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The Team Prospector

21 March 2023

Words: Craig Oliver

If anyone knows me they know consuming food and riding my bike are some of my favourite things. So 3 days racing the Prospector in Alexandra and refuelling (eating) was always going to be a hit. Throw in some classy organisation, Ethan Rose as a teammate, views to die for and unique trails that can only be described as what I imagine it would be like to ride on the moon.

Day 1 - Prologue 18km and 600 elevation gain

Team Julbo-Akatrax were excited and ready to go. A fast Prologue was on the cards starting in central Alexandra and ending with the AC trail descent. Ethan and I made time on the downhill by pedalling hard as it’s deceivingly flat in places. We took the yellow jerseys by a small margin of 12 sec - the only downside was to no longer be able to wear our Ground Effect team blue Stingray tops.

Having the stage finish in town made for a nice short commute to Industry Lane Eatery for lunch - the best cafe in town. The afternoon's activity was a dip in Lake Dunstan just above the Clyde Dam.

Team Ground Effect Blue, before morphing into Team Malillot Jaune. Photo: @prospectormtbrace, @authenticas

Day 2 - 55km and 2000 elevation gain

The Queen stage lived up to its name. A major climb - granny gear stuff - for almost an hour. We managed to gain a small gap near the top and pushed hard for the next 10 minutes before dropping into a long 4x4 downhill which we took relatively easy to avoid any flat tyres from sniper rocks hidden in the grass.

We pushed on at a conservative pace as both of us had twinges of cramp, probably due to not drinking enough during the hot and fast prologue. Only stopping to remove some grass caught in Ethan's cassette, we rode well together. Dropping into the famous Clyde DH signalled the end of the stage. We were both keen to send it but with a nice buffer rode smoothly to gain another few minutes on the GC and retain the yellow jersey. After a big day on the bike a cold chocolate milk, some baked beans and eggs on toast all went down a treat, followed by another dip in the lake.

Day 3 - 58km and 1900 elevation gain

With a healthy lead going into the final day, the pressure was on - the race being ours to lose. It was an early start to force down a breakfast of porridge, honey and peanut butter before driving out to the race start at Matangi Station. We loaded up our CamelBaks with extra spares and sufficient gels - six to be exact - to get us through the day.

Craig, Ethan and Sam racing across the tops. Photo: @prospectormtbrace, @authenticas

Ethan and I decided the best move of defence was to control the race from the front, which we did well with carnage unfolding around us. With a few teams suffering crashes and mechanicals we found ourselves out in front by the halfway point, along with Sammie Shaw - racing as an individual and riding strong. We decided not to chase him, although it would have been fun (refer The Solo Prospector for his side of the story). We kept our focus on riding efficiently as Ben and Eddie (Team NZ Cycling Project) were only 6 minutes behind in the GC. A careless flat tyre and a slow change could have cost us our lead. Only once we felt we had the race won in the final 5 kms did we let loose on the fast rolling gravel road to the finish.

Cold beers, carrot cake, venison burgers and fist bumps were a great way to end the weekend and fuel up before the long drive back to Christchurch. We got home at midnight ready to rip into work on Monday, tired but satisfied.

Thanks to the Ground Effect crew for kitting us out for the race and to keep warm before the start.

Craig and Ethan all smiles on the top step of the podium. Photo: @prospectormtbrace, @authenticas