Do you ever get the feeling that some things are just not meant to be? For me, Test of Metal might be one of those things. The first and only other time I raced the 67km 800-person mass-start race was in 2008. That year I was having a great race until flatting out. I was really excited to give Test another try this year. After racing Gearjammer a couple times since '08, I've gotten to know the Squamish trails pretty well.
Whitney and I loaded up the civic friday morning and headed up to Squamish. The quick 2.5 hour drive from Bellingham made me wonder why I don't ride up there more often. After meeting Patrick and Deanna and setting up camp, Whitney and I hit some nearby trails. White Rabbit, Wonderland, and the Dump trails were rooty, rocky, and fun. I never cease to be amazed by the number of cedar ladder bridges on the trails.
Friday night the pattering of rain on the tent woke us up. Not letting up until morning before our start, the trails were soaked. Lining up in front of 800 people at the start line makes Test of Metal a truly special event. The race started out with a few miles of pavement as we climbed up through some neighborhoods. Tons of people were out in their front yards cheering. Entering the first dirt surfaces of the race, everyone sprinted hard for position. I saw my heart rate the highest I have ever seen in a race: 198 bpm!
As we continued to climb, now on dirt, a lead group formed that included Max Plaxton(Specialized), Neal Kindree(Devinci), Kris Sneddon(Kona), Chris Sheppard(Rocky Mountain), and myself. After a short downhill for some recovery, we climbed up "Jack's trail"-the first singletrack of the race. With Plaxton on the front, the elastic started to stretch between everyone on his wheel. Fully in the pain cave, I let some space open between Sneddon and my front wheel. Sheppard came around me and filled it in, but I struggled to hold the pace. Coming out of the trail onto Alice Lake road, I was about 10 seconds behind. Seeing the lead of the race slowly ride away from you has to be one of the most agonizing feelings in a race.
From the Test of Metal website.
In no-man's land, I rode steadily for the next few miles, until being caught by Marty Lazarski(Devinci), Kevin Calhoun(Rocky Mountain), and an unknown Blue-Cycles rider. Following Marty down "Cliff's Corners" and "Roller Coaster" was awesome! Canadians know how to descend, that's for sure! The tunnel of cheering spectators lining "Roller Coaster" was the highlight of the whole race for me.
Heading through the feed zone(thank you for the bottle Deanna!) we soon hit "9-mile," the infamously long climb of the race. By the top, Marty and I were together with nobody else around. Following the Canadian down "Ring Creek Rip" at breakneck speeds, I heard the heartbreaking hiss that can only be one thing; a flat tire. Pulling over, I did whatever I could to fix the flat. Patrick even dropped me his Co2 when he went by, but in the end, I had to put a tube in and was only able to pump it up to about 20 psi. It was enough to get me down the "Powerhouse Plunge" and part-way through "Crumpit Woods," before I flatted the tube and had no other option than to run and walk. After about 45 minutes, I finally reached the finish line in 196th place.
It's always disappointing to have mechanical problems in a race, but it really is just another part of the sport. One thing that makes mountain bike racing so special to me is the self-supported aspect that comes from the roots of mountain biking in the wilderness. Plus, when I think about it, I was really overdue for a flat tire. The funny thing is, the last time I can remember flatting in a mountain bike race was during Test of Metal in 2008!
Whitney kicked-butt and finished 2nd in her age group, despite her "lack of riding!" Patrick finished strong for a top-20 in his first Test of Metal. Other highlights of the weekend include great gas mileage (45mpg!) and really delicious cappuccinos from Galileo coffee in Britania Beach.
Full results: here