With heavy rains the day before the 11 th annual North Shore Credit Union Test of Metal there was something to be said for being at the front of the pack:
"(The Powerhouse Plunge) was pretty wet, almost the wettest Id ever seen it, but its not that bad when youre one of the first guys down," said 2006 Test champion Neal Kindree. "Its the guy whos the 500 th down who I really feel bad for, everything just turns to muck."
Kindree used his local knowledge of the trails to wait out Seamus McGrath, one of Canadas top cross country racers for the past decade, on his way to the finish.
McGrath had the lead coming to the end of the singletrack, with Kindree on his back wheel. When they came out on the road, Kindree blew by McGrath, who was riding the course for the first time and wasnt entirely ready for the sprint to the finish.
"It was extremely close," said Kindree. "Seamus was third at the Commonwealth Games, and hes an amazing rider. I basically rode on his back wheel wherever I could, and on the last 50 feet of Endo I turned it on so I would pass by (Seamus) at the end of the trail with a lot of speed and from there I kept up the sprint to the line. Im so happy."
Kindree is a Squamish local, and after a breakout season last year he is recognized as one of the top young riders in Canada. He finished a close second in last years Test to Ricky Federau, who was the reigning Under 23 national champion. Kindree was at 18 at the time, but age has never been an issue.
"I think Ive been capable of winning this race for the last two years, but it just didnt happen," he said. "A lot of stuff happens on a long ride like this, things dont always go as you plan. Thats racing. But Ive been doing this (the Test) since I was 12, and Ive wanted to win it so bad since the first time I did it."
But while hes always dreamed of winning his hometown epic, Kindrees goals have grown almost as tall as he has. While the Test of Metal was a big goal coming into the season, hes also looking ahead to the World Cup race in Quebec next weekend, the national championships at Sun Peaks, and the World Championships in New Zealand. A little further down the road hes looking to the Olympics in 2008.
McGrath said he was happy with his race, given that he was riding the course for the first time, and was very happy for Kindree.