Eastern States Cup Endurance Series sponsored by the Pocono Bike Club


Eastern States Cup Endurance Series sponsored by the Pocono Bike Club.

Unbeknownst to many in the community was the little-known fact that the largest Endurance Mountain Bike Race on the East Coast was held literally in our back yard on Sunday April 22nd. And where is Stroudsburg’s collective back yard you might ask, well that would be Glen Park where nearly 300 riders along with their families, supporters, vendors, volunteers and spectators congregated to host the first race in the 2018 Eastern States Cup Endurance Series. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the terrain we have access to on a daily basis (and dare I say take for granted) is actually a highly regarded and prized location for mountain bike enthusiasts. The trails in our very own back yard are seriously world-class with riders from every state on the East Coast as well as much further inland such as Colorado and even coming down from Canada to warm up for a spell. A great number of people have been flocking to the cycling community for all different reasons, but the greatest reason by far is pure enjoyment. I’m a roadie myself, but can fully comprehend the excitement of nearly careening off the edge of a cliff or into a tree at break-neck speeds and the sheer joy of successfully navigating the difficult rocks, roots, jumps, logs, trees and all manner of hostile impediments that stand in one’s way from top to bottom of the mountainous course all to determine who has a shot at the podium with the fastest times.

Glen Park, many know, is tucked away in the corner of south Stroudsburg through a sleepy neighborhood of little houses and down a little hill and which is devoid of the typical rides and entertainment popular at so many other Pocono venues. But oh what a beautiful destination. The parking lot opens to a huge, grass field that is surrounded on one side by a sheer wall of stone giving it the feel of an amphitheater. On the other side is one of the quintessential Pocono streams providing that serene quality that for years has attracted visitors to the area and will do so well into the future. Tucked between the stone wall and the cool, flowing water is a non-descript path that doesn’t seem like much more than a means of getting to the next fishing spot. But it is so much more. It is the gateway to an amusement park unlike so many for which the Pocono’s are famous. That one, little, nearly-groomed trail leads to a network of arteries extending for miles to deliver nourishment to outdoor enthusiasts and pump the drug of choice (adrenaline) to those contesting their skills on the race course. So many single-track tributaries extend from the main trail that it’s hard to imagine ever traversing all of them. And that in itself may prove difficult since the trails are constantly changing as well. Some trails become washed out or hidden beneath a thick layer of oak leaves or blocked by fallen trees while others are “created” by those who see features that add excitement to their ride or who want to test their skills over new obstacles that pose a challenge or thrill. But this weekend, five trails were cleared of leaves and unmistakably marked to point each contestant in the proper direction – mostly down, and preferably at blurring speeds. And if you must know, yes, there were plenty of crashes. Some were rather benign with a bump into a tree or over-riding a sharp curve, but others were more you-tube worthy with bikes suspended in the rhododendrons while the rider was found several yards down the trail with the contents of their back-pack strewn about like a yard sale. Fortunately, injuries were minimal.

The technology that has adorned these well-honed tools of the mountain bike community has exploded in the last couple decades such that said tools cost as much as a good used car. I understand that’s hard to imagine since a bicycle has two less wheels and rather than an engine fueled by gasoline, the cyclist’s engine is fueled by protein and carbohydrates. But unlike an internal combustion engine, the engine of a cyclist improves considerably over the first 10-50,000 miles. And with each improvement is the notion that they can crank it up a notch by installing more durable and more functional components or accessories. In the past bikes were composed of a static frame with the standard components we all remember. But today, the brakes are modeled after our cars with disk brakes both front and back. Some of them use hydraulics instead of a cable. They had the requisite gears, but not the obscene ratios offered up today that allows riders to climb the steepest of hills spinning their legs like a jack-hammer while barely crawling up the hill. The most desirable component is suspension. The front forks are similar in style to that of a car’s with shock absorbers and springs, however, the technology doesn’t stop there. These can be fine-tuned for a rider’s style or preference or adjusted based on the terrain. If I’m not mistaken some are even done so on the fly. The rear suspension is more complicated and comes in several styles with various joints, springs, hydraulics and more. Suffice it to say, ain’t nobody racing for long on a bike without suspension as the constant hammering on the arms and butt will quickly dampen the spirit of even the hardiest of riders. The most recent technology is that of the “drop-seat”, whereby a trigger on the handlebar is used to lower the seat position automatically and I’m sure has severely reduced the number of “cartwheels” experienced when riding downhill.

The skills and endurance built up and honed over the years to compete at the professional level, as many of the contestants were, hardly seems like effort when it involves so much fun and camaraderie. And along with that comes the dedication of the local cycling community and enthusiasts and specifically the Pocono Bike Club who has worked tirelessly to bring this event to Stroudsburg and the Poconos and their fellow riders. They are the ones who have spent countless hours in the woods to maintain the trials with shovel, rake and axe. They spent hours designing, marking and grooming the trails and blowing off the leaves. They were rewarded with accolades from their comrades. There wasn’t a single contestant that didn’t love the course and many will be back later this year as the Pocono Bike Club hosts yet another world-class race right here in our own back yard.

Congratulations to the ever-growing Pocono Bike Club – catch ‘em on Facebook.

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