Blue skies and black flies welcomed racers as the Vittoria Eastern States Cup enduro series journeyed to the remote Victory Hill Sector in Northern Vermont this past weekend. In stark contrast to the muddy mayhem at last year's inaugural Victory Hill event, conditions could not have been better this year with fast, tacky dirt and comfortably cool racing temperatures. Recently returned from racing the Enduro World Series stop in Madeira, pro rider Adam Morse, racing for Yeti, POC, Vittoria, and Box, sped to a podium finish on Sunday.
Victory Hill is a 1,000-acre parcel privately owned by Laury Saligman and John McGill of Conservation Collaboratives. The pair have invested countless hours into developing a riding destination on the backside of Burke Mountain, home to the hugely-popular Kingdom Trails. Proceeds from the well-attended enduro will go towards further enhancing the sector's growing reputation.
Finding your way to Victory Hill is a solid GPS challenge and takes racers far from the beaten path.
With sweeping views of the northern White Mountains and a remote wilderness feel, riding at Victory Hill is a rewarding back-to-nature adventure.
Victory Hill offers about 700 vertical feet of riding on more than half-a-dozen purpose-built trails. The pitch is generally mellow with loads of flow and just enough techy stuff to keep riders on their toes. The transfer to every stage began with a double-track climb through a tapestry of spring greens. The relatively moderate climb felt increasingly taxing as each day wore on.
Stage One shared a start with Stage Four at the weekend's highest point (last year's event offered one higher start level reached with a hike-a-bike). The opening stage began with a swooping jaunt before dropping into some choppier terrain on Middle Finger. Anna Svagzdys raced her way to a third-place finish in the amateur women's field.
A jumbled rock garden, built by local trail building and riding legend Knight Ide and his crew, was the technical highlight of Stage One. The feature could be rolled on rider's right, but the fastest line required a committing pop off the rock. Joey Groff charged over the gap to a second-place finish in the huge 19-29 class.
Stages One and Three finished well below the parking area at Victory requiring an additional climb back up to the double track transfer. Speed Legion's PJ Mihalick had energy to burn while just missing the podium in the 30-39 class.
Stage Two began with a series of high-speed traverses punctuated by small rock outcrops and drops. Christsonthy Kerner, racing for legendary Vermont bike shop Onion River Sports, took the inside line and won her first amateur class race after taking the runner-up spot at last year's event.
Lower on Stage Two the track left the young-growth hardwoods behind and wove through a dark coniferous forest on Clodhopper. Bicycle Express youngsters Ethan Farmer and Austin Beard trained through the evergreens on practice day. Beard and his twin brother Carson would both podium in the Clif
The stages become progressively longer at Victory. Stage Three topped five minutes for most riders. The top of the track, known as Leif's, was an absolute blast. The trail rides like a pump track with rollers and smooth doubles coming at riders in quick succession. Every little terrain change or feature is put to use, like this rock wall ridden by bike mechanic and Vermont pro Matt Gilbertson.
The middle of Stage Three offered some of the more thought-provoking riding on the hill with numerous line options available to racers. Jonathan Montgomery sailed over a man-made rock garden while racing to his top career enduro finish in the 40–49 class.
A sizable gap off a huge granite boulder lower on the track got a lot of attention during practice. The jump's landing knuckle was pretty hammered by the end of the race with plenty of riders coming up just short on re-entry.
Stage Four, on McGill's Thrill, was the longest of the day by almost a minute. The track featured plenty of pedaling and some super-sweet berms, like this one railed by veteran East Coast downhiller Gavin Vaughan, who raced to a top-ten pro finish for Woodstock Sports and Scott.
The last big feature of the day was a lengthy step down that brought racers out of the woods and into a field just above the finish line. This jump caused a lot of headaches last year but a tweaked takeoff and longer landing made for a better experience for most who took the plunge. Not surprisingly, the jump was a big hit with young rippers who spent much of practice day sessioning the feature. Not sure if you can be called a "local legend" at his age, but super-stylish Barrett Hibsham from the IdeRide team deserves the title.
