The ProXCT and Bubba Trophy Series seasons wrapped up during two days of picture-perfect racing in Vermont this past weekend. An international field of racers, including former Olympians, World and National Champions and a host of World Cup racers enjoyed ideal conditions as many elite racers used the event as a warm-up for next weekend's World Championship race a few hours north in Mont-Sainte Anne, Quebec. The Eastern Grind track has long been praised for its technicality and proved a worthy challenge for the field. A strong contingent from Down Under was particularly impressive with Australians taking the top step on both elite podiums Saturday. The regional Bubba Trophy Series was also on hand to wrap up its season with numerous points battles being decided on Sunday.
The Catamount Outdoor Family Center host venue is a bucolic riding destination just minutes from the bustling center of Burlington, Vermont's largest city. The non-profit outdoor center offers more than 20 miles of trails on 500 acres of scenic wooded and open terrain.
A big crowd of spectators turned out on Saturday to watch the elite racers tackle the ProXCT track. Many were there to root for local speedster Lea Davison who lives a stones throw from Catamount and grew up racing the venue.
The elite women's race was first up with a tightly-contested field charging off the starting line. Mexican National Team member Daniela Campuzano Chávez Peón grabbed the holeshot heading into the first corner and stayed strong for a 3rd-place result.
Australian Rebecca McConnell, from the Primaflor Mondraker team, jumped out to an early lead that she would not relinquish over the course of six grueling laps.
Last year's winner and fan favorite Lea Davison, from the Team ShoAir Twenty20 squad, had her lines dialed in and was in hot pursuit of McConnell all afternoon but was unable to close the gap.
One of the most successful mountain bikers in U.S. history was on track Saturday. Georgia Gould, a two-time Olympian (winning a bronze at the 2012 game in London) and five-time National Champion, was clearly having more fun than any other competitor on the track and earned an impressive 7th-place result.
Canadian U23 World Cup athlete Juliette Tetrault finished just behind Gould in the eighth spot.
Argentina native and Stan's Pivot Pro Team member Sofia Gomez Villafane took home the final podium spot with a 5th-place result.
Four-time Marathon National Champion Rose Grant, also riding on the Stan's Pivot Pro Team, had a strong ride and earned the fourth step on the podium.
Team ShoAir Twenty20's Savilia Blunk had an ugly spill in loose gravel but gutted out a sixth-place finish.
Australian National Champion McConnell would not be denied on Saturday as she topped runner-up Davison by 34 seconds. "This was a really cool course. It's full on the whole way, any lapse in concentration and it would catch you out. It was a really good opportunity to get a hard race in before Worlds. It was great to be racing in Lea's home town with all her fans and supporters, they really get on board with everybody."
The women's elite podium from left: Rose Grant-4th, Lea Davison-2nd, Rebecca McConnell-1st, Daniela Campuzano Chávez Peón-3rd, Sofia Gomez Villafane-5th
The elite men were next to hit the track with seven laps on the 2.75-mile course.
2017 Junior World Champion Cameron Wright, with the Giant Factory Off-Road Team, snatched the early lead as he pump-tracked through the rock garden section. Wright would finish in 5th-place.
Lukas Vrouwenvelder, a six-time National Champion, grabbed the lead on the second lap and pushed the tempo for most of the race. Vrouwenvelder, a North Carolina native and World Cup regular, finished in second, just 20 seconds off the pace.
William Cote, from Equipe du Quebec, charged up the track's many climbs to a top-fifteen result.
Nick Lando, from the Trek Bear Pro Team and a former University of Vermont racing standout, has ridden the track's steep drops countless times and brought home a 9th-place result.
The sinuous lines and sniper rocks in the track's rock garden caught many racers off guard. Pivot Cycles Alec Pasqualina sneaked through unscathed and slotted into 18th place.
Cameron Ivory, with the Trek-Shimano Australia team, a former Australian U23 National Champion, charged hard all day and just edged fellow Australian Cameron Wright by six seconds to take fourth.
Noah Tautfest, the owner of Bicycle Express and an organizer of the event, jumped into the elite race and earned a 19th-place result and a lot of cheering from local supporters.
Giant Factory Off-Road Team member Stephan Davoust from Durango, a Collegiate Short Track National Champion, sped to an 8th-place finish.
Pivot Cycles' Marc-Andre Fortier, hailing from Quebec and the 2018 U23 runner-up at the Canadian National Championships, stuck with the lead pack all race and set the pace for a time before dropping off in the final couple miles and finishing third.
Daniel McConnell, who finished second to Nino Schurter in the 2013 overall World Cup standings, shrugged off a tepid start and roared back to take the win with a hard-charging climb on the final lap.
The veteran Australian rider, competing on the Primaflor Mondraker team with wife and elite women's winner Rebecca McConnell, crossed the line with a 20-second margin of victory.
A bit bloodied and dusty but all smiles after the race the two-time Olympian was happy with his effort. "On the last lap, I got to the front before the climb and tried to set a really fast pace. I was able to get a bit of a gap and then hold on. I hope this race gives me a good lead into World Champs and the World Cup finals in the next two weeks."
The men's elite podium from left: Cameron Ivory-4th, Lukas Vrouwenvelder-2nd, Daniel McConnell-1st, Marc-Andre Fortier-3rd, Cameron Wright-5th
Sunday brought more perfect weather as cool temperatures and low humidity made for some ideal racing conditions. The final stop on the Bubba Trophy Series brought out a crowd of riders in all categories.
The Men's Pro race offered a strong field of racers. Local rider Matthew Green led the pack off the line. The trophy series racers faced fewer laps on a much longer track than the UCI racers the day before.
Ben Nafis won the U18 Cat 1 race and clinched the overall title with a tie-breaker victory over Liam Foley.
Bicycle Express racer Tim Burgher pulled away from the field for a three-minute victory in the Cat 1 19-39 class.
Finkraft Cycling Team's Roger Aspholm won the Cat 1 40-49 class in his first Bubba Trophy Series start of the year.
Don Seib, with BMB Racing, took the Cat 1 50+ crown with a convincing two-minute margin.
One of the most impressive performances on the day came from Vermont teen Austin Beard who earned a 5th-place podium spot in the pro field. The Bicycle Express racer also won the team relay event on Saturday with his twin brother Carson.
Beard's Bicycle Express teammate Greta Kilburn, another Vermont teen, also had a big day winning the Pro Women's race.
R-Cubed's Kimberly Milton, who also raced the elite event on Saturday, took home the women's pro-runner-up spot.
In her first Bubba Trophy start, Callie Ewald gutted out a third-place result for the Pro Women.
Despite a big effort in Saturday's elite race, Bear Pro Team's Nick Lando returned on Sunday with fresh legs and stormed to his second Bubba Trophy Series pro win of the season.
Peak Racing's Logan Kasper has had a busy and successful race season and his runner-up result on Sunday was his 12th top-two pro finish of the year.
Skirack and Specialized's Ben Lustgarten earned the third step on the pro podium less than a minute off the win.
A lot of hardware was handed out once the dust had settled on the final event of the Bubba Trophy Series season.
The action heads north of the border this week for World Championships in Quebec.
Words and pics by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
Eastern Grind results:https://results.bikereg.com/race/12207#cat140206