After what seemed like an eternal off-season, racing returned to the Northeast with a bang this past weekend as the Vittoria Eastern States Cup Enduro series charged out of the gate in Pennsylvania. Veteran pro Jason Scheiding was the first man on course, and with that the six-month Vittoria ESC race season officially began.
The leaves were just starting to bud out on the trees and the Wake Robins were in bloom as more than 200 racers shook the cobwebs off and battled for bragging rights at Glen Park, a new venue for the series.
Glen Park is located in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania in the heart of the Poconos. It has been ridden for years by locals and is considered one of the original freeride/downhill spots on the East Coast with many features dating back to the 90's. A testament to that history can be seen in the abandoned ladder bridges and sketchy doubles and drops that are sprinkled across the park's modest vertical.
The Pocono Bike Club has been holding enduros at the park of late and an active group of locals has been maintaining the trails and a labyrinth of jump lines in an area called The Maze just off the parking lot. Eastern States Cup North American Downhill Team member Aidan Casner sampled the freeride options in The Maze before racing to a second-place in the 18-and-under class.
The mountain sits above Brodhead Creek, a popular fishing destination, and attracts a wide array of user groups from dog walkers and birders to off-road enthusiasts. The park is an urban wilderness with ducks and bald eagles co-existing with folks in "temporary housing" arrangements.
Much of the mountain is covered in dense thickets of rhododendron. It was too early for the shrubs to be blooming but it promises to be a riot of color when the buds open in a few weeks.
This enduro is one of only two on the Vittoria ESC calendar with no lift assist transfers. The climb followed a mix of single track and woods roads and was just stout enough that many racers were walking by their fourth or fifth lap. The Defiant Racing team, led by Clif Kids 14-and-under champion Michael Maldonado, stayed in the saddle for their practice laps. Maldonado's win was the first enduro win for the speedy youngster who is already a seasoned veteran with 52 race starts under his belt.
Let's take a look at the tracks: Stage One began at Glen Park's highest point. After a high-speed low-angle charge down the mountain's shoulder racers faced a succession of rocky obstacles. Vermont pro Clair Sick, riding for Deity, I RIDE and Schwalbe, finished in fourth and sent the biggest rock on the stage directly into a poppy double.
The middle of the stage featured fast traverses connected by tricky flat corners, a theme for the day. Jim Catalano from Team Overlook got his first career Vittoria ESC start in the 50+ class.
The bottom of the segment wound through a jungle of rhododendron before dropping steeply down a peanut butter slick chute to the finish. John Nicholson from Team Jersey Home Grown, always one of the fastest guys on the hill, raced to a fourth-place finish in the highly-competitive 40-49 class.
A lower shoulder of the mountain was used as the start of the next three stages which all began within spitting distance of each other. Stage Two started with a twisty romp through the woods before dropping into a broad gully that featured a launch pad exit. Rhode Island speedster Max Beaupre, racing for Trek, Deity and NBX, got stylish in the gully as he raced to a win in the 18-and-under class with a time that would have placed him sixth in the pro field.
After a punchy climb, the segment alternated fast traverses with steep chutes before lining up a series of jumps. Caleb Griffin from Cape Cod caught the bike bug while working part time at his local bike shop and brought some youthful enthusiasm to his second-ever race start.
One of the coolest looking features on the stage was a lippy kicker built into the base of a tree. Matthew Smith shaved some time by not skipping the feature as many did.
Stage Three paralleled Stage Two at the top but quickly became a more challenging affair. A moss-covered battleship of rock offered a direct but riskier line as the trail pitched down the face of the mountain. Junior racer Nathan Mizener, racing for Specialized Bicycles and Wamsley Cycles, didn't opt for the go-around.
The middle of Stage Three had racers absolutely flying across the face of the mountain before offering a double and road gap to berm combo that required full commitment. First-year Vermont pro Emmett Avery, riding for Chuck's Bikes and Julbo, sent the road gap but flatted lower on the stage to end his hopes for a top result.
Fast and flat corners were a common theme throughout the enduro. Ben Smith, who makes the long drive to most Vittoria ESC enduros from his home Ontario, Canada, set up this corner on Stage Three perfectly.
A steep, greasy chute near the base of the stage caused all sorts of trouble for racers, especially in the drizzle on practice day.
The slick roots and off-camber exit took down numerous riders.
Stage Four took racers farther afield on the mountain, taking a sinuous line down the East shoulder. Stephen Matuzak from the A1 Cycling Gravity Team went with the flow through the remnants of last autumn's foliage.
Much of the dirt at Glen Park is glorious with a fine loam and gravel mix creating a wealth of hero conditions.
