Everybody knows that Neal Kindree is fast on a bike, but it turns out he's just fast. At the Sigge's P'ayakentsut on Saturday the Squamish mountain bike athlete turned a few heads with a second place finish in the men's 50km race — Kindree's first ever cross-country race in only his second season on skinny skis.
Nobody was too surprised to see Colin Abbott cross the finish line first. Abbott, who skis with the Callaghan Valley Training Centre, is a national development team level athlete who regularly finished top 15 at the NorAm Cup level.
He completed two laps of the 25km course at Whistler Olympic Park in 2:30:47, and was actually faster the second time around. He averaged 19.8km/h from start to finish.
Kindree, who was first in the 25 to 29 group, was just 25 seconds back of Abbott after the first lap, and finished in 2:32:01. Phil Veilleneuve, a Team Salomon athlete who said he hasn't spent much time on skis lately, placed third in 2:33:26.
For Kindree — who was wearing shorts and using some borrowed equipment — the race had a lot of similarities to mountain biking.
"With all the snow last night the course was pretty soft, and it was pretty bumpy out there. You had to plan every stride and look ahead so you wouldn't get your ski caught up in the crud. It was really intense like that, so it was actually quite a lot like technical mountain biking," he said.
Kindree said he went out from the start a little heavy with food and liquid, and as a result was well behind the leaders after the first climb. He kept eating and drinking through the race, however, and he said that probably helped to keep his energy up while attacking on the second lap.
While he planned to be back on his bike the next day, Kindree said he could see himself doing more cross-country racing in the future.
"I really like it, it's so nice up here and it's great training on days where there's not a lot of good biking to be had. It's good to mix things up. I really just like racing, no matter what it is. I like to compete."
Brian May of Larch Hills Nordics — the winner of the first P'akak in 2011 — was fourth in 2:35:49, and posted the fastest second lap of any of the racers. Max Saenger of the Callaghan Winter Sports Club was fifth in 2:39:14.
The fastest member of the Whistler Nordics was Robbie Metza, 17th overall and third in the 50 to 54 age group in 3:14:02. Matteo Abel was 20th overall and third in the 40 to 44 group in 3:16:05 and William Geddes was 23rd and fifth in the 50 to 54 group in 3:19:31.