Although it's not a factory team event, it was hard not to notice the presence that the Kona team had at the 2013 BC Bike Race, with both top men and the top women in the seven-stage race.
On the final day of racing in Whistler, America rider Spencer Paxson took the checkered flag after Erik Skovgaard Knudsen of Denmark overshot the last turn into the finish line. Kris Sneddon, the overall title not in doubt, held up and waited at the line to let Knudsen finish second, then crossed a second later to win his second overall BC Bike Race title. He also won the overall in 2011.
Kindree's own story came to an end on the sixth day of racing. He was less than two minutes back of Sneddon coming into a 50km course in Squamish, his own backyard, and set a blistering pace from the start that Sneddon said nearly broke him. But Kindree had come down with a stomach bug the previous day, and was eventually forced to pull out.
Sneddon was happy with the win, but would rather have raced Kindree to the finish.
"It feels good (to win), but it really sucks that Neal wasn't able to finish and that he had to pull out," he said. "He was riding really strong. I would have liked to beat him, of course, but beat him when he's fully good and healthy. I'm happy though, it's been a long time since I've won anything and it was time to get a win."
Sneddon said it helped on the first day to have a team as well in a few sections here and there, including the sprint to the finish on the last day. However, he said the course has so much singletrack that team tactics were impossible for the most part.
His favourite day was Powell River, and a setup where the racers slept, started and finished on the beach. His hardest day was the hot first day in Cumberland.
"Cumberland was a pretty hard day, just a lot of climbing and not a lot of shade at the start, and the first quarter of Squamish was nuts," said Sneddon. "Neal attacked before he pulled out and I really thought that might be it for me, I was really struggling to stay with him."
Staying healthy through seven days of racing is tough, and Sneddon said the key to keeping his energy up was to eat non-stop, every hour, and taking care of himself. The race organizers brought massage tables and physiotherapists along on the tour, and Sneddon would use a foam roller after every stage to stretch his muscles out, and wear compression socks and tight to get his blood flowing.
Having a mechanic travelling with you to clean and tune his muddy bike after every stage was also a bonus.
On the women's side, the last stage went to New Zealand's Kim Hurst, but the overall belonged to Wendy Simms. Simms won the first six stages and had 18 minutes on Hurst heading into the short, final day of racing in Whistler.
Simms, who hasn't had much training or racing this year, said it was a tougher battle than her time gap showed.
"Every day Kim would start super hard and storm by me on the hills, and I would just try to keep her in sight and try catch up on the flat bits where I was a little faster, and then try to pass her on the downhills," she said. "It was the same thing every day, and today (Whistler) there just wasn't enough downhill for me. (Hurst) is an incredible racer and she was tough every day, and always came back fighting. It turned into a really fun race, actually.
Simms' favourite section was a new singletrack descent in the Roberts Creek area, but she said she enjoyed every day. "The organizers did a great job and the selection of trails was amazing," she said. "Every day was a little different."
There were also 13 timed downhill enduro sections over the seven days of racing, and Simms had the lead in that after the first six stages.
Official times and results to be posted when available.
CORRECTION: In the original story we said that Kris Sneddon placed second in the 2012 event to Neal Kindree when he did not race last year. Second in 2012 went to Chris Sheppard. We apologize for the error.