Monday, June 21, 2010

The Test of Metal

Squamish is a former logging town that is on an inlet 45min north of Vancouver that now relies on tourism instead of logging. Squamish is mostly known for its rock climbing and is sought by climbers from all over the world. Squamish also is known for its trail system has some of the most epic trails in North America. Squamish has the largest piece of granite that is on the east side of town, which has housing development built on top of it. A saying in Squamish is “In Squamish you are either up or down”. The people of Squamish are very friendly, easy to chat with, and easy going.

Geoff Kabush/ Max Plaxton on right

The Test of Metal has been around since 1991 and is still the most popular Mountain Bike race in Canada (also the largest). The racecourse is 67km of double track, single track(37km), and some pavement. The race starts at the Recreation centre and goes out into the outlying area of Squamish. This year’s race sold out in 24 minutes, and has 900+ racers racing in it. One of unique things about this race is it is all community operated. And the whole town of Squamish gets involved in organizing and running this Epic event.

9 of the previous winners of T.O.M.

Matt Hadley

The race starts at 11:00am with 925 racers that showed up for the Test of Metal. The forecast was +21 and the trails today would prove to be the fastest ever. At the start line you could feel the energy as the racers were lining up. In the background you could hear the bagpipes and the Natives with their drums, it was an interesting contrast, where else would this happen besides at the TOM? (Test of Metal). The start line had Max Plaxton, Geoff Kabush, Neal Kindree, Carter Hovey, Chad Miles, Ruedi Shnyder, Andrew Kyle, Rickt Ferereau, and Michael Pruner who were all past winners of the TOM. Other notables at the start were Stefan Widmer, Marty Lazarski, Andreas Hestler, Kevin Calhoun, Jeff Neilson, Evan Guthrie, Corey Wallace, Kris Sneddon, Matt Hadley, Thomas Skinner, Greg Day, and up with the men was Catharine Pendrel (current World Cup leader) and Catherine Vipond (current Canada Cup leader).

Out of the starting gate

Off the start and until the single-track entry the lead riders were taking turns up front and jockeying for position, but no one was able to hold the front all the way. Strategy for the road section was just to hang on until the single track. As the riders get closer to the single-track the road gets steeper and steeper which puts some separation in the group of riders. The group has really strung out as we crest the top. Watching all of this from the back of the pace vehicle while taking photos puts a different perspective on it. It wouldn't be fair to cheer for one rider when you know half of the Elite field. You can see the faces grimacing from the pace that they are going at.

Near the top before the first single-track section there was lady in her mid 50's that was racing, she pulled aside and got off her bike and had looked like she was going to quit. One of the racers that was coming up from behind stopped and said, 'don't quit now, we can do this race together'. She wiped the tears from her eyes and mounted her bike. At the finish I did see her come in, and she did complete the race. It is things like this that make the TOM so special. There were stories of people giving other racers CO2 cartridges, tubes, help changing flats, spare chain links, and overall support for one another. The TOM isn't just a race, it is an experience.

View of Squamish

The first section of road after the single-track there was quite a large crowd of spectators, about 200 or so on the street sides. Geoff Kabush was in the lead and at this point Stefan Widmer was only 1:39min behind. Both Stefan and Geoff were off to a good start. At this point Catharine Pendrel was in the lead for women, and would be for the whole race.

The next stop was at the pump station, but with all of the spectators and racers it was difficult to get there in time for the lead riders. The TOM is not the most spectator friendly race, there are only a few points to see the racers, and the spectator spots are far out of the way. Aside from this the race was a huge success with Catharine Pendrel and Geoff Kabush winning their categories. (Elite Women & Elite Men)


At the finish all of the racers had smiles on their faces, you would think after such a sufferfest that they would have the look of dismay or defeat. It was all smiles and no cries, the TOM is a race that brings people together and it doesn’t matter if you have a $10,000 bike or a $1000 bike, there is mutual respect and camaraderie between everyone.

Would like to thank Paul Demers, Cliff Miller and all of the organizers and volunteers. Without them this race wouldn't be so special as it is. Also the TOM is the largest race in Canada.

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