Taming The Beast of The East - Killington Pro GRT 2

The 2017 Pro GRT lands on the slopes of Killington, Vermont, where rain keeps things slick.

Killington mountain is a staple venue in the history of East Coast downhill racing.  The Beauty and The Beast of Vermont has been a long standing event each summer and was my very first DH race way back in 2004 in the Hardtail class. I remember it fondly because I wore armor without a jersey.  Since those years of “East Coast Hardcore”, the bikes have gone from Brooklyn Machine Works monsters to the svelte carbon creations under riders in current times.  While the bikes may have changed, the mountain remains relatively unchanged, though we now race off the Ramshead lift further down from the main K1 Gondola.  This classic New England destination holds dear for many riders and tends to bring people out of the woodwork one or two weekends a year when races are on. This weekend, the Pro GRT is in town. -by Zach Faulkner

Riding is a group or solo activity, thankfully.

Magic Carpet to Nowhere was a Led Zepplin single that didn't make the chart.
Safety First!

It's a ride up into the clouds here this weekend.

OSHA has some weird regulations for outdoor work conditions in the wet.

Those are some wild choices for trails.
This is where we are going this weekend.

Demetri Triantafillou

The track this week is the same raced in 2016.  A lot of riders are divided on the like/dislike of this course, as it is not of particular pitch, but for what it may lack in steeps, it certainly makes up for it in content; there are more random rocks, roots, and ruts strewn through out the track than you can shake a Minion at.  Last year it was all fresh-cut and a bit soft, but whatever top soil there might have been 365 days ago has all been shredded away by riders and washed away by the Spring melt and heavy rains this summer.  The course is rough, rocky, and a bit greasy heading into the weekend, which will make for some tricky riding, no doubt.

Jason Schroeder scopes out the starting conditions.
Sometimes the weather doesn't coordinate with track walk footwear choices.

The opening straight of the track is a bit tricky at first glance.

The lack of chicken wire on the wooden features brought out a lot of commentary, but it was later confirmed with track builder that more would be added before practice starts.
Tanner Stephens, Wiley Kaupas, Kiran MacKinnon, and Jason Schroeder scope out the line from the start hut to the start huck.

You can see all the way down from the top, a stark reminder of the long haul to the finish (and weird weather patterns).

Lots of light-to-dark sections of track out here.

Wet rocks are the story for the weekend.

Misty Mountain Hop was one of the chart-topping Led Zeppelin songs, with a time of 4:38, it will likely closely mimmick the conditions and median times this weekend if the weather doesn't pick up.
Just in case you're on track and forget.
Welcome to the East Coast, we have roots and lots of them.
There are many kinds of roots, some are grippy like these ones.
Roots of this kind happen to create a natural catch for incoming tires, like a natural wooden berm.

The line-of-sight is massive on a lot of the track. Kiran MacKinnon takes a long look at where he might be going.

Puddles are just as common as roots on this track, and they are all questionable in their depth.

Kiran MacKinnon

Standing water is never a good feature, so sticks are commonly employed to help with the track's drainage.

The Newt Class is first off tomorrow, so this dudette was checking lines and scoping the rocks closely.
Wiley Kaupas did his best Crocodile Hunter impression on trail, scooping up our orange friend with ease.
The guys got a kick out of seeing colorful and non-legal wildlife for once.  Photos were taken and snapchat filters were attempted.

Lil' Homie

Ruts, rocks, mud, and green leaves on track - it's all here at Killington.

The umbrella is a classic piece of MTB kit: keeps rain off; sponsor reppin'; giant pointer for line emphasis.

Five Tens or hiking boots?  What would you run?
Stumps are often the delineation between inside and outside lines on this track.

The corners on this track are notably tricky, a lot of thought was going into line choice during track walk.

A good portion of the track was just rain ruts and rubble strewn about from the recent tough weather.
The new bunting on track is a nice bit of welcome flair this weekend.
The fern will likely not be here by noon tomorrow.  The on-track vegetation will get mowed down very quickly.
It's tough to pick lines when your choice is wet rocks or a rut of questionable depth and hold.
Most of the track was in a cloud today.

Do you know the rules of the park?


Thinking about the track or thinking about wings for lunch? Wiley Kaupas, striking a pose.

The groud was a hazard all on its own today, it didn't matter what type of footwear you had on.
This was the only modified stump on the whole course, which was unusual given the high number of them between the tape.
I wonder why that rock was tagged orange instead of its friends...

Rule breakers...

The hill is still open for regular riding. Not all were deterred today by the weather.

Steve Walton

C'mon down to watch the race on Sunday, there is a specific trail just for pedestrians!

Jason Schroeder mulling over his options in this section.

There is a poem in here somewhere.
Maybe the orange rocks are some kind of code?
It is intensely green in the woods after a summer of rain.

When you're hungry, you're hungry. Wiley Kaupas briefly quit the day before being remotivated by the reminder of free wings from 3 to 6.

Wiley Kaupas

The track is about 4 to 5 racers wide the whole way down.

This track is super long and very similar looking the whole way down.

It wouldn't be an East Coast race without at least one good huck-to-flat.
The huck has been tested, but clearly not at race pace, as it's anticipated that going around will actually be the smart race line.
The grass has been trimmed in places to get the track across the ski slope, and someone forgot to get the rake out after.
A second huck-to-flat exists just for good measure, but again, going around will be the faster line.
Is this art?  More poetry potential.
Tanner Stephens and Wiley Kaupas look at the lead-up line to the proper pull-up-and-press-send section at the bottom.
Natural whoops into a small double will be tough to negotiate after 4/5ths of a race run.
Pedals or skis?  Killington rocks get a lot of abuse all year around.
Tanner Stephens takes a gander at the two monster berms before exiting the woods out towards the finish.
Someone set the high water mark the other day, but someone is about to get above it this weekend while railing.

Kiran MacKinnon takes a look back at the exit from the woods onto the finishline straight.

The keys to success will be several, most notably fitness. There will be a lot of opportunities to find time with aggressive sprinting and pumping.  Precision is going to play a big roll in maintaining momentum, as there is a lot of glacial litter on the trail to hang up on with pedal strikes and errant tire placement.  Tenacity will be a final deciding factor I think, as the length of this run is something rarely seen these days. It’s going to take a lot of focus to remember the sequence of sections and keep the fire hot from start to finish.  A lot of riders have made their way up from National Champs, so it’s shaping up to be another great weekend of racing!

The guys discuss the finer points of the finishline jumps.

This is the view from the finish - plenty of time to heckle your buddies as they pedal to the line.

Sliding into the race weekend with Bruce Klein.

Bruce Klein

Parking lot shenanigans in the rain are a staple of any good event. Tanner Stephens gets his hop on.

Tanner Stephens

No one is sure what to expect this weekend from Mother Nature, but the pits were scarse today as the rain was always lingering in some capacity.



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