By Andrew Mitchell
There have been some wet Tests of Metal over the years, but 2007 may go down in history as the muddiest ever. Most riders crashed at least once and mechanical problems were par for the course, but those that endured made it to the finish line smiling.
The biggest smile of all belonged to Squamish’s own Neal Kindree, the reigning Test of Metal champion. Despite the rain he managed to cut almost five minutes off his time of last year, and came close to the course record set by Whistler’s Chad Miles.
“With the conditions I was expecting about 2:45 (two hours and 45 minutes), so I was pretty happy to see that I beat that when the course was actually worse than I thought,” he said.
“It was slippery, really slippery. I felt bad for all of the people near the back of the pack who have to ride through all the mud when all the mud is churned up.”
The last riders to finish the 67 km course came in after nearly seven hours.
Kindree started with the lead but was overtaken by riding partner and Squamish resident Ryan Edwards when he dropped his chain at the top Cliff’s Corner’s.
“He got a pretty big gap on the downhill, and I spend a while trying to chase him down,” said Kindree, his face barely recognizable in a mask of black mud. “(Edwards) had about three minutes on me, but I caught him on the next flat section and pulled ahead on the next climb so he couldn’t bridge up in the next technical section.
“With the conditions I was really happy with my time.”
Kindree says his result in the Test gives him a boost of confidence heading into a pair of World Cup races in Canada. He also still holds the lead in the Canada Cup standings, and wants to continue working towards the national title.
“Those (World Cup) races are going to be important for the selection of the team in 2008,” he said. “There’s no Espoir (Under 23) category at the Olympics, so I’m going to have to really step it up. I’ve been doing a lot of road riding up to Whistler and Pemberton to mix it up, I’m kind of burnt out riding around Squamish, and my legs are feeling good.”
Kindree’s official time was 2:40:04, while Edwards crossed the line in 2:45:14. Andreas Hestler was third in 2:49:20.
Whistler’s top racer, finishing 10 th in the Male Elite category, was Matt Ryan. Ryan managed to finish in just under three hours, with a time of 2:59:31, despite constant problems with his front derailleur.