Squamish's Neal Kindree took another step on the comeback trail in Canmore this past weekend as he took on the best Canadian riders at the Mountain Bike Cross-Country Nationals.
Max Plaxton placed first in 1:38:28, followed by Geoff Kabush a minute and 42 seconds later. There was another gap before Derek Zandstra finished in 3:23, and Kindree placed 1:17 back of him.
"I feel good, I'm probably riding at about 96 per cent right now," he told Canadian Cyclist . "I don't feel I'm topped out yet. There's still a ways to go, it's just a matter of doing the work and climbing the ladder again."
Kindree suffered a knee injury in 2008 that required surgery, and then missed all of 2009. He started to enter local races again in 2010, picking up the pace as he went, and in 2011 has had a great season so far by winning the Ore Crusher and NimbyFifty and placing third at the Test of Metal.
Catharine Pendrel won the women's race by two minutes over Marie-Helene Premont, with Emily Batty placing third. Squamish's Brandi Heisterman, with Team Whistler and Rocky Mountain, placed seventh after a few ordeals.
She was in the top five when she fell on the first lap, fracturing and dislocating her finger. With help she managed to put in back into place and keep riding. She tried to bridge back to the leaders and was fifth at one point, but crashed again on lap three and had her wheel come off - a long fix that put her completely out of contention.
"The thing that makes it hard is that it's so hard-packed (in Canmore)," said Heisterman. "It's not like our loam where you go around a corner and it's so forgiving, it's like racing on concrete. You have to go around a sketchy, skinny corner and I just skid out. A lot of Squamish riders had a hard time, Lauren Rosser and Quinn Moberg - a lot of us were injured out there.
"It's a great course in that it's technical, but it's just different than what we're used to."
Lauren Rosser placed sixth in Junior Women. Mo Lawrence was 10th in Junior Men and Quinn Moberg 15th.
Heisterman is going to get a brace for her finger, and may do the Canadian Open Enduro this weekend for a different experience.
Whistler's Jesse Melamed raced in the Under 23 category, where he placed 16th.
There was also a relay event. Each team is comprised of one pro male, one pro female, an Under 23 rider and a junior racer. The B.C. team - Neal Kindree, Mical Dyck, Evan Guthrie and Quinn Moberg - were third, behind Ontario and a pro team.
The national downhill championships are this weekend. Many of the top Canadian riders are in Whistler for Crankworx, and will head out to Alberta after the Air Downhill on Wednesday.