- On August 20 and 21, the Enduro World Collection will race at Sugarloaf mountain resort in Maine, on trails constructed by Olympic mountain biker Adam Craig.
- Sugarloaf was as soon as an enormous hub for mountain bike racing within the 90s, and now, the mountain is trying to return to its roots, with enduro races and a future lift-service bike park.
- The Enduro World Collection will function professional riders from around the globe. Sugarloaf is the second U.S. cease within the collection this 12 months, after Burke, Vermont.
This weekend, on August 20 and 21, Sugarloaf mountain in Maine is taking part in host to the Enduro World Collection (EWS), marking an enormous comeback for the resort within the sport of mountain biking. The occasion will see the perfect enduro professionals from around the globe line as much as race on contemporary trails constructed by Olympic mountain biker and Maine native Adam Craig.
There’s an unmistakable “Again to the Future” high quality to the EWS coming to Sugarloaf. Throughout the 90s, Sugarloaf, one in every of New England’s premier ski locations, jumped on the mountain biking bandwagon by internet hosting one of many area’s high cross-country races, the Widowmaker Problem (named after a legendary ski run). Among the many youngest, and finest, racers to line up for that annual sufferfest was Craig, a then teenager from Exeter, Maine.
Craig raced shoulder-to-shoulder alongside regional stars, like Maine’s Peter Webber and Vermont’s Andy Bishop, and would go on to have a formidable profession that included 5 nationwide titles, World Cup appearances, and a spot on the 2008 Olympic group on the Beijing Video games. He relocated to Bend, Oregon, so he may practice year-round. Towards the top of his profession, Craig’s racing specialty morphed from cross-country to enduro, a mountain bike stage race the place riders are timed on descents. A longtime Large-sponsored racer, he continued his affiliation with the model as an envoy and path advocate—then the pandemic hit.
“I began spending extra time again in Maine,” Craig says. “Bike occasions all shut down for 2020, and it allowed me extra time to go to with my of us… The connections I made at Sugarloaf began coming collectively, and this mission began to take some form.”
The 41-year-old Craig returned to his roots, taking on residence within the Bigelow Mountains of western Maine as Sugarloaf’s supervisor of mountain bike occasions and initiatives. He introduced a long time of trail-building proficiency developed whereas residing in Bend, working with mentors like Paul Thomasberg of Terra Velo Options, Todd Olsen of the federal Bureau of Land Administration, and Kevin Rowell and Brandon Haraughty of the U.S. Forest Service.
“I’m making use of that data to this surroundings,” he says of his work at Sugarloaf.
Craig’s return coincides with a revitalization of mountain biking at Sugarloaf. Shortly after the flip of the century, as curiosity in native cross-country racing waned, resort executives made a enterprise choice and opted to give attention to Sugarloaf’s golf services. Fats-tire actions grew to become an afterthought.
That created a void, nevertheless it was stuffed by a bunch of passionate year-round outside fans, together with many residents and skiers with second properties within the space. The city of Carrabassett Valley, the Carrabassett Valley chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Affiliation, and the pioneering non-profit Maine Huts & Trails banded collectively to start out constructing and sustaining the present 77 miles (and deliberate 100 miles) of trails on either side of the Carrabassett River. The sprawling path system included Sugarloaf’s Nordic community (managed by the city), however not the resort’s alpine trails.
Extra not too long ago, nevertheless, the resort joined the opposite three teams to type Carrabassett Valley Trails, an effort led by Brenna Herridge, Sugarloaf’s director of gross sales and an avid mountain biker. Within the fall of 2020, Craig related with Herridge “to get momentum going up on the mountain once more,” he says, and volunteered to place in a path from the highest of the Whiffletree superquad chairlift. Herridge expressed serious about having Sugarloaf host enduro races, however they wanted the fitting trails first. Over that winter, with Craig’s trail-building experience, they labored with the Maxxis Jap States Cup—a regional enduro and downhill race collection—crew to plan a race for September 2021.
“So we simply type of scratched the paths in, and it was enjoyable… We hit the bottom with 5 trails on the mountain,” Craig says. “We had a very fantastic, scrappy volunteer effort, which was the native mountain bike neighborhood. They received wind of what we had been doing, and got here out and helped out a ton.”
