East coast racers converged on the Berkshires in western Massachusetts last weekend for the seventh stop on the ESC New England DH Cup USAC Regional Championship Series. Hosted by Jiminy Peak, the event was also the Massachusetts Downhill State Championship. Close to 100 racers took to the hill for the longest track of the season. Peak foliage and wildly fluctuating weather kept everyone entertained.FULL RESULTS HERE
After a calm week, a cold front moved through the region on Saturday, bringing with it a steady drizzle and occasional heavier downpours.
What had been a firm and fast course quickly became a rutted mud bog, especially in some of the freshly-dug sections.
A little rain and slop never grounds a mountain biker. Current New England Cup DH pro points leader Alex McAndrew found enough speed in the muck to air out a feature low on the course.
Rain suits and spiked tires were the rule for Saturday's practice. Pro rider Dylan Conte wasn't the only racer employing the foot dab technique to hold a line on the greasy traverses.
Flatline Racing expert Josh Tidman used the spacious high-speed lift to stretch his sore quad after an encounter with a tree.
Western Massachusetts resident Sean Suprenant was one of a handful of racers who stuck it out to the bitter end on Saturday.
Visibility was perhaps the biggest issue during practice with no clear solution to the mix of rain and mud. Not sure if the goggle-free option used by Jacob Debrusk was a good call or not, but he looks pretty happy.
The muddy ribbon of track after a day of practice.
Every square inch of bike surface was coated with mud after a day lapping the course.
Not surprisingly, the bike wash station was a popular spot at the end of the day. Instead of waiting in line, Yeti Cycles pro Jason Memmelaar turned a nearby stream chocolatey while washing his kit.
Many racers would be riding in soggy shoes on Sunday as it can take days to dry out bike shoes.
SUPERFAST hoses down Roberto Bonemetti.
What a difference a day makes. Sunday dawned clear and cold with autumnal colors gleaming above the Jiminy Peak base village.
With early temperatures in the upper 30s, many racers lingered over another cup of coffee before hitting the mountain.
The warm October sun soon brought things back to life.
This year's track featured a completely different top half from the one used last year.
The course started with a high speed sprint in the open down an open slope. S&W Sports Junior X racer Cole Mitchie is back on form as he pinned it to a second place finish on the day.
After the speedy opening, racers dive into the woods. Oliver Racing Junior X rider Aidan Casner launches off a rock drop into the tight single track.
Marzocchi pro Dan O'Connor rips through the fast and rooty upper woods section.
Flatline Racing expert Jordan Daigle threads it through the trees. Daigle burned up the course for his third win of the season.
Oliver Racing pro Steve Avery opens up the throttle in the woods. Avery maintained his second-place ranking in the overall points standing.
The track dips in and out of the woods for its entire length, passing a wind turbine high on the mountain's western shoulder.
Back into the woods after passing the turbine, this tight section featured some tricky maneuvering with slick roots taking down numerous riders.
This steep exit from the woods was probably the most intimidating feature on the track. A gloppy G-out at the bottom of the drop sent several racers off course into the grass.
No time to enjoy the spectacular fall scenery.
Back in the woods, a freshly-cut line was slow going if racers lost their momentum.
In his first race back from a broken ankle, Vermont pro Jordan Newth jumped out of the muddy rut for a higher line and was able to maintain his third-place spot in the overall rankings.
A tricky new section of track featured a fast drop to flat followed quickly by a blind fall away left hander. Drummer Racing pro Oliver Levick get his weight back on the first drop.
POC pro Adam Morse levitates over the left hander. Morse finished fourth in the pro field, his fourth time in that position this season.
The track then shoots straight down the mountainside, one of the few times it wasn't traversing in this middle section. Newport Cycles pro Dan Goddard rockets down the fall line.
Pro rider Matt Callahan gets back into traverse mode as he blends in with his cammo outerwear.
The track finally joins with the lower sections of last-year's course. A wooden jump into the woods fell out of favor with racers as a faster line developed next to it. Despite the raucous urgings of spectators yelling "Hit the jump! Hit the jump!", most racers skipped the air option, but S&W Junior X rider Roberto Bonometti launched a crowd pleaser.
There was a good turn out for the amateur women, but local Mary Elges was the only pro woman on course this weekend. Her victory moved her into second place in the $1000 DP Brakes Women's Challenge behind Felicia Reale who sits in the top spot with one race remaining.
A couple berms kept racers on their toes as speeds picked up through the woods. Xprezo Bikes pro Dylan Conte raced to a fifth place finish on the day.
A right hand berm set racers up for a fast exit into the open. Speed Legion Cat 1 rider Alex Makarski exhibits perfect form.
Leaving the woods, racers jumped over some snowmaking pipes then had a sharp left hand corner to deal with before a long fall-away traverse. Billy Goat Bikes pro Max Morgan, who has raced three World Cup events and the World Championships this summer, did a number on the ESC regulars taking the win by more than seven seconds.
Another fast traverse through the woods had racers approaching light speed. Flatline Racing expert Josh Tidman displayed his usual conservative riding style as he passed ESC videographer Jason Scheiding.
One final ski trail traverse completed the racers' journey from the west side of the mountain to the east side.
A woods exit set riders up for for a wooden step down. Cat 2 rider Zach Ritenour displays some style off the feature.
A pedally road section led racers to the final woods section before the finish. After four or five minutes on course, the sound of heavy breathing was nearly as loud as mud-caked suspensions during the final sprint. After racing out west the last two seasons, Jeremy Martin still looked pretty fresh during his first ESC race of the season.
Trail builders incorporated numerous little kickers through this final woods section. Salvatore Fruciano, part of the big 19-rider strong Cat 2/3 19-29 class, airs it out.
With the finish nearly in sight, Cody Roy, Cat 2 under 14 winner, leaps into the final steep pitch on the track.
Sheryl Senczaliewicz, winner of the amateur women's category, drops out of the woods onto the final road sprint to the finish line.
After the final rider had crossed the line, racers had some time to enjoy the perfect fall day. Some, including the Drummer Racing crew, headed back up the hill for some free riding.
Others, including some enduro regulars, kicked back in the pits.
The Junior Xers passed the time with their usual shenanigans.
Some quality gear, medals and checks were awarded on the folksy hay bale podiums. The men's pro podium from left: Adam Morse, 4th, Jason Memmelaar, 3rd, Max Morgan, 1st, Brian Scolforo, 2nd, Dylan Conte, 5th.
Thanks to Jiminy Peak for putting on another well-run and entertaining race for the Eastern States Cup series.
Up next is Plattekill Mountain, October 11-12, with double points on the line in the Series Championship Finals for both the Atlantic and New England Cups. Bring your A Game!
REMAINING 2014 POC ESC DH EVENTS:
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 Championships
Text and photos by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur