a simple approach to The Pioneer race this weekend. 

“In previous years I would have been racing to compete, now I’m racing to complete and that’s the key thing. For me it’s about the camaraderie with my teammate and I’m hoping that we get to ride with some other teams as well and chat away and enjoy the scenery. Hopefully we can enjoy the weather, although I imagine we are going to have some challenging days if this summer is anything to go by.”