Near the bottom of Stage Four racers faced the only sustained rock garden on the course. The pucker factor at Glen Park was generally pretty low, which was fine with most racers who hadn't had much time in the saddle this season. Forrest Kelly from Twisted Cog Racing and Stable 12 Brewing found the line through the mossy jumble.
For the final stage, racers returned to the very top of the mountain. After a rip through the woods and a road crossing, riders took a high-speed staircase line over half-a-dozen perfectly-spaced drops that were an absolute blast. Chris Huffmire got some pop over a downed tree.
After a flat pedal section, riders switchbacked through a series of loose corners beneath a power line. Joseph Tayabji got pretty loose in his first-ever Vittoria ESC start. Photo credit to Aidan Casner.
A high-speed double-track took racers through a rhododendron tunnel low on the stage.
JRA Cycles pro Alison Crocker blasted down the final straightaway to the finish.
After on and off showers all day Saturday, race day dawned crystal clear and promised perfect riding temperatures in the 60s and not a cloud in sight.
A colorful crowd gathered for racer meeting on Sunday morning. The Pocono Bike Club, who hosted the event, put on a great show. In addition to an army of volunteer course marshals and safety personnel, numerous local businesses stepped up to create a great experience for racers. The Arlington Diner provided a fully-stocked aid station near the top of the transfer climb. PBJ's, chips, bananas, nuts, water and sports drink mix from Ready Set Run were part of a welcome refueling and socializing oasis and not something we see at other races. Additionally, Cycle Masters Bike Shop provided neutral support and Siamsa Irish Pub brought a gigantic pot of delicious chili to the finish area for a post-race fill-up.
Its a common misconception that the Vittoria ESC races are just a burden on the host club's trail system. In truth the proceeds from the events go to the host clubs and are put to good use to improve and maintain the excellent trail systems like those built by the Pocono Bike Club at Glen Park.
The Fox Transit Seatpost Climber's Challenge is back this season with the fastest climber in each class winning some Fox swag and the fastest overall amateur winning a new Fox Transit seatpost. William Evers, from Twisted Cog Racing and Stable 12 Brewing, was the first man on the climb and no one would catch him as he took home the big prize.
Before we get to our race results, its time for our first bike check of the season. Always hard to choose a good first-race bike check as many racers are on new rides. One bike that was turning heads in the pits was Stephen Kincaid's just-released Cannondale Jekyll. Cannonade claims this bike is "Ready to kick harder, corner quicker and climb easier than anything out there." Kincaid, from Reading, PA took third in the huge 40-49 field so something must be working right with his new steed. Here's a rundown of his components:
Frame: Jekyll 2 27.5 with a BallisTec carbon front triangle and SmartForm C1 alloy swingers
Fork: Fox Float 36 Performance Elite, 170mm
Shock: Fox Float X Performance Elite EVOL w/ Gemini, a Cannonade exclusive dual mode air spring system that allows riders to switch between the 165mm "Flow Mode" and the 130mm "Hustle Mode" with the flick of a bar-mounted lever
Wheels: WTB Frequency Team i29 with 29mm inner width laced to SRAM 900 Boost hubs
Brakes: SRAM Guide RS hydro disc with centerline rotors 200mm front, 180mm rear
Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle 12-Speed
Cranks: TRUVATIV Descendant Carbon Eagle
Seatpost: RaceFace Turbine 150mm internal dropper
Saddle: Fabric Scoop Shallow Elite
Bars: Cannondale C1 Carbon Riser, 15mm rise, 31.8, 780mm width
Stem: Cannondale C1 alloy, 35mm
Grips: Fabric Silicone lock-ons
Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 front, DHR II 2.4 rear, 3C Compound, tubeless ready
Pedals: Loaded Precision flats
The prize table was loaded with swag, including an impressive pile of new tires from title sponsor Vittoria.
New this season is the Alex Rims Stage Race which awards a set of Alex Rims to the fastest amateur racer on a designated stage, in this case Stage Five. Winners of the new rims were Max Beaupre and Lindsey Harris.
The class winners in the Fox Transit Seatpost Climber's Challenge.
In the women's pro race, perennial powerhouse Lauren Petersen, riding for CFM Cycles, Fox New England and Pivot, picked up right where she left off last season. Petersen finished first or second in eight out of nine enduros last season and is rocking a new ride this year, moving from Intense to Pivot. Petersen took every stage but the first and ended with a 19-second overall advantage. "I really enjoyed the course at Glen Park. It was my first time there but it reminded me a lot of the local stuff we have here in Connecticut. It was pretty straight forward, with little tech, so times were tight. But it made for more exciting racing that way! It was also great to catch up with all the girls and see some new faces in the pro field." Petersen struggled with some back issues in the off-season but says she is almost back to 100% now. "I think the time off the bike to heal up was good for me and clearing out the shed for some Pivots really helped inspire me to work hard in preparation for race #1. I'm grateful to Pivot for helping me out. The Mach 6 is hands down the most amazing bike I've ever ridden! I am looking forward to Victory Hill and hoping for some drier conditions this time around."