The success of final 12 months’s Jap States Cup satisfied Craig and Herridge that Sugarloaf may host an EWS-level occasion, and officers with the Scotland-based tour agreed. This 12 months’s Jap States Cup race at Sugarloaf, on June 26, additionally served as an EWS qualifier. The EWS occasion at Sugarloaf, coming every week after the EWS cease at Burke Mountain in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, is predicted to attract roughly 400 racers, together with an elite solid of 250 worldwide rivals.
“We’re stoked to have the chance to have folks come out and luxuriate in some new trails on the mountain,” says Craig. “What higher manner to do this than to ask the world’s finest riders.”
The EWS occasions at Burke and Sugarloaf are the one two U.S. stops within the collection of 11 races, which will even go to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, and Slovenia this 12 months. However the two occasions, although separated by a three-hour drive, will current rivals with night-and-day racing.
“The using at Burke is fairly developed, and it has been for fairly a while,” says Craig. “These are all actually mature trails. There’s much more bedrock at Burke, and the paths are simply older and extra ridden. They’ve accomplished tons of nice work, and the paths journey rather well. It’s positively a unique character… All the pieces we have now right here is fairly darn new. It’s contemporary. I believe they’re actually good complementary occasions.”
Although “contemporary,” the gravity terrain at Sugarloaf, very similar to Craig’s presence, elicits the identical throwback vibe. Three a long time in the past, when Sugarloaf and neighboring resort Sunday River dominated the Maine mountain-biking roost, the paths had been powerful—steep, sketchy, twisting, slim singletrack— and treacherous when moist. That’s one purpose, Craig suspects, that mountain biking light from the summer time facilities at these resorts.
“The fact was, in case you didn’t have the downhill bike and the abilities to journey it, you actually couldn’t journey these trails, so the enterprise didn’t actually develop,” says Craig. “They selected to not make the funding required to go together with circulate trails and newbie pleasant trails.”
“However these days, the bikes—the usual, middle-of-the-road mountain bike which you can stroll into a motorcycle store and get for an affordable value—is completely able to using the steepest, most technical trails we have now up right here on the mountain,” he says. “There are simply extra riders which have good gear and the abilities to do it now, so there’s extra curiosity within the enduro type of using.”
Because of this, the path community constructed by Craig, his crew of two (Sam Rhoads and Carter Lawless), and a cadre of devoted volunteers, will heat the knobby coronary heart of any old-school rider.
“They’re pure trails that actually work properly with the panorama… They’re simply rocky and rooty and tough,” says Craig. “However I wish to maintain momentum within the journey, so the turns are fairly spherical and the traces are fairly easy, comparatively talking. The rocky terrain at Sugarloaf is the problem. The bottom line is cautious planning and format of the paths. We deliberately use some rock options, keep away from others, and normally are shifting a lot of rocks throughout the course of.”
Although Sugarloaf tops out at greater than 4,200 ft above sea stage, Craig says solely one of many 5 enduro trails, the “professional stage,” will run from the summit, taking slightly below 10 minutes to finish. (“Large mountains are candy to have a look at, however they’re powerful to journey down,” he says.) The opposite 4 might be quick and livid, beginning at roughly 3,200 ft and working solely three to 5 minutes. The bottom cumulative time over these six runs—rivals journey the summit course twice—wins.
“The paths actually weave out and in of the ski runs and forests,” says Craig. “We use the ski runs to traverse floor the place the forest is simply too rocky or moist, however attempt to keep within the woods as a lot as attainable, and have been capable of change a bunch of open slopes with trails this summer time.”
“I like the old-school really feel of racing down an open ski slope,” he says. “Riders can count on some kind of enjoyable path function at many of the transitions between forest and slope, and spectators can count on good motion right here—excessive speeds and airtime.”
Very similar to the Widowmaker Problem was meant to introduce racers to Sugarloaf’s path community within the 90s, Craig says he hopes the EWS will act as a springboard for the resort’s plans to increase right into a full lift-service mountain bike park, with extra newbie and intermediate terrain.
“We’re actually excited,” he says. “It’s been enjoyable the previous two years, constructing these double black diamond race programs, as a result of we may do this fairly rapidly and at a reasonably modest value.”
“That’s a good way to get a foothold and get the sources on the hill,” says Craig. “However we’re about to shift into constructing trails for the whole neighborhood to have the ability to take pleasure in, relatively than simply the extra skilled members.”
Which, briefly, means Sugarloaf’s future appears vivid.
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