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Video and Race Report: Thunder Mountain Vittoria ESC DH

Sep 29, 2015
by Eastern States Cup  
Vittoria ESC

Views: 4,946    Faves: 10    Comments: 0


Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
There's nothing like visiting a new riding destination for the first time. The anticipation of new terrain, the surprises around the corner, the unexpected challenges. The Vittoria Eastern States Cup crew got all that and more as they brought their traveling gravity show to the Thunder Mountain Bike Park at Berkshire East ski area in Charlemont, Massachusetts for the first time this past weekend. This was the first major event for the new bike park, and they hit a home run.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Praise for the mountain's offerings has been spreading like wildfire since it opened in early July. Berkshire East ski area has been owned by the Schaefer family for almost four decades. Lucky for us, Jon Schaefer, the mountain's general manager and one of four accomplished ski racing brothers, is also an avid mountain biker. Schaefer helped build an expansive 35-mile single-track network in the area with the area’s NEMBA chapter. Adding lift-serviced gravity riding to the mix started to become a reality last fall. Going all in, the mountain hired builders Gravity Logic to develop their new trail system. After putting the Whistler Bike Park on the world stage, Gravity Logic has earned an almost mythical reputation among riders. And its well-deserved. The completed trails at Thunder Mountain (many more are in the works) are an absolute blast.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Despite its rookie status on the race scene, Thunder Mountain sure knows how to take care of racers. For starters, they opened their summit quad an hour early both days to facilitate course walks. This gave the event a nice World Cup feel, with bands of riders sprinkled through the woods discussing line options.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The mountain also built a beautiful start ramp with a hand-hewn balance bar, a far cry from some of the more improvised starts we've seen out there. They even cut a temporary entrance to the popular Sleeping Jake's trail so that other park users could access the run without crossing over the race trail. Never seen that before. Junior racer Michael Maldonado gave the new start ramp the thumb's up.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The race was held on the double-diamond Schist trail, which started with a steep bang right out of the gate.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The steep and rocky first pitch was a riddle for riders all weekend as the slabby pile of rocks was continuously shifting and settling. Pro rider Leif Lorenzen hammered it right down the gut.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The track then plunged briefly down an open slope with panoramic views and a bit of air time. Local Junior-X rider Collin McBride sent it deep off the knoll.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
A sharp roll over into a rock garden was the next puzzle to solve for racers. Most riders, including Cat 1 19-29 runner up Sean Surprenant, tried to keep their tires on the ground and gobble up the obstacles.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Some pro riders, including Adam Delonais found a way to double through the jumble and at least one (any guesses?) went for the big huck over the whole section.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
A tasty exit berm launched racers into the darkness of the Schist woods. Pro rider Dan O'Connor, one of the best bike handlers on the tour, sped to a fifth-place finish on the day.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The Schist woods are not for the faint of heart. The terrain is too steep for sustained fall line riding so there is a wealth of rooty off-camber traverses connected by technical switchbacks. Did I mention it was rooty? And off camber?

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Race organizers did not skimp on the tape as the track snaked down the mountainside. There was a nice mix of tight taping and wide open sections to allow some creativity for racers. Drummer Racing Cat 1 rider Jack Williams sped into the maze and took third in his category.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Being a new track, there was still loam to be found, and plenty of bomb holes in the corners. A number of riders got pitched over the bars in this section. Cat 2 40+ rider Mark Schnepel kept it smooth for a second-place finish in his category.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The switchbacks were rough and fast as racers accelerated through tight trees. Thunder Mountain saw the return to action of MadKats pro Tim White who was sidelined by a horrific crash at Sugarbush just over a month ago. The accident doesn't appear to have affected his hard-charging style, and it was great to see him back on the bike.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Did I mention it was rooty?