In the runner-up spot was Alisha Darin, also racing for CFM Cycles. After winning six consecutive starts as an amateur last season this was Darin's first enduro race as a pro. Her consistency carried the day with no big mistakes and top-four results on every stage. Darin will clearly be a racer to watch this season.
On the third step was Corinne Prevot, racing for POC, Skida and Kitsbow. Prevot was the only racer beside Petersen to take a stage win and after a small hiccup on Stage Three finished a scant two seconds behind Darin. The racing at the top of the women's pro field was super tight with a mere 24 seconds separating the top four finishers.
The women's pro podium from left: Clair Sick-4th, Alisha Darin-2nd, Lauren Petersen-1st, Corinne Prevot-3rd, Rachelle Boobar-5th
The men's pro field was dominated by Vittoria Tires pro Adam Morse, racing for Box Components, POC, TRP, and Yeti, who took four of five stages. Since transitioning from downhill to enduro last year, Morse has been on fire, winning three of his last four starts. "I thought the race venue was great. Every stage was packed with rad little bits and even trails that were not part of the enduro were catching my eye on the climb up. After a couple practice runs I got into a groove where I was having so much fun on the bike and the trails that I just didn't want to stop riding. That energy carried through to Sunday and kept me charged up for each stage."
In second place was Jon Gabor, nine seconds behind Morse. Gabor has been racing for a quarter century and runs his own coaching, training, and fitness business. Despite a limited race schedule, Gabor clearly has what it takes to run with the best.
Yeti Cycles pro Jason Memmelaar, also representing Fox, FiveTen and Smith, is one of the most consistently excellent racers on the East coast and again proved his mettle by taking the third spot on the podium, just six seconds off second.
The men's pro podium from left: Mauricio Estrada-4th, Jon Gabor-2nd, Adam Morse-1st, Jason Memmelaar-3rd, Willem Cooper-5th
It was a promising start to the 2017 season and all indicators point to a spectacular season of racing over the coming months. The next event on the Vittoria ESC calendar is just a month away with the Victory Hill Enduro in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom on May 21. This is the only other pedal-only transfer race on the schedule so get on your bike and start logging some miles. See you soon!
Pics and words by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
Video by Jason ScheidingRESULTSPHOTOSVITTORIA EASTERN STATES CUP WEBSITEVITTORIA EASTERN STATES CUP FACEBOOK PAGE2017 VITTORIA ESC ENDURO SCHEDULE
April 23 VITTORIA ESC Enduro – Glen Park, Stroudsburg PA
May 21 VITTORIA ESC – Victory Hill, Victory VT
June 4 VITTORIA ESC – Thunder Mountain, Charlemont MA – BOX SHOWDOWN - STATE CHAMPION
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 FINALS2017 VITTORIA ESC DOWNHILL SCHEDULE
June 4 VITTORIA ESC DH – Thunder Mountain, Charlemont MA – BOX SHOWDOWN - STATE CHAMPION
June 11 VITTORIA ESC DH – Pats Peak, Henniker NH - STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
June 25 VITTORIA ESC DH – Blue Mountain, Palmerton PA – BOX SHOWDOWN - STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
July 9 VITTORIA ESC DH – Plattekill Mountain, Roxbury NY - STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
July 16 VITTORIA ESC DH –Sugarbush, Warren VT BOX SHOWDOWN- STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Aug 20 VITTORIA ESC DH – Attitash, Bartlett NH – BOX SHOWDOWN
Sept 3 VITTORIA ESC DH – Blue Mountain, Palmerton PA – BOX SHOWDOWN
Sept 17 VITTORIA ESC DH – Windham Mountain, Windham NY
Oct 15 VITTORIA ESC DH – Mount Snow, West Dover VT – FINALS
As you've probably heard, the Eastern States Cup has also launched a trio of new big money enduro events, all of the CLIF Enduro East are Enduro World Series qualifiers. While the Killington/Green Mountain Enduro is part of the IMBA National Enduro Series.CLIF Enduro East
July 1-2 Killington/Green Mountain Trails
Aug 5-6 Burke/Victory
Sept 9-10 Thunder Mountainhttp://www.enduroeast.com