The Enduro World Series comes to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine

  • On August 20 and 21, the Enduro World Series will be held at the Sugarloaf Mountain Resort in Maine, on trails built by Olympic mountain biker Adam Craig.
  • Sugarloaf was once a big hub for ATV racing in the 90s, and now the mountain is looking to get back to its roots, with enduro racing and a future bike park with lift service.
  • The Enduro World Series will feature professional riders from around the world. Sugarloaf is the series’ second U.S. stop this year, following Burke, Vermont.

    This weekend, August 20-21, Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine is hosting the Enduro World Series (EWS), marking a massive comeback for the resort in the sport of mountain biking. The event will see top enduro pros from around the world line up to race on new trails built by Olympic and local Maine mountain biker Adam Craig.

    There’s an unmistakable “Back to the Future” quality to the EWS coming to Sugarloaf. In the 90s, Sugarloaf, one of New England’s premier ski destinations, jumped on the mountain bike bandwagon by hosting one of the region’s top cross-country ski races, the Widowmaker Challenge. (named after a legendary ski slope). Craig, then a teenager from Exeter, Maine, was one of the youngest and best runners to line up for the annual party.

    Craig raced side by side with regional stars, like Maine’s Peter Webber and Vermont’s Andy Bishop, and went on to an impressive career that included five national titles, World Cup appearances and a spot on the 2008 Olympic team. in Beijing. Games. He moved to Bend, Oregon, so he could train year-round. Towards the end of his career, Craig’s racing specialty changed from cross-country to enduro, a mountain bike stage race where riders are timed on the descents. A longtime Giant-sponsored racer, he continued his association with the brand as an ambassador and trail advocate, and then the pandemic hit.

    “I started spending more time in Maine,” says Craig. “The bike events have all closed for 2020, and that has given me more time to visit my parents…The bonds I made at Sugarloaf have started to materialize and this project has started to take shape. »

    Craig, 41, has returned to his roots, settling in the Bigelow Mountains of western Maine as the manager of Sugarloaf’s mountain biking events and initiatives. He brought decades of trail building skills developed while living in Bend, working with mentors like Paul Thomasberg of Terra Velo Solutions, Todd Olsen of the Federal Bureau of Land Management, and Kevin Rowell and Brandon Haraughty of the US Forest Service. .

    “I apply that knowledge to this environment,” he says of his work at Sugarloaf.

    Craig’s return coincides with a revitalization of mountain biking at Sugarloaf. Shortly after the turn of the century, as interest in local cross-country racing waned, resort executives made a business decision and chose to focus on the Sugarloaf golf facilities. Fat-tire activities have become an afterthought.

    This created a void, but it was filled by a group of year-round outdoor enthusiasts, including many residents and skiers with second homes in the area. The town of Carrabassett Valley, the Carrabassett Valley Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association and the non-profit pioneer Maine huts and trails banded together to begin building and maintaining the current 77 miles (and planned 100 miles) of trails on both sides of the Carrabassett River. The extensive trail network included Sugarloaf’s Nordic network (run by the city), but not the resort’s alpine trails.

    More recently, however, the station joined the other three groups to form Carrabassett Valley Trails, an effort led by Brenna Herridge, Sugarloaf’s sales manager and mountain bike enthusiast. In the fall of 2020, Craig connected with Herridge “to get some momentum back on the mountain,” he says, and volunteered to lay out a trail from the top of the Whiffletree superquad chairlift. Herridge expressed interest in having Sugarloaf host enduro races, but they needed the right trails first. During this winter, thanks to Craig’s expertise in trail construction, they worked with the Eastern States Maxxis Cup— a regional series of enduro and downhill races — crew to plan a race for September 2021.

    Katherine Jondro Donnelly

    Sugarloaf Maine Hosts Adam Craig Enduro World Series

    Katherine Jondro Donnelly

    “So we kind of scratched the trails, and that was fun… We started with five trails on the mountain,” says Craig. “We had a really wonderful, scrappy volunteer effort, which was the local mountain bike community. They caught wind of what we were doing, and came out and helped a ton.

    Last year’s success Eastern States Cup convinced Craig and Herridge that Sugarloaf could put on an EWS-level event, and Scotland-based tour officials agreed. This year’s Eastern States Cup race at Sugarloaf on June 26 also served as the EWS qualifier. The EWS event at Sugarloaf, taking place a week after the EWS stop at Burke Mountain in the northeastern kingdom of Vermont, is expected to draw around 400 runners, including an elite cast of 250 international competitors.

