The race is on for the Test of Metal 


Who will it be? Will it be Geoff Kabush, arguably Canada's top mountain biker, a two-time Olympian who is earning big points on the World Cup? He also won the Test of Metal in 2008 and knows the course well.

Or will it be Max Plaxton, who won the race in '08 and '09, setting course records both times?

Or will it be Carter Hovey, who won the race in '96, '02 and '04?

Or Michael Pruner, who won the race in '97?

Or Ricky Federau, the 2005 champion?

Or maybe, if everything aligns just right, it could be Neal Kindree, who won the race in 2006 and 2007 before he was sidelined for two seasons with a knee injury.

Or possibly Colin Kerr. He's never won the race but has been in the top five of every big race in the corridor for the last few years and knows the course as well as anybody.

There are rumours that Whistler's Chad Miles, who won in 1999 and 2000, will take part this year, as well as 2003 winner Andrew Kyle.

"We're getting close to having all the men who have won since the long course was created in 1996," said race director Cliff Miller.

The women's side is looking just as competitive.

The obvious favourite is Catharine Pendrel, who has two World Cup wins this season and is leading the overall UCI standings. She also won the Test of Metal in 2007 and 2009, setting a new women's course record, and was the fastest female in the recent NimbyFifty by a long mile.

Joining her at the start line are Wendy Simms, the 2008 winner, and 1998 winner Linda Robichaud.

Anything can happen on the 67 km course - a flat, a cramp, a mechanical. Riders that go out hard can win one of 10 $100 primes on the course, but that only increases the chances of bonking on Nine Mile Hill or cramping through the Crumpit (a.k.a. Cramp-it) Woods.

There are no other races like the Test of Metal. This year the 200 reserved local spots were sold in December in a matter of hours, with the remaining 800 open spots getting snapped up in a record 25 minutes.

"I really have no idea why it happens," said Miller. "I think it's a combination of things, the racers liking the race, the organization, and because of the community and volunteers here, so it goes full circle.

"For the last four or five years we've had a New Year's Day dinner to watch (online registration) and I think the first year we were sold out before dinner was served, and it was, 'Oh my God.' Now it's all about how fast it's going to go. We had 30 or 40 test pilots (race organizers) at the party this year, and all of us were shaking our heads."


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