Eastern States Cup returned to the slopes of Killington Mountain last weekend for the first of two Enduros being held there this year. The ESC Enduro Series keeps growing in popularity and this race was no exception with a near record of 213 racers lining up at the start line. In typical Killington fashion, the stages were long and technical, demanding both fitness and bike handling prowess. With roughly 30 minutes of racing spread over five stages, this was also one of the longest races in the series with consistently long stages.
The hope for dry conditions was diminished as rain and vicious wind came down Friday night. Those that camped out shared similar stories of chasing their tents across the parking lot and saying goodbye to their mangled EZ-ups.
Early practice on Saturday presented racers with soaking wet trails and slippery roots. Stages 2 and 3 resembled streams more than trails and Stage 5 was a deep mud bog in all the places you didn’t want it to be. This was all too familiar to last year’s 4th of July Enduro. By the end of the day, things dried up considerably, although Stage 5 stayed as wet and muddy as ever, with no hope for better conditions on race day.
Killington has been busy building a lot of new school trails, some of which blended seamlessly with familiar natural terrain and welcomed riders with the most perfect berms I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding. That was the case with Stage 1, a roller coaster of high speed whoops and natural jumps.
New for this year was Stage 4. The freshly cut trail is intended to be part of the ProGRT DH race coming up at the end of the month. Wide open, it was a sea of line choice and holes that could either put you in a perfect rhythm, or ruin it entirely. Fresh loam covered a web of slippery roots, some becoming more exposed through the weekend, some staying just out of eye sight and waiting to take you out with even the slightest misplacement of a wheel. Perfect concentration was key to doing well here. Stage 4 was a crowd favorite and I’m sure a trail we’ll see again in the future Enduros.
The last stage was a classic Killington Enduro stage, encompassing pretty much every aspect of mountain biking. Hard pedal efforts, all out sprints, high speed slick rock, loam surfing, and the steepest, most technical sections of the whole race. It’s a Stage that I generally really like, but also one that sees the most wear and tear after a rain. All the technical wooded singletrack becomes smeared with inches of mud and keeping momentum becomes a chore and a mental game. A lot of racers struggled with this one, in part because it was the last Stage of a long day of racing.
As usual, Killington did not disappoint and once again confirmed its potential for big mountain riding in the Northeast. The next ESC Enduro is at Plattekill, another classic venue and a racers’ favorite.
For more photos and full results, check out ROOTSandRAIN