John Ronca getting low through the ferns
2015 Eastern States Cup Enduros
We’re back for the second stop of the Eastern States Cup Enduro series. This weekend we headed to Palmerton, Pennsylvania, home to the state’s tallest resort – Blue Mountain Bike Park. This was Blue Mountain’s 3rd year hosting an Enduro race but for one reason or another, it has eluded me until now. It’s rare that I get to experience a new race venue these days so racing here was a treat. After much contemplation and no expectations or experience to base my gear choices on, I went into it with my standard bike set up, which ended up a little off.
Chris Patton and Trevor Peckham lapping practice runs
With 165 contestants, the race nearly sold out and became the biggest ESC Enduro to date. With long lift lines and frequent mechanicals and pit stops, Saturday’s practice was an all day affair. I found out first hand that this was not a race to be saving weight on tires, pinch flatting my 800 gram front tire and denting the rim. On to 1000 gram tire, then.
Jay Memmelaar takes the win after an unfortunate mechanical at Plattekill
There are two sides to the terrain at Blue Mountain. First is the immaculate bike park features – smooth berms, packed in jumps, perfect flow. And the second is the sheer technicality of the place – sharp rock imbedded into the ground, large roots dissecting the trails, and yet, the speed you are able to carry through it all is unbelievable. Fast, blind corners with high consequence drop offs remind you to check your speed.
Anthony Coneski takes another 5th place
Stages 1 and 2 had a similar bike park feel, with groomed berms of all sizes and deep bench cut with absolutely incredible flow. Even after the first practice run, it was clear that the trail builders here really know their stuff and this was going to be one hell of a race course. It was also clear that a 34 tooth chainring was maybe not the best choice for the wide open straightaways at the beginning and end of these stages.
Seamus Powell settled for 4th place after a mechanical on Stage 2 and 3
Stage 3 started off a lot like the previous stages: berms, flow, fast singletrack, before kicking it up a notch in the chunder department. Awkward rocks and tiny uphill sections rewarded the rider that could stay light on the bike or gap sections of trail at a time. Upon exiting the woods, the course opened up to a fast ski slope, punctuated by small ladder drop offs and turns cut into the side of the hill that made one feel like Matt Hunter doing that one corner – you know the one.
3rd place finisher, Jason Scheiding on Stage 3
Stage 4 had the most variety and the most details to remember. Starting off with dusty, blown out berms and table tops, it quickly jumped into the woods for some fast technical descending, more so than any of the previous stages. One section in particular proved treacherous for a lot of riders and claimed more flat tires than I’ve seen at just about any other race. A high speed ski slope traverse leading into an airborne entry into the woods and some of the sharpest rocks as the landing, proved to be a lesson in finesse and line choice.
Brandon Draugelis looking good in practice
After weaving your way through a forest crisscrossed by large roots and framed by lush ferns, the course took a sharp, off camber right turn, sending you into a jump line. The sweeping berms and table tops would feel right at home at a BMX jump spot – steep and short, good for going slow and high, but certainly not designed for race speed. This one proved tricky and if you weren’t careful with your speed, you’d find yourself landing clear past the landing.
Rider smashing the Stage 4 jumps
The last stage offered the roughest terrain yet the most pedaling on the day. Starting off with a sprint into a short flowy jump section, the trail demeanor quickly turned to the most technical descending yet. Line choice was crucial here in order to avoid flatting and keeping momentum. The longest sustained downhill eventually turned into an access road sprint into the lower section of the woods, a polar opposite of the top. Flat, somewhat rooty trail, more reminiscent of an XC race, meant getting on the pedals and sprinting to the fullest capacity. It was all pedaling from here. The XC loop gave way to an access road lap around the backside of the resort before finishing up near the base lodge.
Richard Nyguist makes this awkward section look smooth
Congratulations goes out to everyone that made it to the podium and especially to Jason Memmelaar and Amy Alton, both winning their respective Pro classes along with every single stage of the race. Next stop for the Eastern States Cup Enduro is Attitash all the way in New Hampshire on June 28. You don’t wanna miss this one!
2015 Eastern States Cup Enduros