The conditions were perfect for last weekend’s Test of Metal bike race — the recent rains made the ground tacky for climbs and descents, the Crumpet Woods puddles mostly dried out with the sun and wind, and a cool breeze kept the temperatures moderate right to the finish.
The result was a record-setting day, as Victoria’s Max Plaxton beat the previous course record on the men’s side by nearly five minutes. His time of two hours, 31 minutes and 46 seconds beat the time of nearly 2:37 set by Whistler’s Chad Miles in the 2000 race. Not that any two Tests of Metal are comparable, with minor changes to the course and upgrades to the trails each year, but it’s still an impressive ride. Plaxton averaged almost 27 km/h from start to finish, which includes over 1,200 metres of climbing and 35 km of singletrack bike trails.
In fact, Plaxton wasn’t the only rider to break the record. Martin Lazarski and Stefan Widmer, finishing second and third, posted times of 2:35:57 and 2:36:09 respectively.
On the women’s side, Nanaimo’s Wendy Simms was the first woman to finish under three hours with a time of 2:56:35. She beat the previous record of 3:10 set by Alison Sydor on a muddy day in 2005, while second place finisher Jean Anne McKirdy was second in a record-breaking 3:03:08.
Cliff Miller, the Test of Metal race director, credited the amount of trail work for the faster than usual times.
“We’ve had hundreds of hours of volunteer and paid work done on the course this year,” he said. “I think that the results speak for themselves. It was worth the effort.”
Plaxton, who is heading to the world championships in Italy this weekend, had never raced the Test of Metal before. He rode the trail six days before the race for the first time, showed up at the start too late to warm up, and headed out without knowing the names of any of the trails — he referred to the famous Powerhouse Plunge as that “steep, awesome, technical trail with all the switchbacks” after the Ring Creek Rip.
Plaxton didn’t set out to break any records, but treated it as a training ride for Italy.
“I trained really hard all this week, which is kind of good for me,” he said. “I find that when I train hard I feel pretty good on race day.”
He rode with a large group up the first climb, and led the first attack of the day that narrowed the lead group to four riders by Alice Lake. By the time they finished the climb up Rock and Roll the lead group was down to three — Plaxton, Martin Lazarski and Stefan Widmer. Plaxton managed to break away on Nine Mile Hill, and wasn’t challenged again through the end of the race.