It's like he never left.
After dominating the Orecrusher two weeks earlier, Squamish's Neal Kindree had some tough competition for the NimbyFifty in Pemberton this past Saturday. In the end, Kindree had the lead on the final sprint and took the win by close to a minute over Kevin Calhoun, Neal's 2:15:59 to Kevin's 2:16:52. Greg Day was third in 2:19:03.
Not bad for a guy who missed almost two full seasons with a knee injury and at one point didn't know if he'd ever return to racing.
"It was a good ride, but I'm definitely a little exhausted," said Kindree on Monday. "The Big Nimby climb was the good part for me. I rode a hardtail, so I got slaughtered on the second half of the course when we started descending."
Kindree plans to do all of the Hell of a Series events that he can get to, and is also looking outside the corridor for the first time in three years. He's planning to race in the nationals in Canmore in July, followed by a pair of Canada Cup events in Edmonton and Panorama.
While a good result at nationals or in a Canada Cup would get Kindree closer to where he was before he injured his knee, he's taking it one race at a time.
"I don't have one race that I'm focused on, or two or three, I'm just racing this year," he said. "I have no goals set as far as what I want to achieve. I'm just making the effort to train well, to not get sick, not get hurt. If I go into a race, I'm not entering it to get a training day, I'm going to do my best to win, but after three years of not doing much I don't know what to expect."
Kindree said his injury is still continuing to improve a little each year, although he's treating it as a chronic issue he might have for the rest of his life. Luckily, he said, it feels best when he's riding a bike.
"Cycling is the best activity I do, and I'm grateful for that," he said. "I can ride hard for quite a while, but if I stand on my feet for a few hours it gets sore. Biking seems to be the best thing for it."
Kindree knew the NimbyFifty race course after taking part last year and came in with a plan of gaining as big a gap as he could on the climbs. At one point he was told he had more than three minutes, although he knew that the gap would be a lot smaller after the descents. "You can't ride the same lines on a hardtail as you would on a dual suspension," he explained.