2015 Eastern States Cup Enduros
The third stop of the ESC Enduro Series took us to the northernmost venue of the series – Attitash Mountain in Bartlett, New Hampshire. Some of the familiar faces did not make it to this round, but were replaced by a squadron of really fast New Hampshire and Vermont riders.
Saturday was a beautiful day for practice but everyone knew that Sunday would be a very different day. With 100% chance of rain starting at 4AM and not letting up until the evening, it would be a slog-fest that benefits the rider that can adapt to changing conditions.
The forecast did not lie. We woke up to the sound of mild but consistent rain and puddles in the parking lot. Unwillingly, we put on rain gear – some jackets, some makeshift vests made out of garbage bags, whatever could keep you dry and warm for at least some of the race. Mid-50’s and rain did not sound like fun for a multi-hour race with three steep pedal transfers.
Stage 1 hit hard as one of the most technical stages of the race. It started with a Kamikaze style bomb down a baby-head littered ski slope where riders reached speeds of over 30 mph, trying to stay on the somewhat beaten path and on two wheels. The rain at this speed was making visibility very low. A few sweeping turns later, you were jumping into the woods, trying to readjust your vision from bright to dark, in order to stay on the bike between the winding trees and through the big rocks. Attitash has historically been a downhiller’s Enduro and one of the race’s very few uphill sections was here, in a form of a short but steep climb back out onto a ski slope. A few interchanges of open air and tight dark woods, I was happy to get to the bottom of this stage unscathed, even if a lot slower than desired.
As far as Northeast riding goes, If you want loam, you come to Attitash. Stages 2 and 3 were made up of it almost exclusively, punctuated only by fast stretches of grassy ski slope or hard packed access road.
Stage 2 was brand new for this year and it showed. In practice, the tires sank a couple of inches into the weightless dust and loam. On race day – that magical dirt turned into a thick, heavy mass that wanted to suck the bike into every corner. Barely visible roots and sapling stumps became more and more exposed and didn’t hesitate to put you on your side if your wheel placement wasn’t absolutely perfect. This was the shortest stage of the day, after which it was back up the pedal transfer into the same section of the woods.
Stage 3 reflects the future of the previous Stage. It has been around for over two years now and features the same terrain and twisty feel as Stage 2. The corners are deeper from races past but not much more solid than the previous stage due to all the rain. Staying loose on the bike and keeping in control of your rear tire were the keys to staying on the trail.
Stage 4. This one was somewhat similar to the two prior stages but wetter, tighter, and with a lot more deep holes. The ground seemed to undulate the whole way down, some of the holes so steep, they could throw you over the bar if you weren’t on it. A short wooded section gave way to fast access road descent all the way to the bottom of the resort.
At this point in the day, the warmth of the rain jackets has all but leaked out and was replaced with the cold and wet feeling from the drenched clothes. By the mid point of Stage 5, I realized that my fingers were too cold and stiff to effectively operate my shifter and dropper post.
Despite the miserable conditions, the last stage was my favorite of the weekend. A mixture of high-speed open sections and technical woods made for great variety within a stage. While the woods weren’t quite as rough as Stage 1, the sharp high-speed section up top was responsible for a considerable amount of flats and ruined many riders’ day. The abundance of wooden bridges on this stage meant that you really needed to pay attention to line choice if you wanted to keep it rubber side down. No changing direction and no braking on the glass-like surface.
It was great to finally get to the bottom and be able to get out of the wet clothes and into something a little more clean and warm. Rainy race 2015 is in the books. It was fun, but not that fun. Here’s to hoping that it was the only one for the year.
Congratulations as always to everybody that got on the podium, especially the Pro winners, Leland O’Connor and Lauren Petersen. The next stop of the series is Killington, Vermont, and is only 4 days away. Killington always manages to bring the big-mountain feel to the Northeast and it’ll be interesting to see what they have in store for this year.
2015 Eastern States Cup Enduros