The days seemed dark for many Ontario scene downhillers during the winter of 2014/15 as the Ontario Cycling Association released the upcoming event schedule. Much the dismay of many, there was no DH schedule to be seen.
Enter Blue Mountain, as they announce a three part race series filling a void that many riders were left wanting after the OCA failed to find an organizer/promoter for a series themselves. This three part series would start with the East Coast Open (ECO), followed by King of the Valley, and concluding with the Fall Showdown.
The full time Bike Park season kicked off with it’s 5th version of the ECO (in conjunction with Pedal Fest which celebrates all things bike) is a race that has been notorious for boasting the largest cash purse on this side of Crankworx. The event saw the riders arriving on Friday morning, for an open track walk, and registration. A notable absence to the process was the OCA. In the days leading up to the event, the OCA couldn’t manage to find the manpower to help staff, and aid in the delivery of the race. As a result, Blue chose to go it alone to ensure the ridership got what they wanted-to blaze down the side of a hill at top speed to see who would be crowned the ECO champion. The riders then set off in an attempt to find the fast lines on their 2-wheeled friends. As anybody who’s ever strapped a number plate on their bike before knows, the track certainly changes with traffic, so having “A” lines and “B” lines are always a must. The weather was perfect-with sun warming the vibe, and music keeping the atmosphere bumpin’.
Concluding the day of training the riders retired to their places of rest to make sure they were prim and proper for the evening event, the on-screen release of unReal. Jozo’s played host to 100 plus riders enjoying the festivities, and taking in some ‘unreal’ riding. The night carried on into the wee hours of the morning leaving the riders to shake the cobwebs off on Saturday morning.
The riding on Friday could only be bettered by the riding on Saturday. Dirt so grippy you felt like you were running on grip tape, and light bright enough to offer good contrast, but not bright enough to create sun blasting on the trails-allowing the riders to have 100% visibility. The only draw back to the day was the looming rumors that there was a weather system moving in, and a heightened sense of urgency to get a qualifying run off before it arrived. For those of you who have never had the fortune of riding at Blue, it’s heavily clay based which leaves it treacherous to ride when it gets wet. Picture wearing flip-flops on a wet, polished concrete floor-you just really have no idea what the bike is going to do under you. This left the event organizers to come up with options, quick. What they decided was to offer a Qualifying run for all competitors, and if the weather packed it in, they would at least be able to use Saturdays results for the race. Great forward thinking on behalf of the crew at Blue. All the riders changed gears, and prepared to put down some fast runs for Saturday afternoon.
Almost to signify the end of qualifying, the skies began to open. The Coors Light Whip Contest which had been scheduled for that evening had to be cancelled. That didn’t damper the spirits for some though as a crew of people headed back to Jozo’s to share in food, and stories from the days adventures. The stories, and food were plentiful and the riders departed for home with hopes, and dreams of being able to better on their results from the day.
Mother Nature can often be a cruel mistress, and this was to be one of those times. The rain broke for long enough to have Blue consider moving forward with the race, but it began to rain harder with what seemed to be almost every passing minute. This left Blue no choice, but to cancel the race, and award prizes based off of Saturday qualifying times.
As much as the weather hampered portions of the festivities, there was a far bigger lesson learned this weekend. Blue is making a strong resurgence into being a premier downhill spot for Ontario. The riders were back, and having fun. For the first time in a long time, there was a ‘vibe’ that you could feel around the park. The departure of the Ontario Cup may actually have been the savior to the sport that we all love. People are finally back on their bikes, and remembering that riding feels good.