With Victory Hill as a backdrop, a pair of booters provided a climactic conclusion to the event.
Those that raced Victory Hill in 2016 couldn't stop remarking on how vastly improved the conditions were this year. Though things got a bit chilly on Saturday night with temperatures dropping into the 30s, the weather this year really allowed the venue to shine. An army of volunteers, including a well-trained contingent from the Burke Mountain ski patrol, kept things humming all weekend.
Race day dawned perfectly clear on Sunday morning and promised to stay dry for the duration of the event.
Chris Gilbert from the ESC held an early-morning racer meeting with 225 racers chomping at the bit to put tires to dirt.
Our bike check this week highlights pro racer Peter Ostroski who rides for the Rocky Mountain Urge BP team. Ostroski has a few bike options to choose from but opted for his Instinct at the Victory event.
Frame: Rocky Mountain Instinct carbon 29er
Fork: Fox 36 150mm
Shock: Fox Float Evol 130mm
Wheels: Stan's Flow EX
Tires: Maxis DHF front, DHR rear, EXO casing, tubeless with extra tape inside and spokes taped in pairs to prevent spoke punctures
Brakes: Shimano XTR
Chainring: Shimano XTR 34T
Cassette: Shimano XTR 46T big ring
Shifter/Derailleur: Shimano XTR
Pedals: Shimano XTR
Bars: RaceFace SixC cut to 770mm
Stem: RaceFace Atlas 50mm
Seatpost: Fox Transfer dropper
Saddle: WTB Silverado
After competing in the Fox Transit Seatpost Climber's Challenge on a special first-stage transfer, Franck Kirscher got the party started as the first man on course. Kirscher, a French native living in Canada, missed much of last season with thumb and ankle injuries but seems to be back on track, taking a 7th-place finish.
Since Stages One and Four shared a common start, pros had to wait for the rest of the field to get started on Stage One before they could hit the final segment.
Any waiting provided a great opportunity for black flies to dine. Scott Johannen, racing for JRA Cycles, attracted a swarm of the little vampires while paused at the top of Stage Four.
One of the best things about the Victory Hill enduro was the number of young riders competing. About 60 kids and teens, including big crews from the local IdeRide team and the Renegades based at Diamond Hill, R.I., competed this weekend giving great hope for the future of the sport. Hudson Nablo and Simon Miller both got their first starts under their belts in the Clif Kids class.
The class winners in the Alex Rims Stage Race which awarded a tubeless set-up to each class winner and a set of Alex Rims to the fastest amateur racer on Stage Four. The big winners at Victory hill were Christsonthy Kerner and Ziggy Ribetto who took home the new Alex Rims.
The class winners in the Fox Transit Seatpost Climber's Challenge. Ben Ogden, riding for Vermont Maple Sriracha (that's my kind of sponsor) took home the new Fox dropper post for setting the fastest climb time on the Stage One transfer.
In the women's pro race, Canadian speedster Rachel Pageau was an unstoppable force on Sunday. Pageau won every stage and finished with more than a minute margin on the rest of the field. This was Pageau's second career Vittoria ESC enduro win, having taken the Killington event last summer. "I'm really happy with how the weekend went. I liked the tracks even if they were more on the easier side. Lots of pedalling but I think it's something I'm good at. Also I was really stoked on doing the big jump! I'm looking forward to racing more ESC events this year. I'm only racing enduro this season so I'll also do all the Clif Enduro East events, some of the Canadian Enduro series, and the Enduro World Series stops in Ireland, Aspen and Whistler. I think the ESC crew always do a stellar job at organizing the events. No waiting, everything is always on time, people are nice and welcoming! Awesome!"
In the runner-up spot was Lauren Petersen, ri
ding for Pivot, CFM and Fox New England. Petersen, one of the region's finest for the past many years, is off to another stellar season after winning the year's first enduro at Glen Park.
