Monday, November 15, 2010

East Coast Snocross 2010-11 Competition Preview

        There’s room for a new face at the top on the northeastern regional snocross scene.
When it was announced earlier this fall that 2010 RMR Pro champion Bobby LePage had signed with Team Lavallee for an assault on the ISOC national title, racers across New York and New England let out a collective sigh of relief.
LePage’s move back to the national stage swings the door wide open for a new star atop the podium, and there’s a fine mix of talented veterans and fresh faces ready to take command.
Last season, Quebec native Mathieu Morin battled LePage every week and brought the title fight right down to the wire.
Morin returns to competition for 2010-11 with the powerhouse Ingles Performance Ski-doo team based in Phoenix, New York. With his national experience, great skills and top-notch equipment, Morin is the odds-on favorite to earn the 2011 ECS Pro titles.
Joining Morin this season on the Ingles squad will be Jason Stone (Pro); Michael George (first-year Pro); Lucas Brunelle and Chris Coleman (Semi-Pro); Whitney Coville (Sport) and Chris Ingles (Sport). This is Ski-doo’s flagship team in the east, with no shortage of talent.
There are several other young athletes anxious to battle Morin for that top spot. For the first time in several years, the folks at Arctic Cat are loaded for bear here in the east. Leading the green contingent from Thief River Falls, MN, is the new Green Mountain Racing (GMR) squad headed up by Nate Tatro. Headlining the team is Minnesota native Matt Pichner, a gifted rider with national experience at the Semi-Pro level. Pichner will advance to the Pro division here in the east, and will be joined by Swedish rider Emil Ottosson on the green machines. Veterans Chris Ackerman and Cody Flach will represent GMR in the Semi-Pro division.
Along with Pichner, one of the northeast’s most accomplished veterans has also joined Tatro’s new team. Nine-time champion (Pro and Semi-Pro) Jason Boron makes a return to Arctic Cat for 2010-11 after spending the better part of a decade on Ski-doo. Boron is a threat to win every time out, and those close to the sport know he’ll be fast on the new Cats.
As Morin and Pichner prepare to do battle, there is another new face looking to make his mark here in New England. Over at Hulten Speed Sports (the folks who won 10 class titles last year), a young man they call ‘the Bull-rider’ is training hard and ready to race. Matt Piche is now part of the HSS organization (fielding teams in ISOC and ECS this season) and brings a ton of national experience to the table. Former champion Danny Poirier will also return to action with the Hulten Speed Sports/Polaris squad and will be a threat to win each and every week.
While the three professional athletes with national experience (Morin, Pichner, Piche) may think the ECS sandbox is exclusively theirs, a handful of eastern natives have other plans.
Two graduates of the hotly-contested Semi-Pro division are making the move to Pro for 2011, and both have strong skills. On the Ski-doo side of the equation, Lincoln Lemieux has a new deal that will see him running as a full-time Pro on the ECS circuit and part-time as a Semi-Pro in ISOC. Lemieux won the RMR Semi-Pro Open title in 2010 and has matured a great deal in recent seasons. With fellow Vermont native Brennan Berardo stepping aside this season to focus on college, Lemieux is Ski-doo’s hot ticket (along with Morin and Stone) here in the east.
Another fine young athlete that battled with Lemieux in Semi-Pro last year is also making the move to Pro. Corin Todd, of Otego, NY, has a new team to introduce. JAC Racing is headed up by Corin’s father Mark, and will field Arctic Cat sleds for Corin, Jesse James Bonaduce and Ash Woskob. Bonaduce will advance to Semi-Pro after a strong season in the Sport classes last year, while Woskob will remain in Semi-Pro (the motocross expert from Tyrone, PA only has one season of snocross under his belt) and continue to hone his skills at that level.
With riders like Boron, Pichner and Todd riding green sleds this year, the balance could be about to shift in a region where Ski-doo has dominated through shear numbers in recent years.
Two other teams involved in our sport for many years are getting ready to go at it once again. Ruddman Racing, based in Rodman, NY, returns to action led by veteran Jason Rudd. The talented athlete had his 2009-10 season end early due to a broken leg, but has been training constantly and is anxious to get back on the sleds. Danny Graves will also be part of the squad, looking to run up front in the Semi-Pro division this season.
Along with the Rudd family, longtime snocross supporter Team Southside is also busy preparing for the first green flag. Bruce Gaspardi Sr. has fielded a multi-rider Polaris team since 1997. The team’s 2010-11 lineup will feature three Semi-Pro riders; Joey Stock, Dale Petrus and Todd Smith. Stock swept the Sport classes in 2009 but was sidelined early in 2010 by injury, while Petrus and Smith are seasoned veterans capable of podium finishes on any given day. Rounding out the 2010-11 roster for Team Southside are veterans Bruce Gaspardi Jr. (Sport) Melanie Acker (women) and Wade Acker (Junior).    
Hulten Speed Sports, Ingles Performance, Green Mountain Racing, JAC Racing, the Lemieux, Patenaude, Rudd and Gaspardi families, along with several others are busy gearing up for what could easily be the most competitive winter of snocross northeastern fans have ever witnessed.
Along with all the talent and new faces in Pro and Semi-Pro, ECS officials are also excited about the riders planning to compete in the Sport, Women and Junior divisions.
East Coast Snocross will also continue the highly-valued 120cc program, where future stars of snocross learn how to race. This is the place where young racers compete with high intensity, while also learning the value of good sportsmanship.
With a big reduction in the number of classes and the addition of high-flying freestyle athletes from Rave-X for 2010-11, each race day and weekend will be more of a show.
East Coast Snocross kicks off the 2010-11 season on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 11-12, at the beautiful Burke Mountain Ski Resort in East Burke, Vermont.