In the world of downhill mountain bike racing, indeed in the world of mountain bike racing full stop, there are few with the careers to match that of Spaniard Tomi Misser. He is a little bit of mountain biking royalty, and he is loving his time here in New Zealand riding The Pioneer Stage Mountain Bike Race.
Misser and Imparables partner Ibon Zugasti shared the overall stage win with Team Watson & Son Manuka Honey (James Williamson and Scott Lyttle) as the event completed day six with a 64km ride from Hawea to the Snow Farm high above Cardrona Valley today.
Misser is a 14-time national champion in his homeland of Spain, but these days his riding takes him further from home than ever before as he rides professionally for both the Imparables and the Orbea Bikes team, and he is loving his time in New Zealand.
“The people are amazing, it is a really hard race, some people say last year was harder but yesterday was really hard. For us the type of grass is different and the ground bumpy, in Spain it is not so much like this. But the scenery, the views, it is amazing. I ride with the go-pro and it has been amazing for us and for the people who will see our film.”
Misser says he tried retirement after he ended his downhill career with multiple World Cup titles and a European Championship to his name, but he couldn’t stay away from the sport for long.
“I have been doing these races for three years or maybe four. After I finish with the downhill I retired but two or three years after I come back again and ride and ride and now enjoy my riding with Imparables and Orbea, and I am enjoying riding as a professional again.
“I am enjoying this type of riding, coming to different countries, I can discover the different places and I can stay with the people and everyone enjoys the bike and the event. After this we go to Cape Epic and then USA and the families all come to one of the races each year, this is my mountain bike now, discover and enjoy.”
Misser found his strength again today, after losing his power in yesterday’s Queen Stage.
“Yesterday was a difficult day, I lose some power, it was a long stage and with the flat tyre we spent some energy chasing and I had no power in my legs. Yesterday I eat a lot and recover well so today was good and I have my power back. The guys in Watson and Son Manuka Honey are pushing all the time but we managed to stay there and then we spoke about going to the finish line together.”
Misser and Zugasti are clear leaders in the Men’s Masters 40+ category, while Williamson and Lyttle have a stranglehold on the Open Men’s and lead the race for The Pioneer trophy, holding a 20-minute advantage over Misser and Zugasti in the general classification, with just the final stage into Queenstown to come.
After the longest day in the event yesterday, riders rolled over the start line content in the knowledge they had just 64km to complete today, albeit with a testing climb out of the Cardrona Valley and along the ridgeline to Snow Farm, where a light dusting of snow had fallen earlier in the morning.
Mark Williams and Kate Fluker (Team New World) are getting stronger by the day as they ride ‘home’ to Queenstown and again won the Open Mixed stage honours, finishing nine minutes ahead of Team Freakshow Sonya Looney (CAN) and Gordon Wadsworth (USA).
Amongst the more dominant riders this week have been the Hirepool combination of Reta Trotman and Nina McVicar, the New Zealand pair lead the Open Women’s category just over an hour and like the other category leaders, will be looking for a safe ride to the finish line to take out category honours in Queenstown on Saturday.
Riders are expected to start arriving at the finish line at the Queenstown Events Centre from approximately 11:00am on Saturday, with the leaders likely to cut out the final 59km in just over three hours. Those further back in the field will take anything up to six or seven hours as they contemplate their own incredible achievement in completing the 545km journey, with over 15,000 metres of climbing through some of the most stunning terrain in the world.