The main event of the Squamish Mountain Bike Festival, the Test of Metal, sold out a record three months in advance this year, a sign of things to come for a festival thats been growing in size and stature since the first large scale event was first planned on a napkin by Cliff Miller and Kevin McLane in late 1995.
Last year the UCI officially sanctioned the Test of Metal race, giving racers an opportunity to gain the points they need to compete at World Cup events. Although the number of entries for the general public is capped at 800, the race still accepts registration from carded racers until the day of the event.
This years Test of Metal is also the third race in a new four-race B.C. Marathon series sanctioned by Cycling B.C. this year. Only race courses that are 45 kilometres or longer are part of the series.
For the first time ever, the racers will be joined by participants in the new Ultra Test of Metal race, a 100 km epic that begins three hours earlier than the Test of Metal, before joining the race in progress. In total the 30 participants allowed in the inaugural Ultra race will climb more than 8,000 feet.
But the Test of Metal is only one part of the Squamish Mountain Bike Festival.
Friday, June 18
The annual Intergalactic Chariot Race Championships kick off the Squamish Mountain Bike Festival on Friday evening. The action takes place at Squamish Centre and Cleveland Avenue with cyclists pulling chariots up, down and around obstacles while the crowd goes wild.
Saturday, June 19
The 67 km Test of Metal gets underway with a mass start at Brennan Park at 11 a.m. sharp, and the top riders should reappear looking tired in about three hours or so. The Teen Test, for youths aged 9-14, will get underway a few minutes later on a shorter course including the last section of the Test of Metal race. There are three categories the PeeWee Pounders are 9-10, the Minime Mashers are 11-12 and the Teen Test is for ages 13-14.
Sunday, June 20
The smallest riders take over on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. with the annual Mini Metal around the parking lot at IGA. This is for kids under the age of 9.
The freeriders take over in the afternoon with the Test of Metal Trials Championships at the Triack site. Last year the course included boulders, tires, logs and an artificial waterfall section.
The other event to watch for is the annual Rockstar Invitational Freeride Dash for Cash, which is sponsored by the Tantalus Bike Shop.
This event is invitation only, starting on Cougar Ridge in the Valleycliffe area.
Some of the riders invited this year include Kyle Ritchie, Joe Schwartz, JJ Desormeaux, Aaron Kemp, Big Red Ted, and Shaums March.
"Its growing every year," said Manus from Tantalus. "Last year the numbers were pretty big. You pretty much have to have a local address to get an invite so we can keep the numbers down, but its still growing the way races should grow."
Spectators can park at the end of Westway Avenue, and follow the volunteers to the course.
For more information on the Test of Metal or any of the other Squamish Mountain Bike Festival events, visit www.testofmetal.com.