EWS Sugarbush | Liv Racing Report

with RAE MORRISON

A short 3-hour drive from the last stop of the Enduro World Series in Burke, Vermont, Sugarloaf is a resort mountain in the Carrabassett Valley of Maine. Although Sugarloaf has seen regional downhill and enduro races in the past, new trails were crafted specifically for the EWS by local legend and Giant ambassador Adam Craig.

Sugarloaf was the last stop on a grueling run of three back-to-back EWS races in North America. But Rae Morrison of the Liv Racing Collective was thriving despite the fatigue. After a 9th place finish in Whistler and 8th in Burke, Rae seemed to have her recovery game on lock and was poised to perform in Maine.

“Despite all the racing, I was feeling really good before the race,” said Rae. “My body felt strong, and I was looking forward to another new venue. I had a couple of days to chill out, go on spins and track walk before the racing started to ramp up.”

Rae managed the rocks, roots, ruts, and weather well over the two days of racing, finishing with her best result of the season in 6th.

Before the focus returns to Europe for the final two EWS races of the year in a couple of weeks, take a look back at Sugarloaf with Rae below.

Rae Morrison in Sugarbush, Maine

Liv: You started your week by walking the courses. How do you approach course walks and what is your goal?   

Rae: I don’t like walking if I can help it. There are often many stages that are hard to access, which doesn’t make it advantageous. Instead, I’ll usually ride locally to get a feel of the terrain. But for this race, I walked four of the tracks because I had an extra rest day, and the stages were short and very easy to access. Since Sugarloaf was a brand new venue with lots of fresh cut tracks, I felt it would be worthwhile. When I track walk, I take a few photos and notes, jotting down main features and critical sections where line choice is important. When it comes to practice, I have a better idea of where I am going.

Liv: It looked like it poured for the shakedown on Thursday. Did you make any bike setup changes before or after shakedown?

Rae: It’s been a long time since I have ridden in the mud, so it was great to do some runs and have fun with it. For riding in the wet/mud, I changed my tires to mud tires (Maxxis Assegai to Maxxis Shorty) which has more spiky and wide-spaced knobs that are good for gripping into the soft surfaces and great for clearing mud. I also sped up my rebound on my suspension to compensate for the colder temperature that day.

Liv: How did the weather develop throughout the weekend?

Rae: The conditions were treacherous at the start of the race. Since it poured rain the day before practice began, the trails were soaked. The amount of bike traffic on the wet, fresh-cut trails during practice dragged all the loose dirt off the trail and exposed so many roots and rocks. It was so slippery and the bike was getting thrown left, right, and center from all the sniper roots. Ruts began to form that shot you into trees and off track. It was a challenge to ride fast and stay on the bike. On the first stage Sunday, the sun was out and I was thinking the track might be dry. I raced into the first bit of woods where I quickly found out I was very wrong. My front wheel hit a wet root or rock and was swiped sideways. Both my feet unclipped and I started to go over the bars, but somehow I managed to hold onto the bike and rodeo it out all the way down the chute. That definitely got my heart rate up and set the theme for the day!

Rae Morrison Sugarbush

Liv: What were the courses like in Sugarloaf compared to other EWS races this year?

Rae: It was quite different, mostly because at Sugarloaf the tracks were fresh-cut which mean they were softer and deteriorated significantly during the race compared with more established tracks at other venues. It was fun to race because new lines were forming all the time and old lines that I had practiced were now directing you towards trees or big holes. It was better to ride by keeping your eyes up and selecting lines as you go, rather than riding through trail memory.

Liv: You kicked off this weekend with a 6th place, your best Pro Stage finish of the season. How did you approach the stage on Saturday, and what was your mindset going into Sunday?

Rae: After some good results in Whistler and Burke, I came into this race still on a high and with good confidence to keep the momentum going. For the pro stage, I had a good practice session, but then for the race run the track had deteriorated. I felt like I was riding very messy, stalling in many spots where corners had disappeared and then riding erratically trying to get back up to speed. I didn’t feel like a fast run, and I didn’t realize I had put down a good time until I was at the finish.

Liv: It seemed like there were quite a few issues for some racers, between crashes and mechanicals. How did you manage to keep things consistent throughout the day on Sunday?

Rae: Actually, I didn’t! Everyone had mishaps and the majority of people crashed. It was just the conditions. I went off course a couple of times but managed to stay on my bike and not lose a lot of time. After the pro stage, I was a bit more familiar with what the conditions were going to be like and just tried to ride the best I could. I tried to race smart in the slippery stuff by entering slower and making sure I was on a good line, then I let off the brakes over all the roots and rocks.

Rae Morrison in Sugarbush

Liv: The times were tight going into the final stage. Do you look at the results as you are racing?  

Rae: I knew I was around 5th/6th place and I knew it was super tight, but I didn’t know specifics. Jesse was relaying info to me, so I knew the level of risk I should take. He told me things like, “Keep doing what you’re doing” and he let me know it was doing well, but it was tight going into the last two stages. For the first three stages, I was riding smart and trying to ride clean to limit crashes. For the last two stages, the trails had dried a bit and I needed to make up time, so I pushed and took a lot of risks to finish strong.

Liv: With a 9th in Whistler, 8th in Burke, and 6th in Sugarloaf, how are you feeling about this North American block of racing going into the final races of the season?  

Rae: I’m stoked on the results. I rode hard this weekend. The times were tight, and everyone was struggling with the conditions, it made for an exciting race. The line between having a good stage or crashing was very thin. After illness, injuries, and mechanicals at the start of the year, I feel like I’m getting stronger and faster as the season goes on, and I’m super excited for the next block of racing!

Liv: What’s in store for you over the next few weeks before EWS Crans-Montana?

Rae: We’re heading to Morzine, France for a couple of weeks. I’ll try and have a bit of downtime for a couple of days and watch the World Championships in Les Gets. Then, just lots of bike park laps and riding until the last two races of the season!

 

All photos by Sven Martin Photography.

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