The Vittoria Eastern States Cup Enduro Series headed north this past weekend for round two of the ten-race series. For the second time in as many starts, racers were treated to a new venue, and again the race sold out with more than 240 racers participating. Victory Hill is not named for a desired race result but rather for the remote Northeast Kingdom town of Victory where it is located. Only a few miles, as the crow flies, from the mountain biking mecca of Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Victory Hill has a raw wilderness vibe that is belies its proximity to the buffed network on the other side of the mountain.
Spring is just beginning to show its face in northern Vermont. Riders were greeted with blooming trillium and, unfortunately, the first black fly hatch of the year. Swarms of the pests kept riders from spending too much time recovering at the top of the transfer on Saturday’s practice day.
After a warm and pleasant practice day on, race day Sunday was wet, windy and raw. An undeterred crowd gathered in the meadow below the flanks of Victory Hill for last minute instructions from race director Steve Battaglini.
The trail network at Victory Hill has been slowly developing over the past half dozen years with a major push over the past couple summers. Despite its modest vertical and pitch, the trails at Victory Hill serve up a smorgasbord of riding options. Dickon Hersey leaned it over through a patch of trout lilies on Sunday.
The lower sections of the network offer plenty of flow, with sinuous lines and berms through the forest. Trail designer and builder Knight Ide has been slowly turning a web of logging roads and indistinct trails into a legitimate single track destination.
The upper flanks of the hill are riddled with weather-worn boulders which brought down numerous racers.
Being spring in Vermont, there was some mud. Actually a lot of mud. Pro racer Sabin Rossi, riding for The Collective and Competitive Edge, got in deep on Stage One, while charging to a top-ten finish.
There were endless playful features sprinkled throughout the four stages. Emmett Avery, racing for Chuck’s Bikes, threw some style through the trees on Stage Four en route to a super fast win in the 18 and under category. Avery’s time would have landed him in 6th place in the men’s pro field.
There were a couple bigger features for racer’s who felt like logging some airtime. Local junior Ethan Mosedale, racing for Ideride, sent the final step down deep on Stage Four.
Most racers agreed that Victory Hill was probably the most physically challenging East coast enduro they had raced in. Long, pedally stages and four lung-burning transfers provided a real test of fitness, especially this early in the season. Did I mention it was muddy?
Taking the win for the pro men was perennial podium threat Seamus Powell, racing for Giant Factory Off Road Racing. Powell won Stages One and Three and had a 10-second cushion entering the final leg but gave back almost all of it after a mishap in the mud at the top of Stage Four and eked out the win by the slimmest, one-second margin.
In the runner up spot was Peter Ostroski, visiting his New Hampshire roots from his current home in Alaska. Ostroski, racing on the Rocky Mountain Urge Rally Team, has been logging some frequent flyer miles in the enduro world, competing in nine Enduro World Series events in the past two years.
In the third spot was Jason Memmelaar, racing for Yeti Cycles. Memmelaar won the the first Vittoria ESC enduro of the year at Diamond Hill, RI a few weeks back and appears poised for a season-long battle with Powell for the top step on the podium.
The mens pro podium: Adam Morse-4th, Peter Ostroski-2nd, Seamus Powell-1st, Jason Memmelaar-3rd, Ryan Lee-5th
On the women’s side, veteran racer Dawn Bourque, who has only raced twice in the past six years, won three stages and took home the victory by a convincing nine-second margin.
On the second step was reigning Vittoria ESC enduro overall champion Lauren Petersen, racing for CFM Cycles, Intense Cycles and Honey Stinger. Petersen had not missed the podium for a remarkable 22-race stretch until a bad crash at Diamond Hill broke her streak in April. With her runner-up finish at Victory Hill, she appears to be healed up and ready to start a new streak.
Newcomer Sarah Lynch took third place, just 12 seconds off the pace. Racing for Two Wheel Racing, Lynch has made her mark on the XC scene and may have her sights set on some enduro glory.
The women’s pro podium, Laurence Harvey-4th, Lauren Petersen-2nd, Dawn Bourque-1st, Sarah Lynch-3rd, Corinne Prevot-5th
Pics and words by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
The next Vittoria ESC enduro will be June 5th at Blue Mountain in Palmerston, PA