In third place was Alisha Darin, also racing for CFM Cycles. Darin has made a big impact in a short time racing. She dominated the amateur field in her first season last year and has two top-threes to start her pro career.
The women's pro podium from left: Clair Sick-4th, Lauren Petersen-2nd, Rachel Pageau-1st, Alisha Darin-3rd, Sarah Lynch-5th
The men's pro race featured a similarly dominant performance with Alaskan Peter Ostroski winning all four stages en route to his victory. Ostroski rides on the Rocky Mountain Urge BP team and tries to time some East Coast racing with visits to his family in New Hampshire. He finished second at last year's Victory Hill enduro. "The highlight for me was how improved the trails were over last year. It was great to ride the tracks at full race speed. Some sections felt like BMX tracks and others were really physical." Ostroski has a long history of top-level international racing. This season will include Enduro World Series starts at Aspen and Whistler as well as the grueling Trans B.C. race.
On the second step was longtime Vittoria ESC powerhouse Seamus Powell in his first race start of the season. Powell is now riding for the KHS Factory Racing team and the new ride appears to be working out as Powell finished in the top three on every stage against a pro field stacked with heavy hitters.
In third place was Canadian Antoine Caron, racing for Pivot and Reynolds Enduro. Caron is a former World Cup XC racer but has made a successful transition to the gravity side of things. He will be competing at the Enduro World Series stop in Ireland this coming weekend.
The men's pro podium from left: Adam Morse – 4th, Seamus Powell – 2nd, Peter Ostroski – 1st, Antoine Caron – 3rd, Isaac Allaire – 5th
Enduros with no lift transfers feel different, perhaps a little more communal in their suffering and joy. Victory Hill put on a great show and Mother Nature certainly cooperated. This was one people will be remembering fondly for years. The Clif Enduro East event on August 5/6 offers another chance to sample the goods at Victory. The next stop on the Vittoria ESC Enduro tour will be the Box Components Showdown at Thunder Mountain on June 3rd.
Pics and words by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
Video by Jason ScheidingFULL RESULTSPHOTOShttp://www.easternstatescup.comhttps://www.facebook.com/easternstatescup/Vittoria ESC Enduro Schedule
Eight events count best six
April 23, Vittoria ESC Enduro – Glen Park, Stroudsburg PA
May 21, Vittoria ESC – Victory Hill, Victory VT
June 3, Vittoria ESC – Thunder Mountain, Charlemont MA – Box Showdown (State Championship)
June 25, Vittoria ESC – Blue Mountain, Palmerton PA – Box Showdown (State Championship)
July 16, Vittoria ESC –Sugarbush, Warren VT – Box Showdown (State Championship)
Aug. 20, Vittoria ESC – Attitash, Bartlett NH – Box Showdown (State Championship)
Sept. 3, Vittoria ESC – Blue Mountain, Palmerton PA – Box Showdown
Sept. 24, Vittoria ESC – Killington, Killington VT – Series FinalsVittoria ESC DH Schedule
Nine events count best six
June 4, Vittoria ESC Downhill – Thunder, Charlemont MA – Box Showdown (State Championship)
June 11, Vittoria ESC Downhill– Pats Peak, Henniker NH – State Championship
June 25, Vittoria ESC Downhill – Blue, Palmerton PA – Box Showdown (State Championship)
July 9, Vittoria ESC Downhill – Plattekill Mountain, Roxbury NY – State Championship
July 16, Vittoria ESC Downhill –Sugarbush, Warren VT Box Showdown (State Championship)
Aug. 20, Vittoria ESC Downhill – Attitash, Bartlett NH – Box Showdown
Sept. 3, Vittoria ESC Downhill – Blue Mountain, Palmerton PA – Box Showdown
Sept. 17, Vittoria ESC Downhill – Windham Mountain, Windham NY
Oct. 15, Vittoria ESC Downhill – Mount Snow, West Dover VT – FinalsClif Enduro East
July 1–2 Killington
Aug. 5–6 Burke Victory
Sept. 9–10 Thunder