The Eastern States Cup New England and Atlantic Regional DH Championship Series came to a climatic conclusion over the Columbus Day weekend. Plattekill Bike Park, the spiritual home to East coast downhill racing, was the perfect venue to host the double-point event that brought together racers from both regional series for the first time. Overall standings were on the line in every category and a big crowd of racers turned out for the event.
Plattekill Mountain is a unique and unspoiled place. Signage as you approach the mountain is … understated. There is none of the development you would expect at a ski area. No hotels, no condos, no timeshares. Just a rural valley dotted with farms and old houses.
The race pits were packed to capacity for the weekend and campfires blazed in every corner as Saturday night temperatures dropped below the freezing mark.
On a hunt for firewood, some of the Junior X crew found a stump that may still be burning when we return next summer.
The view from the pits was hard to top, certainly the most scenic camping spot of the year.
Race morning dawned clear and cold with temperatures in the low 30s. The mountain's eastern exposure helped the sun warm things up early.
Even though the lifts started to spin at 8 a.m., the cold kept many racers, like pro Jordan Newth, nestled in their sleeping bags.
Once things warmed up a bit, the mountain really came to life. The course start was just feet away from the top of the triple chair.
The track could be divided into three distinct sections: flowy top, techy middle and bike park bottom. The top third was a high speed, low angle romp through the woods. Numerous features and winding sections kept racers on their toes, but this section may have had the highest fun factor of any section of track all year. Right out of the gate racers accelerated into a small but perfectly formed road gap. Giant Northeast pro rider Brian Scolforo shows his signature style, and some nice flannel, over the gap.
The road gap was immediately followed by a left hand satellite jump which was easy to case if you didn't pop it. MadKats pro Alex McAndrew throws it sideways.
Too fast to pedal but no need to brake, the upper woods section had riders like Fast Line Racing pro Jason Scheiding absolutely pinning it.
Adrenaline Racing rider Alex Rose weaves through the forest at high speed.
Vertical Earth racer Ian Bower gets air as the high speeds made every little bump primed for takeoff.
Danny's Cycles pro Stephanie Sowles, had to really back off the gas was at a rocky triple step down that provided a preview of things to come on the track.
Berkshire Outfitters racer Craig Kuzia Jr., pops off the second step into a rough landing area.
Racers got one more chance to breathe as the relatively smooth top section of the course came to an end. Madkats racer Ben Bodycoat shows some of the speed that would carry him to the overall title in the Junior X New England series.
Oliver Racing's Scott Bureau drops off a shelf that marked the start of the track's technical middle section.
The course dropped steeply down the fall line at this point and racers like Giant Northeast Pro Brian Scolforo had to choose their line carefully.
A rock drop into a steep loose chute was a major psychological and technical hurdle for many racers. The lower rock nose in the middle of the drop was the preferred line, but Lupine Lights racer Judson Umberger, who knows Plattekill like the back of his hand, opted for the big boy line.
DRRT racer Nicole Murray would take the big girl line on her way to a third place finish. The biggest challenge in this section was checking your speed after the drop and then negotiating a hard right hander at the the bottom of the chute.
As the weekend progressed, a fast alternate line developed around the drop. The section was not taped off so was fair game. Jacob Dallegro and many other racers opted for the new line as it set you up better for the exit at the bottom of the chute.
After the chute, a bouldery turn dropping into another steep chute tripped up numerous racers.
A direct line and some speed, as exhibited by Shirks Bikes pro B.J. Treglia, was the best approach to this obstacle.
A wood feature popped racers, including Catskill Cycles rider Ernie Reale, out of the woods and onto a road.
The loose right hand corner on the road was one of the trickier spots on the entire track with a delicate balance of braking and cornering skills needed to maintain momentum into one of the only pedally spots on the course.
No stranger to pedalling, enduro regular Lauren Petersen brought her trail bike to the race and rode away with a win in her first and only downhill start of the season.
A rock wall drop into a very steep chute marked the end of the technical middle section of the course. Danny's Cycles Cat 2 junior David Kahn flies over the wall with the speed that would earn him a sweep of both regional championships this season.
The bottom section of the track was pure bike park bliss, but first riders had to negotiate a surprisingly tricky off camber rollover at high speeds that took down a number of racers.
