The leaves may be turning and and there's a chill in the air, but east coast downhill racing is really heating up as the POC Eastern States Cup regional downhill race series enters the homestretch. The ESC Enduro and Super D champions have been crowned but downhill racers still have several chances to improve their standings before that fat lady sings. First up is the POC ESC New England Cup Massachusetts State Championship being held at Jiminy Peak in the scenic Berkshires this weekend.
Jiminy Peak will play host to the seventh stop on the ESC New England Cup downhill race series on October 4th and 5th. The mountain, located in the northwest corner of Massachusetts is one of the most scenic on the tour, especially during foliage season.
The Berkshire Express chair takes riders to the 2,380-foot summit of Jiminy Peak.
This year's track features an entirely new, fresh-cut top section that joins last year's track just below the vaunted concrete slab jump pictured here. ESC head honcho George Ulmer describes the new course as a "very fast and tight single track top to bottom. Think fast loamy, rooty and rocky, but above all FAST top to bottom."
The lower track is a fun mix of techy sections, speed traverses in the open, and a few jumps sprinkled in for good measure.
Last year, damp conditions leading up to the weekend made for sloppy going on race day. This year's forecast is much drier which should make for fast times on Sunday,
The following weekend is the regular season finale, with both the New England and Atlantic regional series wrapping up their seasons at Plattekill in New York. This race will be huge as it brings together competitors from both regions for the first time and most importantly features double points for racers.
The details of the Plattekill track still remain to be ironed out, but there are guaranteed to be some steep sections as there's no easy way down this rugged mountain in the Catskills.
The loose, shale-surfing trails at Plattekill are unique on the circuit and a favorite with many racers.
The Plattekill results will determine the overall results for every racing category in each ESC regional series. In addition to double points being awarded, only the top six finishes for each racer over the course of the season count towards the final tally. For the Atlantic DH Cup, the pro men's category has come down to two men: Mauricio Estrada and Neko Mulally. Estrada, pictured here, has a commanding lead coming into the race with 510 points to Mulally's 380, but with 200 points awarded to the winner, that could all change.
The outcome of the New England series is much hazier, with a gang of pro riders in position to take the overall, especially with two races left on the schedule. Following a second place at Sugarbush and his first pro win at Attitash, Vermont's Alex McAndrew has vaulted into the overall lead with 416 points. McAndrew, riding for MadKats Racing, has been on fire of late though the effects of a cross-country road trip from California this week remain to be seen.
After missing a race to get married, Oliver Racing's Steve Avery currently sits in second place with 410 points. Avery has been super consistent this season, finishing no worse than seventh in any race.
Sitting in third is Vermonter Jordan Newth with 398 points. Newth broke a bone in his ankle during a training ride before the Attitash race, but miraculously may be able to ride at Jiminy and seems a pretty sure bet for Plattekill.
On the strength of three consecutive top three finishes, Giant pro rider Brian Scolforo has charged into fourth place in the overall standings with 347 points. This guy is fearless and consistent, a definite threat to move higher on the leader board.
Another racer with a shot at the title is McAndrews' MadKats teammate and fellow Vermonter Isaac Allaire with 333 points. Due to an injury earlier in the season, Allaire, a rookie in the pro ranks, only has four downhill finishes thus far so will not have the luxury of dropping any more results from his overall tally.
Due to the double points awarded at Plattekill, a few other pros have an outside shot at winning it all, which should make for a really exciting couple weekends of racing. Numerous titles are also up for grabs in the expert and amateurs categories.
On the women's side, the $1,000 DP Brakes Women's Challenge has really spiced up the remainder of this season. The top point getters in all ESC events, including Downhill, Enduro and Super D, regardless of racer class, will split $1,000 between the top four finishers. Felicia Reale, a rider who excels in every discipline and has been riding with a cast on her arm for much of the season, leads the pack with 993 points.
On the strength of consecutive downhill wins, pro rider Mary Elges currently sits second in the standings with 867 points.
Pro Elinor Wesner, who may have traveled more than any other racer this season, sits in third with 822 points.
Danny's Cyles pro rider Stephanie Sowles currently sits atop the New England pro women downhill standings with 560 points, while the Atlantic Cup lead is held by Mary Elges.
Leave the leaf raking for another day and come spend some quality time in the saddle before snow flies this weekend at Jiminy Peak and the following weekend at Plattekill.
Stay tuned for details on the Coastal Super Championships at Mountain Creek. There's some big money on the line there.
Text and photos by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
REMAINING 2014 POC ESC DH EVENTS:
Oct 5 - Jiminy Peak MA - MA State Championship
Oct 12 - Plattekill NY - New England and Atlantic Regional DH Championship Series Finals
2014 POC ESC USAC East Coast Super Championships:
Oct 19 - Mountain Creek NJ - USAC East Coast Regional DH Championshipswww.easternstatescup.com