Another weekend of New England downhill racing, another weekend of fine weather as the POC Eastern States Cup traveling bike circus set up camp at Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vermont for the fifth stop in the USAC Regional Championship Series. Sugarbush Resort has seen a bike park renaissance recently and become a regular venue for mountain bike racing for the past half dozen years. The Sugarbush stop on the POC ESC DH tour has become a favorite with many racers and is considered to be one of the best tracks in the east.
Pre-race activity centers around the parking lots and pits just below the farm-themed base area at Sugarbush. Blue skies and pleasantly cool temperatures were the rule all weekend.
Local pro racers Tim White, Dylan Conte and Alex McAndrew relax on the familiar ride to the top of Sugarbush's bike park, which features 25 natural and machine-built trails.
The race starts on an innocuous looking fire road. The charge out of the gate is the longest pedaling section on the course. Hopefully racers are in mid-season condition as the Sugarbush race times are as long as any other New England race this season.
The track quickly opens up and speeds climb as racers start down the Snowball ski trail.
Josh Tidman chases his shadow down the top section of the course which is in the open with fast old-school traverses and turns on the wide ski trail.
Jordan Newth carries speed through a slightly bermed turn on Snowball. Braking bumps and shallow berms made precise handling skills necessary to carry speed through the upper sections.
Wild flowers and expansive vistas were no distraction for racers pinning it down the trail.
Joe Montano, with the Danny's Cycles team, weaves down the switch backs on upper Snowball with a deep forest below.
Cat 1, 19-29 class winner Dylan Dipentima, a Sugarbush biking regular and University of Vermont racer, flies down Snowball, his bike nearly hidden by the tall grass bordering the track.
Drummer Racing's Jack Williams enters the the first real test of the course, a steep high-speed headwall with loose rocks and a sharp left hand exit.
After dispensing with the high-speed ski slope portion of the track, racers have to switch into technical riding mode as the course heads into the deep woods of Eden. Drummer Racing's Douglass Wilson threads between rocks after entering the forest.
The track's biggest challenge is a steep off-camber rock slab high in the wooded section. Rain earlier in the week, combined with the high clay content of the soil, made the slab a slick nightmare. This section received the lion's share of inspection during practice runs. Here, pro rider Alex McAndrew tries a line before a large audience.
Giant pro rider Brian Scolforo takes it right down the middle. Scolforo continued his podium run with a third-place finish to follow up his second at Mount Snow a few weeks ago.
Sugarbush local Dylan Conte, who raced at the two North American world cup stops this summer, takes a creative but risky line on the side of the slab.
Just a tap of the brakes was all it took to send riders, like Sebastain Halpern-Reiss, tumbling down the slab.
Others, like Josh Gilmore, made miraculous saves and ran down the rocks in one piece.
Many, like Ian Scaglionie, were not so lucky. Fortunately there were no major injuries and many riders reported better success negotiating the slab during their race runs.
The mud in the woods quickly built up on frames.
Wicked Wash and the wash station were very popular after training concluded.
Knobby tires turned to slicks as treads became choked with mud on the hill.
As the POC ESC DH Cup makes its way around New England, its fun to see local riders, who may only turn out for their local stop, compete with the regulars who show up at every event. Hank Glowiak, owner of Chuck's Bikes in Morrisville, Vermont is busy with his shop and a new baby, but he always likes to race at Sugarbush. Last year he left with some broken ribs. This year he left with some hardware, as he charged to a second-place finish in the Cat 1, 40+ class.
Sugarbush bike camp counselor Simona Croccolo raced to a convincing win in the women's amateur class. Her only other start of the season, at Killington, resulted in a win as well. Hopefully we'll see more of her in the future.
Vermont Gravity Racing pro Tim White easily dispenses with the rock slab. White was runner-up at Sugarbush last year but was just off the pace this year, finishing in seventh.
Below the slab, the course features numerous thought-provoking sections with trees, roots and sniper rocks keeping riders on their toes. Junior racer Dmytro Crawford pops over some rocks during his third start of the season.
Danny's Cycles' David Kahn flies down a steep chute lower on the course for his second Cat 2 junior win of the season in the New England series. This section used to be the most feared spot on the course and would draw crowds to witness the impending carnage. It has now been tamed to the point it is nearly inconsequential. Opinions differ on the merits of this change.
POC ESC racer Zach Clayton, who recently made the move from Cat 2 to Cat 1, found the tight turns of the Sugarbush track to his liking as he finished third in the 19-29 class.
A newly-added section of the track features two sets of rock slab steps. The first of these is longer and if racers don't boost it big, a harsh case on the last step will result. Here, Steve Estabrook shows proper charging technique to clear the rocks on his way to a second place finish in the Cat 1, 19-29 class to go with wins earlier this season at Killington and Mount Snow.
Cat 2 winner Jared Boothroyd, a recent convert to downhill racing, continues to tear it up in the 19-29 class, finishing first or second in every race this season.
Danny's Cycles' Jake Kahn pounces over the second set of rock steps en route to a runner-up finish in the Junior X category.
The final woods section features a new road gap followed by an abrupt left hand turn. The track then plows through some balancey rock maneuvers before exiting to the open and the final sprint to the finish. Here, Oliver Racing's Michael Oliver looks through the road gap berm on his way to a second-place finish in the Cat 2, 30-39 class.
Vermont Gravity Racing pro Alison Zimmer continued her undefeated New England streak in a season that has seen her finish no worse than 3rd in any race, outside the world cup at Mont Sainte Anne where she finished a respectable 20th. Zimmer heads to Norway in September to represent the United States at the Mountain Bike World Championships.
The mens pro podium from left, 5th: Jordan Newth, 3rd: Brian Scolforo, 1st: Michael Daniels, 2nd: Alex McAndrew, 4th: Dylan Conte. Following the Sugarbush race, Newth will become the new overall points leader for the New England Cup series.
Another excellent weekend of racing is in the books. The next POC Eastern States Cup events are the POC ESC Super D Cup and the POC ESC Enduro Cup Championship finals at Killington on September 6th and 7th.
Full Results from Sugarbush HERE