More than 800, and possibly as many as 1,000 riders are expected at the start line of the 2008 North Shore Credit Union Test of Metal, which rolls Saturday, June 14 in Squamish.
With organizers always looking to add new sections of singletrack and make the race better, it’s never the same race twice. The distance, 67 km, is the only real constant, as well as the huge climbs and technical descents that made the race famous. Riders take anywhere from two and a half to more than six hours to finish the course, which starts at Brennan Park Recreation Centre at 11 a.m. and finishes at the Logger Sports Grounds.
The course is similar to last year’s, with a few small reroutes to bring the amount of singletrack up to 35 km. It gets underway with an uphill climb into Garibaldi Highlands, and Jacks Trail to Alice Lake. At the top of the Corners riders get their first decent on Rob’s and Cliff’s Corners, which have had berms added for safety and speed, followed by the reworked Rollercoaster trail.
“The old hike-a-bike is still there if riders want to walk up, or riders can choose to ride up Rollercoaster which runs parallel to the trail and has switchbacks to the top,” said Test of Metal spokesman Paul Demers.
From there the course follows the road to Quest University before passing through the Powerhouse Party zone feed station — a popular spot for spectators. It’s also the first cutoff, and riders have two and a half hours to get to this point.
Up next is the notorious Nine Mile Hill climb, followed by Bonk Hill and the second feed station and cut-off 45 minutes later. The trail then descends the Ring Creek Rip to the occasionally steep and always technical Powerhouse Plunge — also in good shape after some work earlier this year.
Usually the cramps kick in at this point as riders head into the Crumpet Woods, and a selection of trails including Farther Side. Following that there’s the Smoke Bluff downhill, and some easy but sometimes slippery trail to the finish line.
“Everything is in great shape this year,” said Demers, who pre-rode most of the course last week. “The trails have been buffed up a bit, and are in the best shape they’ve been in years. They’ve held up well with the weather we’re having, and we’re predicting a fast, flow-y ride this year.”
New this year is the decision to spread out the field by half hour intervals, based on how long riders expect it will take them to reach the finish. The staggered start was added after a survey of riders suggested that the previous mass start was stressful.
“We’re going to try a self-seeding system and see how that works,” said Demers. “We think most people will buy into the idea and seed themselves appropriately. If everyone is honest about their finishing time and goes in the appropriate slot it will get rid of the anxiety we see at the start when we’re loading the chute and a bit of the craziness when the race gets underway.”
Organizers also announced more prize money for the top five men and women, with $250 for first place, $150 for second, $100 for third, $75 for fourth and $50 for fifth. If a rider leads from the beginning and wins all 10 primes on the course they could ride away with $1,250.
A strong field is expected, as always, and the men’s title is up for grabs this year with defending champion Neal Kindree sidelined with a knee injury. Many of Canada’s top cross-country men and women are already in Italy training for the world championships, so the race should be wide open.
Also new this year is the decision to bring a festival feel back to the weekend, with a Pre-Test Festival on Friday, June 13 in downtown Squamish. The festival features a pedal-powered DJ, a bike limbo contest, and a wood pump track from Endless Biking of North Vancouver, funny bike races and bike poker.
“We want to make this a real family event,” said Pre-Test organizer Sheila Cassels. “There are so many different events to participate in, from funny bike races to bike poker. But I think that the pump track that we’re having in the Sears mall parking lot might be the highlight, especially for spectators.”
The pump track will be open from 6 p.m. on Friday to 5 p.m. on Saturday. All ages are welcome to try the track, although kids under 18 will need a parent to sign their waiver.
The pump track is a circuit where riders pump instead of pedal their bikes to create momentum over bumps and through corners.
Sign-on for Pre-Test events is also in the Sears parking lot, starting 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
For more information on the Test of Metal or Pre-Test Festival, visit www.testofmetal.com.