The largest field ever for a Maxxis Eastern States Cup Box Components Showdown weekend descended on Killington, Vermont this past weekend for some high-octane enduro and downhill racing.
The largest field ever for a Maxxis Eastern States Cup Box Components Showdown weekend descended on Killington, Vermont this past weekend for some high-octane enduro and downhill racing. With dry tracks and perfect weather the action on the hill and in the pits was as good as it gets. Huge transfers in the enduro race made for an epic day with racing action spanning nearly eight hours from first start to last finish. The biggest field in years turned out for the downhill race which appears to be reviving in numbers after taking a hit from the rise of enduro over the past few seasons.
Killington Resort, known as the Beast of the East, is a sprawling mountain with a vast network of mountain bike trails serviced by three lifts. The resort has invested heavily in its bike terrain over the past few years and offers a huge variety of trails from fast and flowy machine-made rollercoasters to world-class jump trails to rooty old-school single track to some of the rowdiest rock gardens in the East.
The Specialized Enduro at Killington was one for the ages. Talk about a rude awakening. At past events, the epic top-to-bottom Scarecrow/Steel Panther stage has often been the final test of the day. At this year’s edition it was the opening salvo. The seven-minute-plus stage featured everything Killington has to offer bundled into one leg-burning package. The double-diamond rock garden about a minute into the stage has been giving racers fits for years. Chris Crispin nailed it and has been absolutely dominating the 30-39 fields this season with seven enduro and downhill wins in eight starts. The 30-39 class at Killington topped the 50 entrant mark so Crispin’s enduro win earned him a cash bonus from SDR Clothing. Crispin also won the men’s BOX Showdown event, and some new bars from BOX Components, by earning the most points of any racer competing in both enduro and downhill. He topped runner up Zachary Siegel and 3rd-place finisher Adrian Hayden in a big field of multi-discipline racers.
The lower half of Stage One followed Steel Panther which featured a mix of old-school roughness and machined tid bits. Jason Samek sent a rock diving board low on the stage to a win in the the U15 class.
The Killington enduro had some lengthy pedal transfers, the longest being from the end of Stage One to the start of Stage Two. Many racers took 45 minutes to an hour to complete the arduous climb. At least the scenery was a distraction.
The Fox Transfer Seat Post Challenge rewarded racers for their efforts on the transfer between Stages One and Two. Nik Orlando was the fastest pedaler of the day and took home a new Fox Transfer Dropper Post for his efforts but was out working on the course during awards.
Stage Two was another classic Killington testpiece linking Funnybone and The Beast. After a scary high-speed, chundery traverse racers dropped down these spectacular rock slabs. Emile Burke clocked a solid 13th-place finish in the super-competitive U20 field in his first-ever ESC race.
The lower half of the stage was contested on The Beast which offers some of the most-technical riding on the mountain. This trail is often riddled with mud holes but was running fast and dry for a change this year. Jacob Job spent a lot of time analyzing the rowdiest section of trail and his hard work paid off with his best pro result in five starts this season.
Another long pedal transfer brought riders to the secretive entrance of Yo Vinny, one of the mountain’s oldest trails, and the start of Stage Three. The trail mixes wooden features and raw ruggedness in some of the steepest and most dramatic terrain on the mountain. Pro women Kim Quinlan and Lauren Breza trained though one of the roughest spots on practice day.
The final big pedal transfer of the day brought racer to the top of Stage Four where they faced Snake Bite. This Stage offered some dusty turns in the open and a couple punchy climbs that taxed already weary legs.
After some wooden features, the stage left the trail map and dropped racers down into a basin below Skye Peak. Patrick Nugent dropped into a berm and slotted into the top half of the huge 30-39 class in his first ESC race of the year.
After exploring the farthest southern reaches of the bike park in Stage Four, racers then transfered the width of the mountain where they took a much-deserved lift ride up the Ramshead quad and the final stage. Stage Five took a top-to-bottom romp down Krusty, a new incarnation of a classic trail. This was the second-longest stage of the day and though free from some of the rocky technicality of the upper-mountain trails it still took a physical toll with seemingly endless switchbacks and flat-out pedals. Josh Mahoney kept it flowing in through the monster berms.
Killington local Mazie Hayden has been crushing it on the downhill bike this season but earned her first enduro victory of the year in convincing fashion on Sunday. “The enduro tracks were awesome this year! The hardest part was probably the transfers between them, the stages themselves were a good mix of old school tech and some newer/flowier sections. I ended up winning every stage which I was really excited about, especially with a small fall on Stage Two!”
Former elite XC rider Marine Lewis had her undefeated pro enduro streak broken at Killington but still managed a solid second-place finish. Lewis is fit and fearless, good attributes for a successful enduro racer. She will likely be back on top of the podium in the not-too-distant future.