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
There's no real signature obstacle on the Schist. Rather, it is a consistently challenging track with no big drops or other scary features. This rocky mound offered one of the few chances for riders to leave the ground during the entire woods section. Mansfield Cycles Junior-X rider Aidan Casner took to the air for his first win since moving up to the expert class last season.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
As the pitch lessened lower on the track, the trail began to straighten, allowing racers to get off the brakes and let 'em run.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Some well-built and well-placed berms kept the speeds high through transitions lower on the mountain. MadKats pro Isaac Allaire, who's been demolishing tracks all season, demolished his equipment instead on his race run, snapping a carbon crank in half and ending his day on a sour note.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
One final rough section, requiring pinpoint accuracy, spit riders out of the woods for good and into the fast final open section of the track. Fast Line Racing pro Jason Scheiding, who's been focusing a bit more on enduro racing this season, showed he still has his downhill chops with a sixth-place finish.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
A final high-speed step-down offered the biggest airtime on the track. MadKats Junior-X rider Ben Bodycoat, runner-up in his category on the day, showed some solid style off the 28-foot sender.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
A dreamily-smooth power berm sent riders, like Speed Legion pro Chris Mari, rocketing through the POC speed trap and across the finish line at warp speed.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
After crossing the finish line, riders, like Cat 2 15-18 runner-up Zach Baron, flew off a final jump into an impressive World Cup-sized finish corral directly in front of the base lodge.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Live music and an outdoor beer garden and grill kept the mood summery and festive on practice day.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The early fall temperatures quickly dropped after the sun went down. Campfires were the social hubs in the pits after hours. Pros Jordan Newth and Isaac Allaire consumed several pounds of pasta between them.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Race day started out cold and foggy but the late-September sun burned off the fog in the beautiful Deerfield River valley by the time the lift began to spin.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The mountain has a northwestern-facing aspect so the first lift ride of the day was a cool one until you got high enough to hit the sun. And sun, despite its name (a nod to the original moniker of the Berkshire East ski area from the 1950s) is apparently abundant at Thunder Mountain, which is the first ski area in the world to completely power itself with onsite renewable energy. There is a large solar array and a windmill atop the peak that provide the juice.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The track was incredibly well-staffed with volunteers and bike patrollers. There was a large contingent of UMass ski team members acting as volunteer course marshals with red flags and alert whistles for passing riders, just like at World Cup events.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The women's pro field was topped by Speed Legion pro Mary Elges. This was the third win for Elges this season. Formerly a pro cross country racer in the 1990's, Elges took up downhill in 2012. Next season she will be 49 and is the oldest female pro racing in the country. Asked about her motivation, Elges said: "I like to live by Eleanor Roosevelt's quote: 'Do one thing that scares you everyday.' I am grateful and totally stoked to still be racing and riding a bike so competitively." Amen to that Mary, you rock.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Taking second was Transition Bikes pro Ella Skalwold. Since turning pro in August, Skalwold has become a podium mainstay.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Vicky Morrill, who hasn't missed a New England Cup downhill this season, finished in the third spot for the third consecutive time.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
MadKats pro Mauricio Estrada, who generally sticks to the Atlantic Cup series, brought his A-game to the New England tour and put down an absolutely scorching run to take the pro men's win by over five seconds. The 32-year old veteran feels and rides like a 19-year-old. Estrada qualified for his first World Cup event more than a decade ago at Vigo, Spain and his love for the sport hasn't dimmed since. Estrada works full time for a bike company but finds time to train after work. "It is not easy to be a father and husband, and to work, train and race at the same time but when you love something you have to find the way to make everything work." Like most racers Estrada, was impressed with Thunder Mountain. "I loved the track. It was really technical with multiple line choices and fast sections. I like when you have to check for good lines and take your time to find the right bike set-up because of the difficulty of the track. I think the mountain is doing an impressive job. I did some free riding and they have a good combination of technical and mellow trails. This bike park is a must-go place."

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Yeti Cycles pro Jason Memmelaar, who has had great success of late in the enduro world, took home the second spot for his best downhill result since a win at Mount Snow over a year ago. Memmelaar edged out a tight bunch of racers, with the second through fourth spots separated by less than half a second.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Despite missing practice on Saturday and only getting in four practice runs, MadKats pro Alex McAndrew edged out Giant Factory Racing pro Brian Scolforo to take the third spot, his fourth consecutive DH podium.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
As a testament to the quality of Thunder Mountain's riding experience, the pits were nearly empty after the race as most riders spent the afternoon riding the mountain. Long trains of riders were seen ripping up the trails, especially the super fun jump line, The Gronk.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Though he didn't quite make this attempt, Flatline Racing's Josh Tidman won an impressive and crowd-pleasing bunny hop contest after the racing was over.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The fast bunch. The winners of the POC speed trap contest.

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The women's pro podium from left: Vicky Morrill-3rd, Mary Elges-1st, Ella Skalwold-3nd, Cait Dooley-4th

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
The men's pro podium from left: Dan O'Connor-5th, Alex McAndrew-4rd, Mauricio Estrada-1st, Jason Memmelaar-2nd, Brian Scolforo-4th

Thunder Moutain Berkshire East ESC Downhill
Putting on a race is a tough assignment for any mountain. Thunder Mountain passed the test at the top of the class. After opening less than three months ago, the quality of experience they offered was just remarkable. We'll be back. Don't forget, both Vittoria ESC downhill series come to a dramatic conclusion over the Columbus Day weekend at Plattekill Bike Park in less than two weeks. Double points are on the line and the overall championships in every category are up for grabs. See you there!

