The end of an era 

Squamish's Quinn Moberg wins the final Test of Metal

click to enlarge PHOTO BY REBECCA ALDOUS - Metal tested The female and male podiums for the final Test of Metal on June 18.
  • photo by rebecca aldous
  • Metal tested The female and male podiums for the final Test of Metal on June 18.

While no course records were broken, Saturday's Test of Metal mountain bike race is one that will go down in history.

Squamish's hometown boy Quinn Moberg was the first to cross the finish line of the 67-kilometre race, marking the end of the 21-year event. Started in 1994, the Test is of one of four races put on by founder Cliff Miller and is supported by more than 300 volunteers.

With a time of two hours, 37 minutes and 26 seconds (2:37:26) it wasn't Moberg's fastest Test, but he was beaming at the finish. There was no way Moberg was going to retire without winning the last Test, he said. Moberg has ridden in multiple Test of Metals, yet never held gold.

"This was of the utmost importance to me. (The Test of Metal) is why I got into biking," he added. "It is so meaningful because of that, and I grew up watching my dad in this race and watching racers like Neal Kindree."

By the halfway mark, Moberg was in a pack with Smither's Craig Richey and Squamish's Jamie Sparling. Richey pulled ahead on the 9 Mile climb.

"Craig was climbing unbelievably today, I couldn't keep up with him at all."

Moberg overtook Richey on Endo, the last single-track trail less than 10 minutes away from the finish line.

"The conditions were super slow," Moberg said. "There were some big puddles on the Rip, so you had to slow down or you would crash."

Richey noted Moberg's knowledge of the local trails gave him a slight advantage. Ritchey ended the race 10 seconds behind Moberg with Sparling finishing two minutes and 13 seconds behind the leader.

Looking ahead, Moberg said he hopes the spirit of the race is maintained in some form.

"If I had it my way it would be great to have a UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) marathon race," he said.

Team Canada rider Sandra Walter was the first woman across the line, with a time of 3:03:17. Walter and long-time friend and second-place finisher, Valemount's Jean Ann Berkenpas, had hoped to break the three-hour mark. Walter, who is gearing up for the World Championships in Europe next week, held the lead throughout the race. She first participated in the Test of Metal as a junior racer in 1997. Walter won her first Pro/Elite Test in 2003 and then again 10 years later.

"Winning the last one feels pretty awesome," Walter said, noting she feels honoured to be on the leaderboard with riders such as Olympian and world mountain bike champion gold medallist Alison Sydor.

The first three-quarters of the race saw a battle for second place, Berkenpas said, noting third place winner Nanaimo's Carey Mark and fourth finisher Whistler's Chloe Cross put on the pressure.

"I actually struggled on 9 Mile, but then I managed to pull it together," she said.

Berkenpas finished with a time of 3:08:46, with Mark coming in at 3:11:22 and Cross seconds behind her.

The Test of Metal is much more than a race, it brings people together, Berkenpas said. That couldn't have rung more true than for Whistler's Laurissa Stebeleski, who signed up for the race before being diagnosed with cancer. Having undergone two surgeries and 14 chemotherapy sessions, Stebeleski met her goal of being on the start line. Her parents, Jerry and Lydia, flew out from Manitoba to cheer her on.

"It is pretty powerful for us," Lydia said, her eyes tearing up.

"Somebody commented to her that she is already a winner," Jerry said. "And she is. This means so much to her."

Although it was the last Test, Saturday was the first time its founder had ridden in it, Miller said, adding he's usually too busy behind the scenes. His friends suited up his 1988 mountain bike with an electric motor just for the grand finale.

"It is the end of an era. I think it will hit me tomorrow at the volunteer party," Miller said.

The race was meant to showcase Squamish's best trails, Miller said. Mountain biking has vastly changed over the race's history, along with the quality of new trails that have been built in the community, he noted.

"The Test course is out-of-date. Somebody can pick up their own event and design a better route," said Miller.

The Test of Metal created a biking movement in Squamish, Squamish mayor Patricia Heintzman added. Much of the community's trail network owes its existence to the event, she said adding, "A phoenix will emerge."


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