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Race and Photo Report from the 2014 East Coast Open at Blue Mountain

July 1, 2014
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This weekend marked the return of one of the greatest gravity fed cycling events in the region, Pedal Fest. The popular bike festival was back for its second year but the big news was the rebirth of the infamous East Coast Open downhill race.   After a brief hiatus, ECO returned with a purpose, serving up a new track that had everyone talking. With a cash purse of $4000.00, everyone was ready to lay it on the line.

In 2013, Pedal Fest brought us the Whip It competition.  It was a crowd favourite and one of the most celebrated events in 2013.  Ontario has such a racing culture and these festival-style weekends really help bring the community together in a low-pressure, fun environment.   Everything from the nomination process to the jam format of the event was meant to be inclusive and exciting for everyone.

We arrived for practice early on Friday and got our first look at the new racecourse.  It was revealed earlier in the week that the race would be on O-Chute this year.  The amount of work the trail crew at Blue had put in was obvious after only ten feet down the track.  The trail had been noticeably expanded, allowing for more comfy passage with wide bars, while keeping it far from a wide-open course.  The top section made amazing use of the pitch, requiring riders to pump and get in pedal strokes at every opportunity.   The trail was riddled with roots and rock wedges that riders could use to gap and link sections of trail.

A beautiful hip jump was built to send riders into a gnarly, Windham-style, open section with loose shale and rutted hard pack.   Riders had to choose a hard, natural ladder section or chewed-up outside line that would surely erode their time.

The last woods had an killer mix of magically linked berms and steeps.  Parts of the trail remained a bit greasy throughout the weekend, which made picking the right rubber and tire pressure key.  There were three distinct types of terrain along the course, each offering up their own challenges to racers.

Friday night the movie Rad Company was premiered on the big screen in the village.  It’s always nice to see cyclists and non-cyclist engaged in a movie like this, that shows the pinnacle of our sport.  The village square was packed and a group of us looked on from the deck at RFG headquarters.  It was a great night.

Saturday morning was the big practice day for most riders.  The humidity was off the charts throughout the weekend and athletes struggled to remain hydrated.   Having the run adjacent to the lift this year was a true blessing, as the pedal over to Squeaker would have surely taken every ounce of energy out of the athletes.  Practice ran very smoothly and everyone seemed to be having fun with no incidents or stoppage along the course.

Seeding runs took place later that afternoon and Taylor Rowlands posted the fastest time down in the open mens division with a blistering 2:08.347.  Local girl Arianna Vegter qualified first for the ladies with a time of 2:36.471.

Later that evening the Whip Off competition went down at the base of the hill.   Matt Konings did an amazing job shaping the jump this year with help from local senders Ben Reasbeck and Kyle Easby.  32 riders made it into the competition and the level from last year to this one was vastly improved.  The theme of the night was #swiperight and the charged crowd determined who advanced to the next round. It was a tough crowd and even the hometown favs got denied if they didn’t go big.  Mark Battiston took home the win with perfect whips all night long.

The threat of rain held off for Sunday’s race with only a few drops falling midday.  The near 90% humidity posed its own challenges but the race ran smoothly with no delays.

Despite having to miss Saturday’s practice and seeding run, Michael Hermanovsky (Norco Evolution) took the win on Sunday in a time of 2:09:090.  Hermo was followed closely by James Frost, who was just under a second behind him and Patrick McCarter in third.  Past ECO winner and fastest qualifier Taylor Rowlands went down in the last woods, which cost him the race.  TR was on race pace until that point.

“To be honest, winning the east coast open was such a relief and weight off my shoulders. I haven’t won a downhill race since 2011 so it felt amazing to finally be able to lay down the fastest run of the day! I was worried that my transition to higher level XC racing would hinder my ability to pony up and go fast down hills but I guess it hasn’t! I think my success on race day came from my persistent pursuit of practicing my ability to carry speed through bermed and flat turns. Cornering skills were key on the O chute race course as it has some turns that would cause even the most experienced racers to scratch their heads.”  Michael Hermanovsk | Norco Evolution
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Race winner Michael Hermanovsk with the tight, inside sniper line heading for the finish line.

 

Norco Factory cross-country racer, Cayley Brooks was the dark horse of the weekend taking top honors in the open female class.  Cayley posted a winning time of 2:36.578 aboard a borrowed Norco Range all-mountain bike.  Paula Drozdzal and Arianna Vegter rounded off the ladies top three.  Race favourite and current Canada Cup leader, Kristen Courtney suffered an injury in morning practice.  She still chose to race but was unable to ride as hard as she needed to.  Kristen is off to B.C. for the next round of the Canada Cup series and we wish her a speedy recovery and best of luck at the next race.  You got this Kristen!

“I was super excited to get the chance to race the downhill at the East Coast Open. Blue put together a great course and Norco hooked me up with an awesome bike. I haven’t ridden a lot of downhill so getting on a big bike after a few years of only XC felt amazing. There were a lot of tight corners on the course so I knew I had to stay smooth through those and I would have a good run. There were a lot of fast girls out there so I was very happy to take home the win!” – Cayley Brooks | Norco Factory Team
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Cayley Brooks looking rightat home on the downhill track.

