Video: Adam Craig Helps Build a Trail in Maine in 'Return of the Widowmaker'

Dec 9, 2020
by Giant Bicycles  

Rider & Words: Adam Craig
Photo & Video: Chris Milliman


Giant ambassador Adam Craig recently took the opportunity to return to his roots, where the charms of riding the northern woods of Maine are alive and well. While there, Adam helped build a new trail that’s inspired by an old one.

RETURN
OF THE
WIDOWMAKER

Adam Craig on Trance X Advanced Pro 29 0

Generally speaking, the further north you go the less you’ll see cycling woven into the culture. But that doesn't mean bikes aren't still present. Those who choose to overcome the challenges of these regions get rewarded—when they’re not shoveling snow or chipping ice.

I was fortunate to grow up in Maine in the 1990s, a time when MTB racing was young, healthy and on the rise. Our modest Maine Points Series had hundreds of cross-country riders slugging it out amongst the rocks, roots and muck. Beyond that, the New England regional Trail 66 series was contested at ski areas and also featured the gravity disciplines dual slalom and downhill. Each of these events required skill and optimism to be competitive. Sugarloaf’s stop on the Trail 66 circuit was called the Widowmaker Challenge with its namesake section of rocks and roots.


In those early years I was focused on XC racing, but I always loved downhill and dual slalom too. I learned so much between the tape. The downhill tracks hold some of my most vivid childhood memories. Flying down open ski runs, then bursting into the forest through piles of rocks and roots with many line options to choose from. These courses were usually cut just for the event, which made for a dynamic experience. Conditions were changing all the time, even more so with the inevitable wet weather. I learned so much about line selection and letting the bike find its way, guided by momentum and a positive spirit.

As my career developed, I earned a pro contract racing XC with Giant. I was fortunate to be able to lean on those skills when the going got tough. I considered it an advantage to be able to apply a creative lens to racecourses that some might call basic, even cyclocross events. Unique lines can save time and energy, and also motivate one’s pace through a feeling of cleverness.

Adam Craig on Trance X Advanced Pro 29 0

With fewer events happening this year, I felt a pull back to Maine. I headed east from my current home in Oregon, enjoying time with my family, old friends, and the amazing riding, which in many cases is just as it was in the 90s. One area with notable change is Carrabassett Valley in the mountains of Western Maine. The Carrabassett chapter of New England Mountain Bike Association was founded in 2010 and immediately got to work building proper trail around the valley on Town, State and Penobscot Nation Land. Over the past decade they have maintained old trail and developed new trail to bring the total around the valley to over 75 miles.

Adam Craig working on trails

The new trails are especially awesome—largely machine-built and artfully so. This enables new riders to develop skills on reasonable terrain. For experienced riders, it means beautifully sculpted flowing turns and rock features. It also offers an opportunity to link big, long rides on singletrack, 40 or 50 miles. This is unique for Maine, as most of the trail systems are smaller stacked loops. The pinnacle of this experience is the annual Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge, a 100km test that draws 500 participants, just like in the Maine Points Series days.

The success of Carrabassett NEMBA has created such a strong mountain bike culture in the Sugarloaf region that the ski area is beginning to develop MTB resources on the mountain. Resort staff also happen to be passionate riders and they’re excited to create gravity-fueled riding in the western mountains of Maine. Having enjoyed the Widowmaker Challenge DH tracks and spent many days skiing the ’Loaf as a kid, I was thrilled at the opportunity to scout around on the mountain and help steer this development.


Once we started looking at the feasibility of cutting trail through beautifully gladed ski runs, it became apparent that, while not without challenges, it was certainly possible to rake in some turns and see what the riding might reveal. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for simple turns in the woods, and this was the perfect canvas.

Considering that my favorite part of the Widowmaker Challenge was always that tech section, it seemed only fitting to work on extending that experience farther up the mountain. After appreciable research, we found a line and got to work. With a little help from some all-stars—namely Brenna from Sugarloaf, Giant Factory Off-Road Team manager Sebastian Boyington, and Zak, a die-hard trail volunteer from Belfast—we took this idea and quickly made it reality.

The tools of the job were, in order of use, a hedge trimmer to clear the low brush; leaf rake to clear the debris; McLeod and hoe to dig the shapes needed; a shovel to enhance natural jump lips or landings; and a rock bar to pry out a few stones that just had to go. In no time at all we were testing the turns and learning about the line.