The men’s pro race saw a first-time pro winner in Kory Nagy. After knocking at the door the past few seasons, Nagy was able to pull out the win based largely on a monster effort on the opening stage where he bested the rest of the field by eight seconds. The professional ice hockey official nearly let his advantage slip away on Stage Three but rebounded with two top-three finishes in the closing stages to seal the victory. “I loved Stage One with the wide open fast sections! The biggest stage challenge for me was Stage Four with the up-hill pedal mid-stage. I’m a big fan of the long hard days with big transfers. Not saying I don’t bitch about it during the climb, but the feeling after finishing a day like that is awesome!! Riding with (my older brother) Ajay during practice really helps. We see the trail differently and both have different opinions on lines and can compare and see what works better.”
After maintaining a nearly full-time race schedule for years, veteran Jason Memmelaar has been more more selective of his race dates the past few years. The change hasn’t slowed him down any as the GT Bikes pro won two stages and made his second-straight podium appearance in as many starts this season.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the free pizza party thrown by Specialized Bikes after practice on Saturday. The finish area grass was littered with racers happily munching slices and Specialized rep and longtime ESC racer Dave Richards proved a great host and ace pizza box stacker at the event.
The downhill race brought out a huge field of racers, the largest in the past four years for a Maxxis ESC Intense DH event. The race was contested on Goat Skull, which was first raced on only three years ago. The track has become rougher and faster over that time, with winning times now a full 10-seconds faster than at the inaugural event. The track is not steep but it is a non-stop challenge with endless roots, sniper rocks and off camber corners. Paul Ordonez earned a 3rd-place finish in the Expert 19-29 category in his first-ever Maxxis ESC start.
Blind corners and high speeds kept racers on their toes all day. Justin Lagassey, an accomplished enduro rider, broke out of the mold and rode his single crown to an amateur 19-29 victory in his first ESC downhill start.
Most of the track’s rocky obstacles are in the toaster-size range, but there are a few monster outcrops for racers to contend with. Aaron Perry scorched the track for a 2nd-place finish in the amateur 30-39 category just behind BOX overall winner Chris Crispin.
The kids were out in force this weekend with 40 youngsters competing in the U15 and U12 categories. Logan Tiger threw some style off the finish line jump and earned a win in the U15 class, just edging Cristian Suarez by .7-seconds.
Mazie Hayden capped her monster race day with a downhill win to go with her enduro win from the morning. Hayden injured her shoulder at Plattekill a few weeks ago but was able to ride with confidence. Not surprisingly, Hayden was also the women’s winner of the BOX Components Showdown, topping Jennifer Yanazzo and Carissa DiRado for the overall victory. “I only ended up getting two DH practice runs the whole weekend due to how time consuming the enduro was. My shoulder held up really well all things considered. It wasn’t very painful, just tired. Hayden, also an elite-level ski cross competitor, plans to race World Champs at Mont-Sainte Anne and the Snowshoe World Cup in the coming weeks.
Ivana Estrada, the daughter of speedster Mauricio Estrada, has been making waves in the women’s pro field. Estrada made the leap from amateur class to pro in two short seasons and has yet to miss the podium this year.
Canadian Benjamin Després-Morin has been roaming the globe this season with his downhill bike and put together a near flawless run to win the ESC Intense downhill pro class on Sunday. After competing in World Cups in Maribor, Fort William and Leogang this season Després-Morin matched Dakotah Norton’s winning time on Goat Skull from a couple years ago. “The track at Killington was dope! I had raced there back in 2017 for the Pro GRT so I already knew the course. The track has so many lines, it’s fast and physical. It was great to win because I’ve been struggling with a shoulder injury these past few weeks. It’s nice to know I can do a full run again. I’ll race every other Maxxis ESC stop this summer doing both enduro and DH and I will probably race the last World Cup venue in Snowshoe. The three World Cups I’ve raced this season were definitely some good experiences, but the pace these guys are on is no joke.”
In the runner-up spot was Iron Man Steve Estabrook who has been crushing it this season with eight pro podiums on the Maxxis ESC tour. As if the challenge of racing both enduro and downhill on the same day wasn’t enough, Estabrook left the venue Saturday afternoon for a wedding on Cape Cod and didn’t get back to Killington until after 3 a.m. on race day.
On the third step was Estabrook’s teammate Isaac Allaire who has landed in the top three in his last three ESC Intense DH starts. It was a good day for the Defiant Racing Team who landed three of their racers on the pro podium with Jordan Daigle joining Allaire and Estabrook.
Current enduro champion Kory Nagy enjoyed some family time after the race with perhaps a future champion. Hope to see 18-month old Hudson racing in a few years. You don’t have to wait that long though. The series returns to Plattekill in two weeks for the second-to-last BOX Showdown of the year. Be there!
Pics and words by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
Video by Jason Scheiding