Words and photos by Harlan Price
This weekend, September 29 and 30, was the inaugural King of the Mountain enduro at Mountain Creek Bike Park in Vernon, New Jersey. The three stages on Saturday were for amateurs and pros while Sunday had two extra stages just for the pro class, which was really just an open class for anyone who thought they’d be competitive or could handle the more difficult terrain.
The weather on Saturday had threatened to be clear, but most of the day we were riding through heavy fog or a slight drizzle. The trails were amazingly resilient but there were enough fresh trails or short muddy sections to give everyone wet shoes and grinding drivetrain.
Todd Ford and Elwell Marjory are about to get their bikes dirty.
Stage one was a mass start by category and off the line it was chaos. After a 100 yard sprint up, we immediately dropped into a muddy access road with a half dozen water bars. People were sliding all around, taking lines on purpose and accidently. I immediately realized my goggles were only distorting my vision but couldn’t take a hand off the bars to pull them down around my neck. Mud in the eye is better than feeling like I was wearing bifocals. A mix of rough dualtrack, high speed corners, short quick climbs and a series of grass-slope turns brought us to the bottom. It was fun, intense and full of virtual elbow rubbing and corner chopping.
The transition to stage two had a little hill on it.
The transition climb to the start of stage two had a time bonus to keep people moving. The top third of each category got a 20 second bonus, the second third got 15 seconds and the last third got nothing. The first person to the top was awarded at the end of the event with some swell Saint components from Shimano.
Sean Pritchardthorp on stage two.
Stage two had a more cross-country style, except it was very technical with lots of awkward moves and big rocks to get through. Mountain Creek is developing it’s cross country trail system and there were some fresh lines to be had. It was the shortest stage but was a beautiful transition before heading back to the more gravity-oriented stages.
Stage three dropped down off the top of the mountain and mixed in the mountain’s green trails with some quick transitions to steep climbs to make sure it wasn’t only about your descending skills. Those transitions also allowed different trails to be connected that aren’t normally linked together. It was a great way to finish the day and the final section of berms left everyone with a grin that wiped away the pain from the climbs.
Paul Dotsenko on stage four. Paul ended up 6th overall.
On day two and stage four the pros saw the sun come out and trail difficulty amped up. There were drops, tabletops, step-downs and some serious rock gardens to test bikes and riders. The climbs also came more frequently, got steeper, and more awkward. Cross country riders were feeling a disadvantage to the guys able to huck and whip, but the climbs kind of evened out the field. One notable feature was a high-speed step-up that was probably 10 feet tall then dropped quickly into a berm with a step-down out of it. Mountain Creek is a really well designed bike park.
Winner of the Madcap Enduro in August, Matt Miller got 3rd overall at the King of the Mountain. Look at that face. Enduro racing is hard! Photo by Matt Stiegler.
The last stage actually felt a bit calmer than stage four. It had several short table-tops that were about the perfect size for the speeds we were hitting, several drops that could easily be overshot, and just enough wooded sections to make you pucker and slide around on roots and slabs of rock. The finish through the trail called Indy had so many berms with descending radius’s I felt like I was gonna be spit out the end of a spiraling water slide.
Mountain Creek and course designer Jeff Lenosky did a great job on a first time event and they are looking forward to doing more next year! In a nutshell, it was a ridiculously fun and challenging event. I’ll definitely be back next year.
The women’s podium was a happy place. Maria Nyholm (Ridetopia) managed first in front of Kait Fields (MountainCreekBikePark).
The men’s podium hosted the East Coast’s burgeoning enduro experts. From Left, Derek Bissett (Pro-Mountain Outfitters), Harlan Price (Santa Cruz Bicycles/ TakeAimCycling), Jeff Lenosky (Giant/Teva/Fox/Shimano), Matt Miller (Giant id-Atlantic), and Keenan Hanson (DB 30).
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