TOM report from Natasha Cowie

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Twenty-four hours before the start of the 2015 Test I was standing in the office kitchen eating bison jerky while I watched clouds roll in over the North Shore peaks. This looks like west coast weather, I thought. Good for a west coast mountain bike race. Then I went back to my desk and wrote “water bottles” and “Skratch” on my Steed Grocery List, and wrote “vacuum car” on my List of Things to Do. (Spoiler alert: car is not clean.)

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Slightly less than a day later, I stood in the massive start corral during the moment of silence before the race. The silence of hundreds poised to spring forward was so charged with energy it felt like a physical force. Then the Canadian national anthem – always a bit of a surprise and thrill for me since I’m used to the American anthem – then we were off. The roads were lined with spectators yelling and waving signs. Most of the spectators were wearing psychedelic wigs and/or capes and/or were Sasquatch. (More than one Sasquatch sighting along this course.) The Green Machine was well-represented in the field. We hit gravel doubletrack fast and started the race in earnest. Road tactics were going on, there were packs and drafting and sprints for hole shots onto singletrack. The race was astonishingly fast – at least until 9 Mile Hill. But cloud cover and slightly damp gravel made for a relatively non-torturous climb. Gorgeous descent along Ring Creek Rip, pinned down the Plunge, and then one last push through the surreal landscape of Crumpit Woods and Smoke Bluffs to the finish.

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If a mountain bike race could be described as luxurious, this would be it. Usually in a race I have to flip the mental override switch – “Thirsty? No you’re not thirsty, you’re fine, don’t touch that bottle, you have 2 oz of water left and 20 km to go, you’re NOT thirsty, nope nope nope…” But there were so many Test feed zones that I could drink all the water I wanted. The spectators and volunteers at the Test are absolutely phenomenal, all of the community support feels great. Huge thanks to the crews at Steed and Suspension Werx, who did a major bike overhaul for me in the week before the race. It was in flawless condition and the suspension was dialed. Also, thanks to everyone who was cheering me on, in person or in spirit. I had a ton of support from my coworkers at Hatfield Consultants and the Marx Conditioning cohort.

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A few gear notes: This was my first race wearing my new POC Octal helmet and it was awesome. So much colour! So much ventilation! So many places to put my sunglasses! And the design allows effective hair management for people with ponytail/braid situations like me. I’ve also been loving Muve chain lube (made in Canada!). It’s light and clean but it stays on even through 3+ hour races.

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All Images Highshot Adventure Photography www.highshot.org