The POC ESC New England DH Cup Regional Championship Series returned to action this past weekend at Attitash Mountain Resort in Bartlett, New Hampshire. For racers not crossing over into the enduro series or traveling to the Atlantic region events, it had been a month since the last race at Sugarbush Resort in Vermont. Though technically still summer, the race weekend started with a distinct autumnal chill in the air. Low clouds hung on the mountain tops and temperatures were still in the 40s when the lifts began to spin on Saturday morning. This was the second trip to Attitash for the downhill series this season and competitors were treated to an entirely different course from the first race in July. The classic Grandma's House track on the west side of the mountain, a course that had not been used for a big regional event since 2008, was the venue for this round. Attitash is known for its burly, rock-strewn steeps. The Grandma's House track has its share of challenges, but most racers agree that what sets this track apart is its fun factor.
The pits for the race were located just across the road from the base area. The usual selection of campers and tents took over the dirt parking lots next to the North Conway Scenic railway tracks, with tourist trains rumbling by, just feet from the lot, during the day.
The pits are always entertaining and you never know what you'll encounter after hours. Jarad Kleinberg, head honcho of the MadKats racing crew, set up a mini photo studio by the team's rig for some after dark shots of pro rider Alex McAndrew.
Campfires helped keep the chill at bay for racers.
Race day dawned cloudy, with threatening skies. But the rain held off and temperatures actually climbed into the 70s, making for nearly prefect race conditions.
The course starts just below the top of the Flying Yankee Quad on an open ski slope.
After about 100 yards of acceleration in the open, the trail dives over some snowmaking pipes into the woods on Kids Will Be Kids. Pat's Peak local Jason Michie flies from light into dark on his way to a win in the 40+ expert class, his third win of the season in the New England Cup.
Mike McBride negotiates the first tight corners after entering the woods.
Douglass Wilson with Drummer Racing passes a boulder high on the course.
The first big test on the track is a small but tricky rock drop with numerous line choices. Giant pro rider Brian Scolforo, not one to back off the throttle, launches the rock at speed on his way to a second place finish, his fifth consecutive pro podium finish.
Cat 1 19-29 third place finisher Josh Tidman, with Flatline Racing, takes off the high side of the rock. The drop's flat landing had many racers testing the travel limits on their suspensions.
Junior X rider Drew Wegiel, with Danny's Cycles, launched a big transfer to a technical inside line that was only tried by a couple racers. His gamble paid off with a second place finish in his class.
MadKats junior racer Ben Bodycoat carried good speed through the drop and down the rest of the track, winning the Junior X group for the third time this season, twice at Attitash.
The course then heads onto to some smooth rock slabs where racers can get in a few pedal strokes. Alan Roy, perhaps learning some tricks from his speedy son Cody, won the 40+ amateur class for the first time this season.
Jordan Daigle cruises across the smooth slabs on his way to a win in the Cat 1 19-29 class.
The track then drops back into roots and rocks. Cody Roy, like his father Alan, won his class, his fourth victory of the year.
Brian Kibbee takes a high line around a tree stump in the woods.
The track hairpins through a steep wooded section. Seconds are lost if this corner isn't handled well. Here Sean Surprenant sets up for the turn.
Patrick Alcisto nails the corner on his way to a win in the 30-39 expert class.
Kurt Bradford negotiates a quick step down.
The next section is probably the toughest on the course. A steep rocky line followed by a tight turn into derailleur-eating roots and rocks.
Danny's Cycles pro Stephanie Sowles threads the needle in the rock garden.
Jared Boothroyd uses some body english to keep his line through the mine field of rocks.
After turning the corner, riders are faced with a high-speed, off-camber traverse through rough terrain. Michael Oliver from Oliver Racing pins it to a fourth place finish in his class.
Justice Kahn from the Danny's Cycles team sees the light at the end of the tunnel after flying down the traverse.
A loose left hand corner spits you back out into the open. Matthew Driscoll airs it onto the ski trail.
This high-speed right hand corner on the ski trail was one of the trickiest spots on the course as it was super loose making it hard to hold a clean line at speed. Pro racer and videographer Jason Scheiding films the corner during practice.
Out in the open, the high-pitched whine of the zip line filled the air, like a giant mosquito attacking, as it traversed overhead.
The Attitash zip line is pretty epic, starting high on Bear Peak and traversing way down to the main mountain. Attitash is developing new lift-serviced terrain on Bear Mountain. Look for an all-new race venue there in the near future.
The next section of the track is a flat-out bomb down a ski trail. Aidan Casner, with Oliver Racing, leads some of his Junior X buddies in a train down the slope during practice.
The ski slope is fast, but its also loose. There's a fine line between control and catastrophe when riding this chundery terrain at speed. Fast Line Racing pro Steve Larson makes it look easy.
At the bottom of the ski run, the brakes come on hard and the rocks fly as the trail turns back into the woods.
A small berm helps with the transition off the ski trail. Drummer Racings Jack Williams nails the corner.
This section took a beating all weekend.
Back in the woods, the course enters the Grandma's House section of the track. Eastern States king pin George Ulmer dodges trees through the upper sections.
The trail weaves down the hillside keeping racers on their toes. Mike Egeland with the Wachusett Brewing Company team rails a berm. Every team should have a beer sponsor.
MadKats pro Alex McAndrew keeps up the tempo through a serpentine section.
Dust flies as Xprezo Bikes pro Dylan Conte rips through the woods.
Danny's Cycles rider Joe Montano straightens out the line.
POC pro Adam Morse gobbles up the terrain. Morse sped to a fourth place finish, a solid result after dislocating his shoulder at Sugarbush a month earlier.
Another racer making a return to racing after suffering an injury this summer was Cole Michie, one of the top young guns in the Junior X category.
The bottom of Grandma's House features a trifecta of jumps. Sebastian Halpern-Reiss styles off the first jump on his way to his third win of the season in the under 18 amateurs.
Oliver Racing pro Steve Avery swallows up the second jump. Avery was one of several pro racers that took part in the Pinnacle Bike Championship the day before at Waterville Valley. Despite having a narrow training window on Sunday morning, Avery was able to podium with a fifth place finish.
After exiting the woods, all that remains is an autobahn down to the finish area. Jason Mace from Chuck's Bikes keeps his eyes on the prize.
The course lacks the crowd pleasing final feature of the 100 Percent booter that the earlier Attitash course offered, but no one was complaining. This track is non-stop fun.
When the dust had settled, Mary Elges, one of the hardest working riders anywhere, took home the pro women's crown.
After a narrow miss at Sugarbush, MadKats pro Alex McAndrew took his first pro victory. The MadKats team seems to have an affinity for Attitash. In the two races there this summer, the three members have four wins and two thirds between them.
The men's pro podium. From left: Steve Avery, 5th, Isaac Allaire, 3rd, Alex McAndrew, 1st, Brian Scolforo, 2nd, Adam Morse, 4th. The next stop for the Eastern States Cup downhill series is at Jiminy Peak in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts on October 5th.
Photos and text by Jeb Wallace-BrodeurFULL DH RESULTS FROM ATTITSH HERE
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