Adam Craig on Trance X Advanced Pro 29 0

Adam Craig on Trance X Advanced Pro 29 0

And what a line it is. At 0.7 miles long with a modest 700 feet of descent, there is plenty of opportunity and inspiration amongst the turns of the new Widowmaker Extension. It will be fun watching this trail wear in over the years. Oftentimes, the 90s downhill racetracks were only used once and then reclaimed by the forest. Initial enthusiasm for this trail shows that it will get used. And it will certainly change as the outer coat of duff gets displaced and the earth reveals itself with a rock and root surface. Basically, it’s going to get rough and wide and awesome. Here’s to appreciating the aging process.

Many thanks to Sugarloaf for the opportunity to realize this dream. Stay tuned to see what we might come up with in the future.

Adam with a Honda Del Sol and Trance X Advanced Pro 29 0


Regions in Article
Maine


28 Comments

  • 16 0
 Those races in the 90's were such a good time. It has been a long time since I visited the 'Loaf. A trip next year will need to be planned.
  • 7 1
 100% - those races were great. A lot of people probably don't realize the brands that were either born from or grew up on the Trail 66 Series. Both Evil and e13 would have probably never happened if Weagle and I didn't meet at those races, and I don't think it's a coincidence that Iron Horse went from a department store brand to legit race bikes as Seplavy raced more events and pushed that company to change it's strategy.
  • 12 0
 Wicked pissa Bub!!
  • 6 0
 Living on the NH/Maine border, I can attest to the raw and natural features shown here by Adam! These are the kind of trails I live for and now I want to travel even further up thaey in Maine! ;-)
  • 1 0
 Seriously? That just made my day!
  • 8 0
 How's he able to ride downhill this fast with live valve?
  • 3 0
 Maybe you can just turn it off? But I guess Levy would have tried that in the review...
  • 3 0
 Hahaha....comment gold
  • 2 0
 @bonkmasterflex: Actually that would be funny to find out he just never charges it... Smile
  • 4 0
 Great to see Adam settling in back east. As a fellow New England rider from the nineties and eighties I truly appreciate his quote "figure it out". We miss you Adam - check out today's featured Norco Video about our trail project in the PNW. When you visit our site tortamtb.com you can see more footage of Adam Craig shredding some Oregon Coast Loam! thx
  • 7 0
 Love old school trail building. Tag it, rake it, ride it!!!!
  • 4 0
 Best kind, hate groomed bike park types
  • 8 0
 That Del Sol Smile
  • 4 0
 I wish every trail was built like this. Getting pretty sick of every new trail being a machine built road. And nothing says real mountain biker like owning a bike worth well more than the car!
  • 5 0
 This focus on trail building makes me think a lot more about getting a Giant.
  • 4 0
 Got to ride widowmaker in October! Steep, loamy new england gnar. I can't wait to ride it again next season!
  • 2 0
 I was hoping I'd see Carrabassett on that video. My wife's family lives in Farmington and we got married at the 'Loaf Outdoor Center. Sounds like our next trip over I know where I'm headed! Sugarloaf! Rise up!
  • 2 0
 Haha..at my homespot in WesternGermany we had a trail called "Widowmaker" back in the late 90 ties too.
It is still there but riders and bikes improved somuch, that the name is not longer apporiated ;-)
  • 3 0
 Rad video. Makes me want to ride and visit Maine. I always enjoyed watching Adam race at the Mt Snow NORBA weekend.
  • 3 0
 The old race flyer was great, I managed wallace's wheels and worked and raced the Black mountain race
  • 3 0
 Sugarloaf represent! Sick piece!
  • 3 0
 gotta check it out!
  • 2 0
 Good to see laces on those shoes, Adam. Really nice piece, well done.
  • 1 0
 Heck Yeah AC!!!! Miss you face and good vibes! can't wait to shred some of those trails some day, sooner than later I hope!
  • 2 1
 That Honda Del Sol though..... in snow country, legit!
  • 1 1
 I moved away from Maine and will probably never return because the lack of trails.....At least 1 has been built!
  • 1 0
 Adam Craig is my favorite rider

Post a Comment



Copyright © 2000 - 2021. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv65 0.010300
Mobile Version of Website