So the Test of Metal is complete for this year and in all regards it was a huge success! None of our group of friends that entered got hurt, almost all finished with times exceeding their expectations and only a few had to deal with the frustration of mechanicals and/or flats.
The anthem finished, the tape dropped and we were off. The pace was pretty fast but I had a much better start this year than last and I was keeping the leaders in sight until we hit the trails. From there I followed wheels up and down the loose doubletrack until we hit Jack's Trail and made sure to put small surge in right before entering the singletrack. It turned out to be a good decision because not too far up Jack's Trail the group of four that I was with dropped the riders behind us.
We exited at Alice Lake and quickly formed paceline along the paved roads. As we hit the short hill passing the kiosk I put the gas on and opened a gap on the other four riders. Up ahead I saw Duncan one of my team mates from the Specialized/ Dizzy Cycles road team but unfortunately his being a Cat.1 racer didn't allow me to bridge up to him and after about 5 minutes the group of four had caught up to me and we began riding together again.
We were all together through Dead End Loop, Rob's Corners, Cliff's Corners and back down to Roller Coaster with the order switching up here and there.
Blasting out of Roller Coaster onto the road we quickly formed another paceline and most of us took the time to drink and eat at that point which surprisingly I was able to accept eagerly.
We all remained together until the base of 9-mile where we came through the feed zone and Car passed me a fresh bottle. As we came through a lady wsa counting riders and I found out that I was in 25th place at that point so I got pretty psyched. Unfortunately, in our group there was a petite female named Catherine Pendrel who happened to have won a World Cup XC race and also came 4th at the Bejing Olympics in XC mtb. The cool thing ws that she slowly and methodically began to ride each and every one of us off her wheel and dropped the entire group before strting to reel in the riders up the road...it was an impressive display of power and mental tenacity!
Anyways, at that point I decided that it would be best to ride my own race and not kill myself to try and keep up with these jackrabbits on the climb.
I ended up getting passed by a few fellas on the rest of the climb but overall was happy with my pace and then wsa extremely pleased with how the Ring Creek Rip went. I always find that part of the course a bit intimidating since I get bounced around a fair bit through some of the rockier sections with being on a hard tail. The Plunge followed nd although I totally botched much of the top section, I slowly found my groove and got smoother as I descended.
Exiting onto teh dirt road, I hammered down towards Crumpit Woods and gritted my teeth as the cramp set in. It wsan't as bad as last year so I was happy about that and I wsn't forced to get off my bike and stop racing to stretch out. Although I rode Crumpit Woods horribly being so tired at that point, I got through it and eventually popped out of endo into Raven's Plateau atop the Smoke Bluffs.
I passed one guy and bridged up to the next guy on teh road and together we hammered our wy down to the Smoke Bluff sparking lot. He eneded up getting a bit of a gap on me that I couldn't close down but at least no one else caught me and I crossed the line in 2hrs 54 min 50 sec, well inside my goal of 2:59:59! I was super happy, as that time also put me 34th overall which I thought was pretty respectable.
Anyways, I didn't feel as crappy as I did last year after the race so that was a treat also.
So, another Test down and hopefully next year Cam will join the brigade and we can drive each other to a faster time again!