Words and pics by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur

Eastern States Cup

RESULTS HERE: .rootsandrain.com/race3313/2015-sep-27-vittoria-esc-new-england-cup-dh-7-thunder-mountain-ma/
easternstatescup.com
facebook.com/easternstatescup

2015 VITTORIA ESC Schedule:

Atlantic Downhill
May 3 Duryea Urban Downhill – Reading, PA
May 24 Plattekill Gravity Open – Roxbury, NY
May 31 Mountain Creek UCI ProGRT – Vernon, NJ - USAC State Championship
June 21 Plattekill Mountain – Roxbury, NY - USAC State Championship
July 19 Windham Mountain World Cup Track Test Race – Windham, NY
Aug 9 Windham Race the World– Windham, NY – World Cup Weekend
Sept 13 Blue Mountain – Palmerton, PA- USAC State Championship
Oct 11 Plattekill– Roxbury, NY - New England and Atlantic DH Finals

New England Downhill
June 14 Pats Peak MTB Bike Festival – Henniker, NH
July 5 Killington East Coast Showdown #1– Killington, VT- USAC State Championship
July 12 Jiminy Peak – Hancock, MA
Aug 1 Mount Snow East Coast Showdown #2 - Dover VT
Aug 23 Sugarbush East Coast Showdown #3 – Warren, VT
Aug 30 Attitash Mountain - Bartlett, NH- USAC State Championship
Sept 27 Thunder Mountain– Charlemont, MA- USAC State Championship
Oct 11 Plattekill– Roxbury, NY - New England and Atlantic DH Finals

East Coast Super DH Championships
Oct 18 Mountain Creek – Vernon NJ

Enduro
May 10 Plattekill Mountain – Roxbury, NY - USAC State Championship
June 7 Blue Mountain – Palmerton, PA - USAC State Championship
June 28 Attitash Mountain - Bartlett, NH - USAC State Championship
July 4 Killington East Coast Showdown #1– Killington, VT - USAC State Championship
Aug 2 Mount Snow East Coast Showdown #2 - Dover VT
Aug 22 Sugarbush East Coast Showdown #3 – Warren, VT
Sept 6 Killington Enduro Finals – Killington, VT

Super D
May 30 Mountain Creek Super D – Vernon, NJ - USAC State Championship

BOX Components East Coast Showdown Series
July 5 Killington East Coast Showdown #1– Killington, VT- USAC State Championship
Aug 1 Mount Snow East Coast Showdown #2 - Dover VT
Aug 23 Sugarbush East Coast Showdown #3 – Warren, VT


MENTIONS: @Eastern-States-Cup




26 Comments

  • 32 0
 That volunteer looks more like a distraction.
  • 1 0
 is it weird that I know her? And I live in Colorado?
  • 16 0
 Thanks for the nice write up on the park! Great job racers! Come back to train and free ride. FYI we could have built a high speed quad, but we couldn't have built a bike park... Its all about trade offs!
  • 1 0
 way to go!
  • 1 0
 And you made the right choice, congrats on a super fun park! I am addicted already.
  • 3 0
 Love Thunder mountain, best dirt ever. Great job running the race as well! The lift is slow but it gives you a good break between runs so its not terrible. Maybe more bike skids would help with lines?
  • 6 0
 I was up there this past Friday. I have to say this should be on everyone's hit list. Awesome trails, and the vibe is great. Only thing they need to do is speed up the lift. It can be brutally slow especially if you are on the lift all by your lonesome.
  • 2 0
 You couldn't load your bike if it went much faster. Really wish they had a high speed detachable, but its not too bad. So much fun to ride there, a faster chair would help bang out those runs.
  • 2 0
 just like highland, think of it as time to meditate and take in the scenery before your next awesome run!
  • 3 1
 I agree. The whole way you load your bikes on is shitty too. You load right on a turn which doesn't make any sense. You see people struggle with it all day while you're in line waiting.
  • 5 1
 Like TMBP mentioned above....high speed quad...no bike park... I would gladly give up a HSQ for a sick BP any day....At least you aint peddling up ...Smile Place looks awesome!
  • 2 1
 Not a fan of the self loading racks. At least have the guys bring the bikes to meet the racks straight on - like at Highland (painfully slow too,) but at least you're not chasing it around the bend.
  • 3 0
 Looks like a good course gotta get out their and ride that place soon. Props to Sean Suprenaut for making the home page...413 ride up in here!!!
  • 2 0
 Great Race! it was a fast technical course, whomever missed it, missed a great opportunity to have a great race and a good time. Cheers to my new local park that has came far from their grand opening only months ago!
  • 3 0
 still don't understand why people would choose to ride without knee pads…
  • 1 0
 I'll be the first to say that riding the schist on an AM bike is not too fun. Definitely would of liked to have the bigger brakes and longer travel of a DH bike haha
  • 1 0
 Hahaha. Yeah, that trail is steep and off camber the whole way
  • 1 0
 ummmm...was the dude that crashed wearing a single piece of armor (not counting helmet)?
  • 1 0
 He got absolutely crushed, and didn't look like a single piece of protection
  • 1 0
 ^^^ I left out the word "not" as in "not wearing a single piece of armor?
  • 1 0
 Alex McAndrew-4rd.... Mike Tyson?
  • 1 0
 Defiant Racing....Dusty taking the Speed Trap! Way to go Dusty!
  • 1 0
 All those rocks look so fun. I sure hope to ride here soon.
  • 3 2
 hahah the gronk
  • 2 0
 Great trail
  • 1 0
 That first whip though!

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