Squamish's Neal Kindree knows a thing or two about riding in the rain, and easily bested the competition in some of the worst weather in Test of Metal history on Saturday to take the title.
With rain, mud and cool temperatures to contend with, Kindree also set a personal best on the 67km Test of Metal course by finishing in 2:34:24 — two minutes faster than his time last year, 10 minutes faster than 2006 and six minutes faster than 2007. He picked up nine of 10 on-course primes totalling $900, plus the $250 first prize cheque.
This year's win is a vindication of sorts for the 24-year-old. In 2007, Kindree was the top up-and-coming rider in Canada, selected to represent Canada at the World Championships. At the time he was a sponsored Sport Canada funded rider with his eye on the Olympics.
Then in early 2008 he injured his knee in a logging road crash, and would lose all of 2009 and most of the 2010 race season as he recovered. In 2011 he re-established himself as a rider to watch with wins at events like the NimbyFifty and a fourth-place result at nationals — which temporarily gained him a berth on the national team for the World Championships, and an outside shot at representing Canada at the 2012 Olympics. But he was later bumped from the squad after other riders with more Canada Cup points appealed.
This season Kindree has sponsorship again through the Specialized/EMD Sorono Team, as well as Ryders Eyewear and Corsa Cycles. With the 2012 Olympics out of reach, Kindree's goal this season was to win as many pro events and cash prizes as he can, and to work his way back to the national team. He missed nationals this weekend in Quebec to ride the Test, but has no regrets.
"I'm actually stoked about it (his decision to race the Test)," he said. "I'm super happy with my choice. That's a lot of travel for an hour and 20-minute race, flying to the other side of the country, when I grew up in Squamish and there was the Test to ride. How could I walk away from something like that?"
Kindree instead will travel to Mont-Sainte-Anne this weekend for the UCI World Cup, where he's looking to finish with a personal best. After that he's returning to the West Coast where he hopes to be a factor in the seven-day BC Bike Race.
Meanwhile, he said the rain and wet conditions probably slowed the field down a little, but likely didn't affect the outcome of the race. "It makes for a slightly harder day, but it was really fine and I quite like riding in the rain," he said. "If it's going to be wet my preference is for it to pour — it's fun when it rains like that, better than the odd little sprinkling or drizzle of rain. It's more epic, I guess. It was a lot of fun."