    “We’re excited to have the opportunity to bring people to come and enjoy new trails on the mountain,” says Craig. “What better way to do that than to invite the best riders in the world.”

    Sugarloaf Maine Hosts Adam Craig Enduro World Series
    Riders compete in the Eastern States Cup Enduro at Sugarloaf, June 2022.

    Jamie Walter

    The EWS events at Burke and Sugarloaf are the only two US stops in the 11-race series, which will also visit Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Austria and Slovenia this year. But the two events, although separated by a three-hour journey, will offer competitors night and day racing.

    “Burke’s riding is pretty developed, and has been for a while,” says Craig. “These are all really mature trails. There is a lot more bedrock in Burke, and the trails are just older and busier. They did tons of great work and the trails roll great. He’s definitely a different character… Everything we have here is damn new. It’s fresh. I think they are very good complementary events.

    While “fresh,” Sugarloaf’s gravitational terrain, much like Craig’s presence, elicits the same throwback vibe. Three decades ago, when Sugarloaf and nearby Sunday River resort ruled Maine’s mountain biking roost, the trails were tough – steep, sketchy, twisty, narrow – and treacherous when wet. It’s one of the reasons, Craig suspects, why mountain biking has disappeared from these resorts’ summer amenities.

    “The reality was that if you didn’t have the downhill bike and the skills to ride it, you really couldn’t ride those trails, so the business didn’t really grow,” says Craig. “They chose not to make the necessary investment in favor of smooth trails and trails suitable for beginners.”

    Sugarloaf Maine Hosts Adam Craig Enduro World Series
    Enduro Eastern States Cup at Sugarloaf, June 2022.

    Jamie Walter

    “But bikes these days – the standard middle-of-the-road mountain bike that you can walk into a bike shop and get for a reasonable price – are quite capable of navigating the steepest and most rugged trails. techniques that we have here on the mountain,” he says. “There are just more riders who have good equipment and the skills to do it now, so there is more interest in the enduro style of riding.

    As a result, the network of trails built by Craig, his team of two (Sam Rhoads and Carter Lawless) and a group of dedicated volunteers will warm the knotted heart of any old-school cyclist.

    “These are nature trails that blend in really well with the landscape… They’re just rocky and rooty and rugged,” says Craig. “But I like to keep the momentum in the ride, so the turns are pretty round and the lines are pretty smooth, relatively speaking. The rocky terrain of Sugarloaf is the challenge. The key is careful trail planning and layout. We intentionally use some rock features, avoid others, and generally move a lot of rock in the process.

    Sugarloaf Maine Hosts Adam Craig Enduro World Series
    Enduro Eastern States Cup at Sugarloaf, June 2022.

    Jamie Walter

    Although Sugarloaf rises over 4,200 feet above sea level, Craig says only one of the five enduro trails, the “Pro Stage,” will start from the summit, taking just under 10 minutes. (“Big mountains are nice to look at, but they’re hard to come down,” he says.) The other four will be fast and furious, starting at around 3,200 feet and only covering three to five minutes. The lowest cumulative time over these six races – competitors run the summit course twice – wins.

    “The trails certainly weave in and out of ski slopes and forests,” says Craig. “We use the ski trails to traverse terrain where the forest is too rocky or wet, but try to stay in the woods as much as possible and have been able to replace a bunch of open runs with trails this summer.”

    “I love the old-school feel of hurtling down an open ski slope,” he says. “Runners can expect some type of fun trail functionality at most forest-to-hill transitions, and spectators can expect some good action here – high speeds and airtime. .”

    Sugarloaf Maine Hosts Adam Craig Enduro World Series
    Enduro Eastern States Cup at Sugarloaf, June 2022.

    Jamie Walter

    Much like the Widowmaker Challenge was meant to introduce riders to Sugarloaf’s trail system in the ’90s, Craig says he hopes the EWS will serve as a springboard for the station’s plans to develop into a mountain bike park. Full-service mountain, with more beginner and intermediate terrain.

    “We’re really excited,” he said. “It’s been fun the last two years building these double black diamond race courses because we could do it fairly quickly and at a fairly modest cost.”

    “It’s a great way to gain a foothold and get resources on the hill,” says Craig. “But we’re about building trails for the whole community to enjoy, rather than just the most experienced members.”

    Which, in short, means the future of Sugarloaf looks bright.

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