While the world's best were battling on the EWS stage in Italy this weekend, the next generation of racers were just getting their feet wet at the first ever Clif Enduro Lite event at Burke Mountain in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Billed as a stress-free entry into the enduro racing world, the event brought out a big field of juniors, women, first-timers and amateurs of all ages. The vibe was relaxed and fun. Instead of the usual eye candy of high-priced carbon steeds, there were hardtails and 20-inch wheels and mid-fats and triple chainrings and plenty of smiles. The seasoned organizers at the Vittoria Eastern States Cup race series pulled together four stages with challenging transfers that tested riders without the scares and scars. Local legend Barrett Hibsham, pictured here on Stage One, couldn't resist throwing some shapes on this way to a second-place finish in the Boys 12-14 class.
A big crowd gathered for the rider meeting on a sunny and chilly morning at the base of Burke Mountain.
A group of seasoned pros was on hand to help spread the excitement and ease fears associated with racing. Among the pros were Enduro World Series regular Peter Ostroski, World Cup DH racer Alex McAndrew and ESC downhill champion Ella Skalwold. Joining them was local legend Knight Ide the director of IdeRide, a ton of the younger racers were wearing the IdeRide jersey, so he's doing something special in Northern Vermont. Vittoria ESC Enduro regulars assisting were Vicki Koch, Claire Sick and Christsonthy Kerner. The pros stayed with their racers throughout the day offering advice and encouragement.
After a taxing climb from the base of the mountain, riders faced Black Smith on the first stage. Showing excellent bike handling skills, Sara Ellen Godek took the win in the beginner women's field.
The opening stage romped through low angled woods linked by off-camber corners. Vittoria ESC enduro regular Elias Cooper topped a strong boy's 15-17 class.
A few small kickers had racers, especially the younger ones, getting air on the first stage. Zoe Heinrich-McMullen was charging hard all day and won the Girl's 12-14 field by an impressive 47-second margin.
Cornering skills were a huge asset on the winding opening track. Local ripper Ethan Mosedale took the competitive Amateur Men's group, the largest class of the day.
The bottom of the first stage wrapped up in some brushy meadows. Dillon Delano brought home a fifth-place finish in the Amateur Men's field.
A climb back up to the CCC Road took racers to the top of Stage Two. Hudson Nablo, a veteran of numerous ESC enduros this season, took a breather before dropping into Stage Two on his way to a second-place finish in the Kids' Under 8 class.
The top of the second stage began with a steep chute that was nicely handled by Anna Rutherford who took fourth in the Beginner Women's class.
The second stage was by far the shortest of the day at under two minutes. Finn Emory made the most of it and eked out a two-second win in the Kids' 9-11 field.
The second stage was a relatively new addition to the Burke trail network. Amy Ricci was all smiles as she raced to a sixth-place in the Beginner Women's class.
Logan Curtis got loose and dusty en route to a 14th place in the Boys 12-14 class.
An easy transfer climb past the top of the Sherburne Express lift brought racers to the top of Stage Three which was contested on Black Forest. Charlie Heinrich-Clark romped down the black diamond trail and took third in the Under 8 class.
Many of the youngest riders were trailed by their parents with the kids often commentating on the trail as they rode. Grace Goldfine led her father down stage three and finished in 5th-place in the Kids Under 8 group.
The Under 8 kids only raced the first three stages. Lucas Sourbeer took home the top honors for the group by a healthy margin.
A ride up the high-speed Sherburne Chair took care of part of the final transfer.
A taxing climb above the chair brought racers to Lower J-Bar and the final stage of the day.
Stage Four was the longest of the day and also the most pedally. Simon Miller just missed the win in the kids' 9-11 class by two seconds.
Telemark racer Nathan Fogell took the win for the Beginner Men. Trailing by four seconds going into the final Stage, Fogell put his fitness to good use and took the stage by 16 seconds.
The top half of Lower J-Bar swoops down a playful ridge. Riley Miller, another talented IdeRide junior, took second in the Girl's 12-14 class.
Keara Kresser looked fast all day and wound up in second for the Beginner Women by a mere four seconds.
An enthusiastic crowd of family members gathered to cheer on racers at the bottom of the mountain.
The Men's 50+ podium: Keith Killian-2nd, Stephen Stuntz-1st, Don Wheeler-3rd
Beginner Men podium: Trevor Dodge-2nd, Nathan Fogell-1st, Anthony Leone-3rd
Beginner Women podium: Keara Kresser-2nd, Sara Ellen Godek-1st, Laurie Merchant-3rd
Amateur Men podium: Mike Buonocore-2nd, Ethan Mosedale-1st, Jesse Thompson-3rd
Amateur Women podium: Tara Aucoin-2nd, Kelly Catale-1st, Vivian Buckley-3rd
Boys 15-17 podium: Elias Gillen-2nd, Elias Cooper-1st, Zack Lemieux-3rd
Girls 12-14 podium: Riley Miller-2nd, Zoe Heinrich-McMullen-1st, Alsacia Timmerman-3rd
Boys 12-14 podium: Barrett Hibsham-2nd, Daymien Ide-1st, Oliver Ogden-3rd
Kids 9-11 podium: Simon Miller-2nd, Finn Emory-1st, Tristan Murphy-3rd
Kids Under 8 podium: Hudson Nablo-2nd, Lucas Sourbeer-1st, Charlie Heinrich-Clark-3rd
As soon as they got down off the podium, the top three under 8 kids headed back to the lift for some party laps with their new friends. That's what racing is really all about, good times with good friends.
The first Clif Enduro Lite was an unqualified success. The weather, the riding and the people couldn't have been better. Look for more events like this down the road!
Words and pics by Jeb Wallace-BrodeurPhotosResultswebsiteFacebook