Squamish's Neal Kindree was on the fast track to the national team, the World Cup circuit and Olympic selections when he was sidelined in the 2008 season with a serious knee injury that has been difficult to rehabilitate. He turned 23 in January, but already has a national Under 23 title to his credit, as well as an overall Canada Cup title.
Kindree started to test his knee out in competition in the 2009 Cheakamus Challenge, then made an appearance this past Saturday at the inaugural NimbyFifty race in Pemberton where he placed third.
"I did a pre-ride on Monday to check it out and did the race, and I thought it was the most savage course I've ever ridden or raced," he said. "The whole thing was just climbing, up, up and up... But I loved it. I like rides like that, so for me it was awesome."
He will also compete in the Test of Metal for the first time on June 19 since winning titles in both 2006 and 2007.
The question everyone is asking these days is "how's the knee?"
"It's better on my bike than doing anything else," he said. "It's pretty common with knees is what I'm hearing and it's ongoing, but for pain management, I don't run or hike. But I'm happy where I'm at with riding and how long I can spend on my bike these days. I'm getting two or three solid rides in a week, and it doesn't bother me as much as it used to."
Kindree is taking his recovery slow, and isn't looking at returning to the national stage just yet.
"I haven't thought too hard about that," he said. "Where I am now is the Cheakamus Challenge, NimbyFifty and some Toonie Races, and seeing what I can actually handle as far as knee problems and pain from doing too much, but so far so good. I didn't commit to getting to the national level this year because truthfully I don't know if I can.
"I'm riding for fun, doing well and having a great time doing that. If I can build on that through the year, I might try to bump it up a bit next year. My knee is way better this year than last, and if it's that much better again next year, then that's a possibility."
He also plans to ride the GearJammer and the new "Just Another Bike Race" in Squamish this August.
Kindree is also raising money for a Squamish charity that helps cover the cost of medical treatment for locals. You can bet on Kindree's time in the 2010 Test of Metal at any of the local bike shops in Squamish, and if you're closest, you get to keep half of the money wagered.
Kindree doesn't know if another Test win is in the cards this year.
"Rumour is that Geoff Kabush and Max Plaxton are riding this year, so it would be kind of far-fetched to think I could win," said Kindree.