When comparing seasons, summer is the easy crowd favorite for most riders. The endless sunshine, racing, and park-laps-till-you-drop all spell mountain biking. And you’ll get no argument that summertime checks the boxes. But at the limits of each riding season comes a peak window when all-time conditions seem to happen more often than’s entirely reasonable.
Fall riding in the Pacific Northwest can be short lived before the drizzle and gray roll in. But in the face of the onslaught, the dirt is good and the riding fast. And if it rains today, the promise of warm skies are just around the corner. The NW Cup hosted the finals at Stevens Pass Bike Park for the second year in a row, and nearly 330 racers came to send off the season. Despite a fluctuating weather forecast earlier in the week, things settled down for some ripping good racing.
In the past, Stevens Pass has uniquely seen Pros/Cat 1 racers running the same course as Cat 2. But not this round. The park's trail crew have been hard at work and opened up a new flowing blue trail for Cat 3, before punching in a steep ridge line track with some advanced chops for the Pros/Cat 1. Piranha Bird and Berserker are the latest additions to the small park that's heavy on granite and excitement.
Excellent conditions Friday and Saturday allowed racers to focus on learning lines on new tracks. This was especially important on Berserker where the fresh cut trail left duffy mounds that seemed more at home in a garden than as part of a downhill race. Despite this, or maybe because of it, the course was well received as new lines were cut in almost hourly. Crashes quickly became a contender and we foresee this trail maturing into a rough ride in the years to come.
In most cases the leads in the overalls were pretty well established. After skipping the last race Luke Strobel and Jaime Rees each only had to finish the race for Pro Men and Pro Women to secure the overalls. Austin Lancaster maintained a similar lead in Juniors.
Strong directional light set the scene for Saturday evening's seedings. But Berserker spends less time in the woods than Slingshot Wookie, so deep shadows aren't as much of a factor as in the past.
Dylan Brown topped the time for Juniors at 2:33.67 — a time that would have seeded him in fifth for Pro Men. Following him was Kendall Mclean, Josh Gibb, Damon Sedivy, and Benjamin Van Veen. Uncharacteristically, Jaime Rees took her seeding run easy and came at the back behind Britney White, Kjersti Christensen, Kerstin Holster, and Linnea Rooke. Rees reports that she and husband Jeff Rees are expecting a little shredder probably had something to with her seeding pace. The new course clearly agreed with Luke Strobel who seeded six seconds ahead of the field. Luke Stevens had the second quickest time followed by Kevin Littlefield, Kent Billingsley, and Weston Potter.
Sunday morning's hour of practice was a busy rush that helped riders locate the best and newest inside lines. The cool mist that hung over the parking lot at the start of the day soon rose into the granite ridges as the sun peeked out of the clouds before the race kicked off. To say conditions were perfect wouldn't be true, but they were darn good. Even the bout of light rain while the Cat 2 racers were wrapping up made for great racing. However, the day did take its toll in the form of a few DNFs. Jason Eiswald took a notably hard hit during his run that took him out of contention for the Juniors.
With the races over, Kendal Mclean had pushed Dylan Brown back to second. Damon Sedivy and Josh Gibb swapped places, ending third and fourth. And Benjamin Van Veen placed fifth. Britney White topped the Pro Women's podium in a nice repeat of last year's finals. Jaime Rees' slow-roll race run was smooth enough to place her in second ahead of Kjersti Christensen, Kerstin Holster, and Linnea Rooke.
Luke Strobel lost a little pace off of his seeding, but still ended two seconds up on Weston Potter. John Keep came another three seconds back to beat Luke Stevens by .24 seconds. Corey Craig claimed spot number five — his second Pro Podium. Full results here
With the last race of the series complete, the crowds gathered for a double helping of podiums and sweet raffles and giveaways. With the overall tallies in, Austin Lancaster, Dylan Brown, and Josh Gibb stood on the Juniors Podium. A champagne covered podium greeted Jamie Rees, Kerstin Holster, and Kjersti Christensen. And Luke Strobel's five wins clearly put him at the top for overalls followed by Kent Billingsley, and Matt Orlando.
That's a wrap for the 2016 NW Cup season! Make sure to get out there and enjoy the fall riding before it disappears. Not ready to say goodbye to racing just yet? You have one more chance to get your PNW downhill race fix in during the Cascadia MTB Championships
on September 30 – October 2nd in Port Angeles, WA. This is a stand alone event presented by the NW Cup and Cadcadia Dirt Cup that will feature an enduro Saturday and a downhill race on Sunday. See you there!