The northeastern-most state in the US is Maine, bordered by New Hampshire, the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec, and the ever chilly Atlantic Ocean. Originally inhabited by Algonquian-speaking indigenous peoples, the state is well known for its rich forest and marine environments.
Cross Country Olympian turned enduro pro, Adam Craig, grew up racing and riding on the natural singletracks of Maine. As a teenager he competed in the Trail 66 Race Series, with combined gravity and XC events to push local athletes to their limits. Now retired from racing, wearing digging gloves instead of a heart rate monitor, Craig has returned to his home turf to scratch in some new trails and put on an EWS qualifying event on Sugarloaf Mountain. The event will also be part of the 2021 Eastern States Cup (ESC) enduro series. As the former lead for the EWS North American Series, Craig is well suited to make sure this first event at Sugarloaf goes well.
Check out Craig’s recent video with Giant Bicycles below to get a good idea of the natural “rake and ride” building style that the Sugarloaf crew is aiming for.
There’s also a fresh downhill park planned for Sugarloaf in the near future. The resort’s marketing director, Ethan Auston, said that “we’re very excited to build on the recent mountain biking momentum here in Carrabassett Valley with the addition of a lift serviced, downhill mountain bike park. The park is part of the new Sugarloaf 2030 vision we announced in 2020, and will be located in the West Mountain area, where it will be serviced by a new high speed chairlift, and feature a variety of trails that will allow riders of all ability levels to enjoy the incredible terrain here at Sugarloaf.”
The gravity trails that are to be used in the coming EWS race will be separate from the downhill park for the time being. Sugarloaf sales manager, Brenna Herridge, says that “two-plus years ago a friend of mine in East Burke saw Adam at the Tiki Bar. Bob is an old Cyclocross dude from Maine, recognized Adam and told him he should call me. Adam did in fact call me. We met and skied, I told him my crazy idea to rake in some race tracks here at the mountain and he thought it sounded like a legit plan. So over the last couple years Adam and I have talked about what we could accomplish with gravity biking here at Sugarloaf and how we could make it happen. With the growth of mountain biking in our area, and Sugarloaf’s overall mountain bike park development plan, the General Manager (Karl Strand) gave us the green light on raking in the Widowmaker Extension trail. Karl remembers the Trail 66 Race Series and how much fun it was.”
Herridge goes on to share her excitement for what awaits mountain bikers on the mountain. “Sugarloaf and the Carrabassett Valley have a strong history and racing culture with alpine skiing and I can’t wait to see how that transfers to gravity mountain biking. The community here is very welcoming and always enthusiastic about supporting racing in any form, and I am confident that Sugarloaf and the local community will roll out the red carpet for the racers in September. The team here at Sugarloaf is super excited to get to work on some tracks in the spring, It’s going to be a lot of work but I know the result will be amazing.”
As for the race, Craig says, “it will be interesting to see how much demand there’s going to be for racing. I would imagine there’s going to be a similar amount as any other form of recreation. Which is tons. […] It’s good to see that the Windrock folks down in Tennessee are able to kick things off with their spring event. They’re on private land, so they’re able to determine the destiny with their events. I’m glad to see them kick it off, and looking forward to seeing some other events added to the calendar.”
The current trail squad consists of Craig and Herridge, with the occasional volunteer crew. They have several more trails to cut in once the snow melts, including a DH track that will be part of a special event that the ESC calls their Box Showdown. In these events, riders who enter both the enduro and downhill races will compete for an overall title that’s judged on their total time between the two disciplines. The hope is that these events will bring a good amount of riders and stoke to this decidedly rural part of Maine.
The Carrabassett Valley surrounding Sugarloaf is already aswim with well-worn singletracks that link up with Sugarloaf via nordic skiing paths and doubletrack roads. The Carrabassett Region NEMBA (CR NEMBA) President, Warren Gerow (no relation), is excited to see more trail building in the area with the addition of these gravity tracks on the mountain above. The trail association is a city-based organization, and not a legal advocacy group. They exist to make sure the local trails are built and maintained, and they throw a few events each year to raise finds.
Gerow mentioned that in addition to the areas many miles of natural singletrack, the local crew has build upwards of 30 miles of modern, machine-built trails, costing somewhere in the $750,000 range. “We have a bunch of old school double track and ATV roads we maintain that really tie everything together well. So we have a big variety here on a lot of fronts, but having the gravity component at the resort is going to add another dimension, Which I think is awesome.” With the next closest gravity trail center a few hours down the road at Mt Abram, folks who find themselves near Sugarloaf with a mid- to long-travel bike will now have more forest fun at their disposal.
Whether you’re in Maine to check out the state’s rich secluded forests, or passing through on your way to Mont Bromont in Quebec, the pull to stop for a ride is gaining gravity. If the borders are open there should be a good number of athletes from Quebec at the Sugarloaf EWS qualifier, particularly due to the lack of events in the northern nation.