Test of MetalÖ.sounds like a tough race right.¬† I thought so too until I pre-rode it twice this past spring.¬† There was only one section that really tested me or to be more precise my bike.¬† I knew it would test me but I didnít think it would be that bad.¬† Dealing with 800 other riders worried me more than the course itself.¬† At the end of race day I thought differently of the Test and respected it as I should have.¬† It was a test, which I passed but not with the grade I had hoped for.
The Test of Metal is a 67k¬†mountain bike race¬†held in¬†Squamish , BC¬†.¬† Itís in its 16 year now and has grown into a massive race.¬† 1121 riders were on the start list, 827 finished, 59 people DNFíd, and 235 DNS.¬† I was lucky enough to get a first row start behind the pros.¬† This meant I was starting in the top 10% of the riders.¬† The start is in¬†Squamish, BC¬†and you ride city streets for the first 15 minutes to help spread out the race but with so many riders its still chaos when you get in the woods.¬† My great start got my to the woods in about 100 position but soon all my good luck would be taken away.¬† I flatted just 21 minutes into the race.
As I fixed my¬†flat tire¬†which involved breaking the bead of my¬†tubeless tire¬†and putting in a tube. ¬†I lost just 9 minutes.¬† 9 minutes is a pretty slow tire change but I was okay with it.¬† The real killer was the 100ís of riders who passed me in those 9 minutes.¬† As I stood pumping up my tire I listened as rider after rider went by me.¬† All I could think was, ďIím going to have to pass every one of those people again!Ē¬† The real loss here wasnít the 9 minutes fixing my tire but the immeasurable time it would take to pass those who went by me.
Once I got going I practically lost my voice saying ďOn YOUR LEFTĒ, ďLEFTĒ, ďRIGHT, ON YOUR RIGHTĒ, ďCOMING THROUGH THE MIDDLE, RIGGGGHHHTTTT!Ē ¬†I also saw I was not the only one who flatted in that area.¬† The side of the trail was filled with people fixing flats.¬† The area in which I could pass people quickly came to an end and I got stuck in a train of riders in single track with no place to pass.¬† I could hear the hands of the clock ticking away as I sat in traffic.¬† When the trail gave way to pavement once again I was like that guy in the Porsche who once he gets open road in front of him after being stuck in traffic, drops a gear and races off at 100+ mph.¬† I went into ITT mode (individual time trail) and dropped the hammer.
Dropping the hammer as I did helped me make up ground but it also taxed my back a lot sooner than if I hadn’t had to attack to get back all those positions. ¬†I soon found myself in another area that didn’t offer any room to pass. ¬†There were still so many riders that even the smallest root and just one mistake could hold up massive amounts of people behind.
I rode another 2-3 miles in areas with limited passing and tried to stay calm. ¬†I knew a pavement section was coming up. ¬†When it did I went into ITT mode once more. ¬†As soon as it began it was over and I was back in the woods. ¬†This time at least there was some room to pass. ¬†From here on out it was me and my body against the race course. ¬†The first time through the Power House feed station I felt great but I kind of knew I wouldn’t be feeling that way for long.
Once the grade started to go uphill on Bonk Hill I started to feel the power in my legs fading. ¬†I was now paying for all the chasing I had done. ¬†I was still passing more people than were passing me but I wasn’t passing as many now. ¬†Towards the top of the second climb I watched as a 15 year old passed me. ¬†We went back and forth until the trail went down hill and I lost him. ¬†The last climb after 9 mile bridge was a slow grind for me and those around me. ¬†I took comfort in knowing once to the top I’d have miles of downhill trail before getting back to the Power House feed station again.
I blasted down Ring Creep Rip trail passing as many people as I could. ¬†I realized quickly my arms were going to be a problem by the end. ¬†They were so tight and I was having trouble holding on to the bars. ¬†By the time I reached the Power House Plunge Trail I was just surviving in regards to my arms. ¬†Of course this is the most technical and rocky section of the course too. ¬†I just rode the best I could and tried not to crash. ¬†Here and there I would lose a position but I also picked some up so I was holding my ground.
By the skin of my teeth I made it back to the Power House feed station with many a close call on the way down the Power House Plunge. Once the trail went up hill again every single muscle from my knees to my hips cramped. ¬†It hurt so bad. ¬†Every cell in my body was saying, “Just stop! ¬†It’s okay, you can stop. ¬†PLEASE! stop for us!” ¬†but this young 20 year old kid was on the micro phone yelling at us to not stop. ¬†He was saying, “Everyone is cramping. ¬†We know it HURTS! ¬†Just don’t STOP!” ¬†I would learn later that almost everyone cramps in that same spot. ¬†You go down hill for so long without pedaling your legs aren’t ready for the even gentle climb through the feed station.
I made it through without stopping but I still had 2-3 miles of rocky single track to tackle. ¬†Lucky for me most people were in the same shape as me. ¬†Only a few people were able to blow by me. ¬†I felt like I could barely hold the bike in a straight line. ¬†My fore arms were so cramped I couldn’t push the shifters with my thumbs. ¬†As a result I kept mis-shifting the bike and would lost time. ¬†It also told those around me how badly I was feeling. ¬†A major “tell”. ¬†I finally got to Endo Trail just as the guy behind me crashed big time. I just heard a loud grunt and the bike hitting the ground. ¬†I took it as a lesson to stay focused a bit longer.
I reached the last “Y” in the trail that lead me to the pavement once more. ¬†I got on the road and went once more into my ITT mode. ¬†Unfortunately for me both my legs and bike were not at their prior level. ¬†I was out of gas and my bike wouldn’t go into my 3 highest gears. ¬†Two guys went by me then two more. ¬†Finally the trail went down hill again and I stormed by one of them and was able to get all of my gears. ¬†I passed a few more riders and hammered my way to the finish line in a sprint.
Honestly I was upset about the flat but so many people got them as well, I had to just accept it. ¬†My time was 3 hours and 35 minutes. ¬†I finished 34th in my 35-39 age group and 204th overall. ¬†My 9 minute flat cost me 56 positions overall and 9 in my group. ¬†Who knows how many other positions I lost playing catch up. ¬†I learned two things for when I do this race again. ¬†#1 run a beefier tire with more pressure and #2 respect the Test!
Get out there!
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