Oliver Racing riders Steve Avery and Aidan Casner drop into the bottom section of the course. The Plattekill trail crew was busy in the days leading up to the race with the lower third of the track receiving the lion's share of their efforts.
Xprezo pro Dylan Conte rails one of the many berms that dotted the lower portion of the track.
Mountain Creek Bike Park's Nelson Maldonado launches the signature feature on the track, the freshly renovated Maxxis drop.
The deep landing zone meant the drop could be hit at almost any speed, Josh Tidman opted for the full-throttle approach.
Riders, including Vermont pro Jordan Newth, really railed the exit berm, though a few hearty souls opted to venture through the rocky chunder on the inside of the corner.
Atlantic Cup pro champion Mauricio Estrada did his course walk with Jon Hanson during the race. Estrada raced to a 4th-place finish in the Colombian National Championships on Saturday then took a red-eye flight back to the U.S. for the Eastern States Cup finals on Sunday. His race run was his first time down the track and he managed a top-ten finish just 2.73 seconds off the pace.
Berkshire Bike and Board rider Mike McBride leans it over on one of many berms to come.
Marzocchi pro Dan O'Connor launches the transition between berms.
Riding Forward racer Joshua Ribeiro speeds into the final snakey section of berms.
And one last freshly-dug power berm for good measure as racers near the bottom of the course.
The power berm set riders up for a new lippy table in the open. The take-off was deemed too lippy by some racers who were over-shooting the landing and course workers shaved it down. Junior-X racer Cole Michie didn't seem to mind the original shape as he threw down a stylish whip in practice.
Danny's Cycles' Jake Kahn speeds through the final woods section which featured a steep wooden step down.
Exiting the woods, racers faced a natural drop to flat which was a real head snapper if not taken correctly. Hard-charging Vermont Gravity Racing pro Tim White handled the landing with ease, but many racers opted to transfer to a grassy bank and avoid the impact.
The track concluded with a couple park features including a hip jump off a wooden bridge, hit here by Brian Kibbee.
A final table made for a photo-friendly finish to the track. Junior-X winner and Atlantic Series champion Joshua Rogers from Grom Racing whips off the final jump. The lip on this table was also shaved down over the course of the weekend.
With top pro times in the two-and-half to three minute range, the Plattekill track was on the shorter end of the race spectrum but it managed to pack in an amazing variety of terrain and challenge.
When all was said and done, Evil Bike pro George Ryan squeaked out a .2 second win in just his fourth ESC start of the season.
The Plattekill race featured one of the season's largest contingents of women riders.
Plattekill owner Laszlo Vajtay, pictured with ESC head honcho George Ulmer, manned the mic and kept the energy level high during the epic season finals awards session.
The afternoon also featured the debut of awards ceremony twerking, courtesy of Cait Fields.
Speed Legion's Mary Elges continued her dominance in the women's field, winning the Plattekill race, the Atlantic Series overall, the New England Series overall and the DP Brakes Women's Challenge titles.
The men's pro podium: Dylan Conte, 4th, Leland O'Connor, 2nd, George Ryan 1st, Brian Scolforo, 3rd, Isaac Allaire, 5th.
Despite the double points awarded, nobody could catch Mauricio Estrada who was crowned overall champion of the POC ESC Altlantic Region. Brian Scolforo finished second and, thanks to his race victory, George Ryan finished third.
The New England Region overall title was very much up in the air coming into Plattekill. With two seconds and two thirds in his final four races, Brian Scolforo charged up the leader board to claim the overall title. The MadKats pro team had a great season with Alex McAndrew taking second in the overall with teammate and first-year pro Isaac Allaire taking third.
The Plattekill regional finals were the perfect ending to the regular season Eastern States Cup downhill race series. But the fat lady hasn't quite sung yet. Mountain Creek Bike Park will host the POC Eastern States Cup East Coast Super Championships this coming weekend, October 18-19. The top ten point getters in every category in both the Atlantic and New England series are qualified for the finals. The top ten finishers in qualifying on Saturday will also make it to the finals. There is a $5,000 purse and lots of great prizes up for grabs so you get one last chance to race for glory before this race season officially comes to an end.
Text and Photos by Jeb Wallace-BrodeurCOMING THIS WEEKEND