Complete race results can be found here.

The 2014 East Coast Open was a massive success.  While numbers of participants did not reach their ultimate potential, due to conflicting events, the race has regained incredible traction.  We’re calling the 2015 ECO DH, the race of the year in Ontario.

Huge thanks to Erika, Jason, Laura, Luc, Delaney and the amazing team at Blue Mountain for putting on such a fun event.  Mad props to Matt, Max, Sam, Tyler and the trail crew for building such a rad course and jump.  Here are a few shots from the 2014 East Coast Open.

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Kyle Easby styling out of the woods on O-Chute, hands barley on the bars.

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Hermo was all business during practice on Friday.

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T.R. with a phat table over the hip.

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Frosty came close this weekend and it won’t be long before this kid is one the top step.

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T.R. squashing the finish line jump during practice.

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Matt Konings, the man who built the jump.

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Matt Konings, the man who crushed the jump. For those of you who don’t know, Matt is top BMX and snowboarder. He might need to add another sport to his resume?

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The jump was open for testing and Steve was ready willing and Abell.

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Easby brought along his RC car.

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And sent it.

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This was a great night. Some rad company for the premiere. What is the weight limit for a balcony anyway?

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Kristen Courtney during practice on Saturday, when she still had two working elbows.

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Luckily for Joe Bauckham, he was just back from South Africa and the only one who could stand the heat.

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Ben Reasbeck had to work on Saturday but made it to the hill just in time for one run before qualies.

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Sun’s out, guns out for Dan Sivret.

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Taylor Rowlands gapping one of the top rooted section on the course.

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Kyle Easby railing some turns in the second woods.

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Amateur 30-39 division winner Joe Bauckham shows us how the old boys do it.

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Trish Bromley is ready for the Whip Off. Trish is just so awesome on so many levels.

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Despite not advancing to the later rounds, Trish still went plenty big and had killer style.

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Emcee Chris Wall gets the lowdown from last year’s podium finisher Steven Wells. Steve is big into to moto and simply could not afford a DH bike this year. See you next year Steve?

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Sammo sends it, rocking the new RFG swag.

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Last year’s Whip It winner Ben Reasbeck.

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Matt Konings with a little technical difficulty after a hard landing.  Queue Mike Towers.

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The jump wasn’t so kind to Jake Bogdanow.

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Kristen Courtney showing another DH legend, Sheila Morris, how she is gonna whip it.

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Jason Petznick and Chris Wall had the crowd in stitches all night. #swiperight

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Hung Lam showed us some sick style all nigh long.

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Mark Battiston consistently thru down the steeziest whips and the crowd rewarded him.

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The Ron and Brake train.

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Mark sent it till the sun went down for the fans at the Whip It comp.

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Old schooler Chris Sinclair always shows up for few races. Still got it.

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Jeff Faulds is enjoying his retirement from DH racing.

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Mike Comello reeling in Jay Ramage hard across the finish line.

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Brad Turner getting the front end up through the chunder in the bottom section of the course.

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Sammo doing the Brendog kit proud over the hip.

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Your 2014 open female class race winners (l-r) Arianna Vegter, Cayley Brooks, Paula Drozdzal, Kristen Courtney

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Some new faces on the podium for the 2014 East Coast Open mens race (l-r) Ben Reasbeck, Patrick McCarter, Michael Hermanovsky, James Frost, Michael Oosterveld

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Some new hardware for the boys.

Still looking for more pics?  Check the forums and the gallery.

Marc Landry is a Toronto, Ontario based action sports photographer. Honing his skills on local and World Cup cycling circuits, Marc has since expanded his subject matter to include several outdoor adventure sports. Marc is in his element when surrounded by the energy that top athletes radiate. The relationships he forms with his subjects is apparent in his images and is part of what defines his look. He is most at home in the mountains and his preference for long glass and elaborate lighting setups has become his signature style.

5 Comments

  1. Road up the lift with Matt Konings. He might be the best thing to happen to the Blue Mountain trails as he’s looking at every jump and berm, rethinking what it should, pushing them out, adding lips, making them, well fun. Super excited to have his experience added to the mix.

    Great write-up and photos as always!

    Nice seeing all the olds school crew out riding and hanging.

  2. Matt is awesome. Missed you this weekend Brian.

  3. Great write-up and photos as always! Such a fun weekend.

  4. So wish I could have been there! Not a DHer but that balcony party is right up my alley.

    Amazing photos as usual and great write up.

    Congrats to all the competitors. The new RFG logo was well represented as well.

  5. Great write up Marc. It was a really great event hosted by Blue. But please no more jumps to flat, my back can’t take it! More people need to get this race on their calendars. Appreciate the picture in the write up. I always have the most intense race face, although I could have been yelling at the guy in front to PEDAL! It was a bit of a shock seeing him in the last woods section.

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