The leaves were turning and snowflakes were in the air as the Vittoria Eastern States Cup wrapped up its 2015 race season this past weekend at Mountain Creek Bike Park in Vernon, New Jersey. Racers gathered one last time to battle for the year's biggest cash purse at the East Coast Super Downhill Championships. The second annual race featured a unique qualifying format. Riders either had to be in the top five in the year-end ESC standings for their category or race their way into the finals during qualifications on Saturday.
Though the $5,000 purse was a big draw, the Super Championships was just as much about getting together with the racing family for one last hurrah.
The Super Championships were again contested on Mountain Creek's rugged Twist and Slayer trails with a unique finish in the mountain's closed-for-the-season Action Park.
The track incorporates everything the mountain has to offer, from massive man-made features like this iconic bridge, to brutal rock gardens and flowey berms and jumps.
The bridge is an intimidating obstacle for riders trying it for the first time.
A tight berm at the exit from the bridge sucked the speed out of your run if not handled correctly. Danny's Cycles Junior-X rider Joe Montano had no trouble keeping his speed up.
There were plenty of opportunities for air on this challenging track.
Mountain Creek has some of the roughest, rockiest terrain on the East Coast and their trail builders know how to take full advantage of their rugged geology. Dean Watson navigates the rocky puzzle.
This impressive slab sent riders into the crux of the track with multiple line options and huge blocks to contend with. Penn State's Daniel Lewis survived the mayhem for a 5th-place finish in Cat 2 19-29.
The square-edged rocks and loose chunder are unrelenting on Slayer. Hopefully Felipe Desousa's suspension was up to the task.
Billy Goat bikes junior Joshua Rogers made the long trip from North Carolina and snagged a 3rd place and some cash for his efforts.
After surviving Slayer, riders had some fast and smooth sailing to the finish line. Vittoria Eastern States Cup organizer George Ulmer sent a rooster tail of dust following him down the track.
A paved road took riders past dormant water slides to the finish line at the base of the mountain's Action Park.
Junior-X racer Adam Robbins, part of the powerful Canadian Adrenalineracer team, took home the top spot and $300 in the future-pros category. Robbins margin of victory was a minuscule .02-seconds over Danny's Cycles phenom David Kahn.
Jordan Daigle, overall ESC New England DH Series champion in Cat 1 19-29, continued his impressive season with a win and a $300 payout at Mountain Creek.
Dustin Mason, the ESC overall Atlantic DH series champ, got his third victory of the season in Cat 1 30-39.
Ken Walter aka WOOF, in only his second major race since 2011, proved he's still got the chops by winning the highly-competitive Cat 1 40-49 class.
Simona Croccolo, winner of six out of her last seven ESC races, took top honors, and $300, for the Cat 1 women.
Titus Nicholson, from Team Jersey Home Grown, topped the largest category of the day to win the 14-and-under race by a mere .18 seconds over Matt Driscoll. The future looks bright for ESC DH racing with a slew of talented youngsters coming up through the ranks.
Ryan Wolstenholme got his second Vittoria ESC win of the season with a convincing victory in Cat 2 19-29.
Sporting his new ESC Atlantic AND New England series champion jersey, Get Loose Racing's Mike Hoffarth kept the pedal to the medal to top the Cat 2 30-39 field, his twelfth top-three finish of the year. Also continuing their winning ways were New England Series overall champions Mark Schnepel, taking the Cat 2 40-49 race, Frank Petty topping the 50+ field, and Stacey Jimenez taking the Cat 3 women.
Lauren Daney, in only her third start this season, took home $1,000 for her convincing win in the women's race. After a four-month hiatus from the ESC race scene, Daney was stoked with her performance. "Mountain Creek always delivers great tracks. Slayer really showed how a DH course should be: Challenging, rocky, rooty, fast and technical, with many open line choices. One of those tracks where no run down the hill is the same as before. Big thanks to Mountain Creek and everyone behind the ESC for continuing to keep East Coast downhill racing alive!"
Reigning two-time New England DH Series overall champion Mary Elges finished another strong season with a runner-up finish at Mountain Creek. Despite some competitive attempts, Elges has never been able to top Daney. The always-charging Elges can put that on her "to do list" for next year.
Team Jersey Home Grown's Cait Fields rounded out the podium for the pro women, seven seconds behind Elges.
The women's pro podium from left: Mary Elges-2nd, Lauren Daney-1st, Cait Fields-3rd
To no one's surprise, reigning Enduro World Series overall champion Richie Rude took the men's pro race. The manner in which he did it was a surprise, as he crashed in the Slayer rock garden and still managed to pull out the win. Rude took home the $1,000 top prize for the second straight year at the Super Championships in a tightly contested race that had the top three finishers separated by less than a second. The Yeti Fox Factory rider cut his teeth on the Eastern States Cup tour. He then went on to race downhill on the World Cup tour before making the incredibly successful switch to the Enduro World Series, where he shocked the racing world with three wins and the overall title this season.
Jason Memmelaar continued his impressive season with a second-place finish, just .44-seconds off Rude's pace. Like Rude, Memmelaar has found success in both the downhill and enduro arenas, with seven combined podium appearances this season.
Local speedster George Ryan, racing for Evil Bikes and Mountain Creek, bettered his 5th-place finish at last year's event with a third, just .89-seconds off Rude's time.
The men's pro podium from left: Alex McAndrew-4th, Jason Memmelaar-2nd, Richie Rude-1st, George Ryan-3rd, Hugo Langevin-5th.
The cash, trophies and schwag were flowing at the awards ceremony as the Vittoria Eastern States Cup put an exclamation point on their most successful season ever.
As always, good times with friends trumps any material gain. The bike racing community is a tight bunch and its hard to say goodbye, even if its only for a few months.
Plans for next season are already in the works, and in 2016 the Eastern States Cup looks to raise the bar even higher. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements on exciting plans for the future. Have a great winter everyone!Pics by Jason Scheiding
Words by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
After 25 great events in 2015, the ESC will rest, recharge and come back with an exciting 2016 program. Have a safe and happy off season! @Eastern-States-Cup