Deep in the mountains of backwoods West Virginia, Snowshoe is named for the ski resort which opens its doors to the GNCC nation once a year. Considered a throwback to the 100 mile series and the grueling Blackwater 100, Snowshoe was billed for many years as “America’s Toughest Race.” Of course, with the advent of American Hard Enduros and Extreme races like King of the Motos or the Tennessee Knock Out this is no longer the case. However, it is still one of the hardest hare scrambles around and certainly the most challenging and technical of the GNCC rounds. The fact that it is no longer “America’s Toughest Race” does not diminish the challenges it presents racers….. well, the AM racers anyway.

In a saddening turn of events, every WXC rider who has raced this year and has raced here at least once previously told me that Snowshoe was a shadow of its former self for the AM riders. Though I’m not sure any rider truly relishes the rock gardens or mudholes, reactions ranged from a faint air of disappointment to full-throated fury. While most riders chose to remain off the record, Brooke Cosner agreed to be quoted for this story. This makes sense, as this was a close replica of what she said on the podium: “I’ve never seen such a course at Snowshoe. It was almost all road, except for Howard’s Hole. You’d head into the woods and right back out again. It was nowhere near the difficulty levels I love and expect from this place, and I can’t remember the last time I was so disappointed with a track.”

snowshoe's pavement start, WXC
The pavement start is unique to the Snowshoe round of the series and is a throwback to the Blackwater 100, which featured a similar start down the main street of Davis, West VirginiaPhoto by Ken Hill

One unique and interesting factor of Snowshoe remaining this year is the live-engine, five-at-a-time start down the main drag of the ski resort. This is the only live-engine start, and the only pavement start in the entire series, which makes it interesting to watch. The section is pretty short, usually only 100 feet or so before you turn off the road and onto a gravel/dirt pack access road. Normally you can expect to see at least a couple of wipe-outs every race in that first corner. Another feature of Snowshoe is the two-loop course. There is a short loop (around 5-6 minutes for the women) on the lake side of the mountain that is basically just Howard’s Hole (one of the nastiest and longest mud holes ever discovered), and some fire roads. Then a longer loop (about 40 minutes for the women) on the opposite side. This year riders ran the long loop first, then the short one.

The unusual start didn’t throw current points leader Tayla Jones (Mountain/KR4/Husquvarna Performance) off one bit though. She took the holeshot and an early lead, but like last weekend, it didn’t last long. Heading down one of the mountain’s short but steep hills, she washed the front end out on a slippery rock. This pushed her back to third place, about a minute down from the leaders on that first short loop.

Tayla Jones at Snowshoe
Though Tayla Jones encountered difficulties with the unfamiliar terrain at Snowshoe, you should never count her out of the racePhoto by Ken Hill

Following Tayla’s mishap Becca Sheets (Fly/Maxxis/Seat Concepts/KTM) took the lead, before losing it to Brooke Cosner (The Motorcycle Shop/Bell Powersports/Kenda/V3 Off-Road/Full Gas Fitness) at the start of Howard’s hole on the second loop. Cosner was able to pull about 30 seconds on Sheets. Once the WXC riders began to catch the lappers, the dynamics changed though. At the 5 mile marker, there was a technical half-mile uphill where the C riders created a large bottleneck. In the ensuing chaos, both Sheets and Jones were able to catch up to Cosner. Jones and Cosner attempted to ride alongside the trail and create a new path – always a dangerous game at Snowshoe, where mossy rocks lurk unseen under the leaves. Sheets played it safe and stayed on course to wait out or weave through the bottleneck. This ended up being a mistake, as she lost nearly two minutes to the others.

Becca Sheets at Snowshoe
Despite several costly mistakes, Becca Sheets kept charging, and it paid off.Photo by Ken Hill

Cosner continued to lead heading into Howard’s hole. Sheets encountered more troubles, but Jones was able to make up some time – she was only six seconds down at the white flag. Though it would have been tough for Cosner to hold off the so-far-unbeaten Jones, things got tougher when her back brakes failed with several miles to go. This not only allowed Jones to sail to another WXC win, but also allowed Sheets, who had resolutely kept her head down and continued charging despite the deficit to end up in the second place spot. Cosner was able to maintain that third place spot, but it was surely a disappointment after leading the majority of the race.

Despite the relative ease of this year’s Snowshoe course, the mountain still had some tricks and challenges up its sleeve. As Jones put it after the race: “I’d heard a lot of things about Snowshoe, but to experience it is completely different… I consider this win one of my best as these conditions are not something I race in much and I struggled a little. So, I’m stoked I could still get it done.” Catch up with the WXC riders on June 9th as they compete in the John Penton GNCC in Ohio.

Brooke Cosner at Snowshoe
Until she lost her rear brakes on the last lap, Brooke Cosner was having a very strong ride, as she lead approximately an hour and a half of the two hour long race. If you look in the background of this photo, you can see one of Snowshoe Mountain's ski lodgesPhoto by Ken Hill

Snowshoe WXC Results

1st Tayla Jones
2nd Becca Sheets
3rd Brooke Cosner
4th Taylor Johnson
5th Kendall Lafollette

WXC Points (Unadjusted for drops)

1st Becca Sheets (151)
2nd Tayla Jones (140)
3rd Mackenzie Tricker (120)**
4th Rachel Gutish (100)
5th Brooke Cosner (86)

**Note that Becca Sheets is currently the only rider to have competed in all eight of the rounds so far.

WXC Points (Adjusted to only include seven of eight rounds)

1st Tayla Jones (140)
2nd Becca Sheets (133)
3rd Mackenzie Tricker (126)
4th Rachel Gutish (100)
5th Brooke Cosner (86)