Fluker’s fun: A 545km frolic

Different approach: Queenstowners Kate Fluker and Mark Williams

It’s not everyone’s idea of fun.

But that’s how Queenstown duo Kate Fluker and Mark Williams are treating the gruelling Pioneer mountain bike race.

The gruelling contest – a 545km ride and 15,508 metre climb, which starts in Christchurch this Sunday – is Fluker’s first competitive start since she snapped her collarbone while competing in France last year, dashing her Olympic dream.

She’s taken time off the bike to “recoup physically and mentally” and only resumed training after Christmas.

Fluker says she and Williams, who won the mountain bike mixed category in last year’s inaugural race, are approaching the race in a different way this year.

“Willie and I have just decided to have a pretty fun approach to it and go out more for the adventure than trying to repeat what we did last year.

“I’m probably not as fit as I was and we need to pace ourselves pretty carefully.

“It is not only about finishing the one day – but about finishing six more days.”

The race finishes in Queenstown, after the 59km seventh stage, on February 11.

Fluker’s working with new coach Matt King.

The Southlander helped the British Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny, clinch gold and silver triathlon medals in Rio.

He is now prepping her for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, by giving her more quality training and less “quantity”.

Fluker: “He gives me a lot of time to recover and relax and I am having a lot of fun on my bike.”

She and Williams work well as a team – sticking together and encouraging each other to keep going.

He’s just returned from a European holiday where he rode the French and Swiss Alps and Pyrenees ranges, which helped him sharpen up.

He says more international riders in The Pioneer are upping the ante.

“There are a few people making noises about stealing our jerseys so the race should be good and it adds another dimension.

“The nice thing is we don’t feel any pressure.

“We are not out to prove anything – we are just out to have a good time and any result we get is a bonus really.”

This year, 338 athletes are taking part in the event, which also includes a four-day traverse race.

More than 200 of those are international competitors from Australia, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore and Switzerland.