Tokyo Olympics 2020: Mountain-bike marathon inspires Ryan Sissons' triathlon bid

A gruelling six-day mountain bike race across the Queenstown Lakes district doesn't immediately scream 'triathlon training'. 

But for Ryan Sissons, it's just what he needs to keep his Tokyo Olympic aspirations on track.

Along with teammate Sam Osborne, the pair have entered the Pioneer Challenge, which is not Sissons' usual stomping ground, but swapping the road bike for the mountain bike is timely.

He feels next month's Pioneer race is just what he needs to stay motivated to perform on triathlon's biggest stage.

"I've been doing on-road triathlon and training for that for so many years now," he told Newshub. "You get to a stage where you need to find something that motivates you to train and gets you excited to go training."

So when the chance to compete in a six-day, 440km race at 13,000m elevation came up, Sissons didn't hesitate.

And he's feeling the benefits of training off-road, as he eyes a spot at next year's Olympics.

"It's going to be harder than training for a week of triathlon, so it's definitely going to be something that helps me in the long run."

Sissons will race with former training partner Osbourne.

"I probably only looked at the first three stages and got a bit scared," laughed Osbourne.

Both are keen to prove their backgrounds in the water and on the road will be no barrier in an arduous mountain-bike race.

And despite the challenge in front of them, Osbourne can also see the benefits of moving away from the usual training routine.

"They say change is as good as a rest and this is a complete change," he said. "We've left the swimming and running at home, while we build up for this and the freshness is definitely there."

That benefits Sissons, who has two chances left to qualify for Tokyo. His spot at Rio in 2016 also came at the eleventh hour.

"There's always a chance," he said. "This was just something that motivated me to get out there and keep training.

Sissons hopes six days and 440km on a mountain bike will help towards a final tilt at Olympic qualification.