The China Peak Enduro
– round 4 of the California Enduro Series
and an EWS qualifier – upped the ante for the CES 2017 season with its burly, raw, and relentlessly challenging course on Saturday July 1. Tucked away in the southwestern Sierra about 65 miles east of Fresno, the rugged terrain of China Peak Mountain Resort
was the ideal setting for the first round of the CES Golden Tour
– the series' pro triple crown spotlighting the gnarliest venues and courses. The event drew nearly 400 racers and injected the season with intense, uninhibited action on steep, primitive trails at high altitude.A rugged, old school trail system is the hallmark of China Peak. With on-site camping, and nearby fishing, swimming holes, lakes, waterfalls, hiking trails, and hot springs, it’s the ideal getaway for mountain bikers and their families.Pro Stage HighlightsStage 3:
Pro and expert riders kicked off their day with an extended climb to Stage 3, the longest stage of the day and one that served up tough lines through arduous rock gardens. This opening leg set the stage for the following battles to decide the overall winner. Close times in the first test meant that every move would count for the day. One second separated the top three riders—Dillon Santos (Ibis), Cory Sullivan (Marin) and Evan Geankoplis (Marin) respectively—with 4th place rider Ryan Gardner (Kona) 10sec off the pace and then another second to 5th place Ryan Gorman 11sec adrift.Dillon Santos (Ibis) motivated and fast on Stage 3.
For the women, Amy Morrison (Marin) opened her Golden Tour wins account with a 16 second margin on 2nd place Christine Eikmeier (Michael David Wineries) and 3rd place CES leader Janea Perry (Marin) who finished in the same second. Zephyr Sylvester (Mike's Bikes) filed into 4th at 20sec and Jackie Swider (DSENDiT) took 5th at 28sec.Amy Morrison (Marin) charging her way down Stage 3.Stage 1
: From the bottom of Stage 3, riders received lift access part-way up the mountain before traversing over to Stage 1, a winding, duffy track through the Tamarack pines that at times sunk riders into ever-spreading mud bogs courtesy recent snow melt. James Eaves (Bicycle Blue Book) – surprise winner of the Toro Enduro (CES Round #2) – proved he is still a threat by taking out the muddy stage win with one second to spare over Sullivan and Geankoplis who both finished in the same second in 2nd and 3rd. Bell finished 4th, two seconds off the pace while Gardner kept things steady with a 5th on the stage at 5sec. Santos lost time in the slop falling to 7th in the stage at 6sec. Geankoplis and Sullivan maintained their tight grouping at the top of the overall standings and current CES series leader Sullivan assumed leadership over the 2016 Golden Tour winner in 2nd. Santos hung close in 3rd spot with Sean Bell (Santa Cruz Factory) and Gardner 4th and 5th. Stage 1 for the women found Morrison slowed down but not enough to keep her from winning. None-the-less inattention was costly throughout the day. Sylvester got things mostly right to score a 2nd place on the stage at 3sec and Perry came in again at 3rd place at 8sec. Eikmeier finished the stage in 4th and Swider again placed 5th. Stage 2
: From the Stage 1 finish, it was a short pedal transfer to the top of Stage 2, a fast and furious trail culminating in tight, loose corners under a hot, exposed sky. Santos bounced back in Stage 2 to regain lost time and snagged the stage win by 4sec over Geankoplis and 6sec over 3rd place Bell. This reshuffle saw Geankoplis move into the lead by 1sec over a charging Santos with 6sec to Sullivan in 3rd. Bell maintain 4th overall thanks to clean riding while previous stage winner, Eaves was not able to hold on to the magic falling from 7th to 9th overall. Matt Koen (Marin) placed 4th and Sullivan took 5th to further displace Gardner into 6th on the stage although he maintained his solid 5th place overall. Checking in with the women at this halfway point, Morrison had built up a good lead, but underneath her things were less secure with 2nd-4th all within 2sec going into the stage. Stage 2 was a short one, condensing the dusty and technical on the lower slopes off the mountain and offered up a chance to make a difference for the riders willing to take risk. Perry was willing, and pushed the tempo up to take the stage win by 3sec over her teammate Morrison. Sylvester also pushed to within one second of Morrison to claim 3rd. Swider however, did not push as hard losing 13sec finishing in 4th. Carolina Gomez-Villafane showed her skill to take 5th on the stage at 21sec.Stage 4
: Although stages 1, 2 and 3 (in that order) completed the day for Beginner and Sport racers, Pro and Expert riders charged ahead by taking on Stage 4 which kicked off with loose corners and then segued into a wild run down granite slabs before finishing in yet more loose terrain. Santos truly hit his stride winning the stage by 10sec over 2nd place Koen who jumped into 5th place behind this stellar effort. Sullivan recovered some for the overall by placing 3rd on the stage. Geankoplis faltered losing 20sec and the race lead, falling to 3rd overall. Gardner continued his steady performance with a 4th on the stage and improved to 4th overall. Dane Petersen (Mike's Bikes) caught a peek into the top five on this stage with a 5th place finish.Ryan Gardner (Kona) makes it look easy as he rails a deep Stage 4 corner with style.
The women were pushing hard, too. Perry continued to impress in the technical terrain with another stage win on the slabs of Stage 4, but she barely clawed at the deficits racked up in the first stages of the day. Swider turned up the rowdy to finish 2nd on the stage, dropping 1sec to Perry. Morrison rode her own race to finish 3rd at 3sec knowing she had time in the bank. Sylvester again struggled on the long top-bottom stage as she did in Stage 3 losing 20sec; she finished 4th on the stage which meant that improving to 2nd or 3rd position would not be likely without the leaders making major mistakes. Eickmeier kept it steady with 5th on the stage to keep her in 5th overall.Jackie Swider (DSENDiT) opens up for the straightaway after navigating a rocky, loose corner on Stage 4. Stage 5
: The Pro/Expert course saved the best for last, with riders stretched to their limits as they took on Stage 5, a freshly hewn, steep and technical trail that had even the most seasoned riders digging deep to stay upright. Santos went into the last and most challenging stage with a good margin, but all the riders understood that crashes and bobbles could be costly. The top five riders were separated by 36sec, and the 5th-10th place riders were separated by 27sec. The choice was clear for each of the top ten riders after 23 minutes of racing and 3,600 feet of climbing: to charge or not to charge. Koen and Gardner clearly chose to charge the queen stage and went 1st and 2nd separated by only 1sec. Koen claimed the win on the single toughest stage in CES history, and both he and Gardner cemented their podium positions with their efforts. Sullivan kept it quick and tidy to finish 3rd on the stage only giving up 3sec to Koen. Bell again broke the top 5 after disappointment in Stage 4 and in so doing pushed up to 6th overall. Geankoplis didn't see the point in extra risk and took 5th in the stage to maintain his 3rd place overall.
Cory Sullivan (Marin) sending it with ease on Stage 5. Imagine that landing!
Despite adopting the "keep it clean" strategy, Santos crashed hard on the most difficult steep and loose chute, knowing he might have possibly given away his lead. He gathered himself, pushed back to rejoin the trail, and switched to charge mode. Despite this setback Santos still managed 7th on the stage and held off Sullivan’s charge to take the overall win by 6sec.Oooof! Santos' spectacular tumble on the final stage of the day.
How would the last stage play out for the women? Morrison went in with a significant lead, but was not unbeatable on the fast and loose tracks. Had Perry and Sylvester not lost significant time on previous stages, one could easily see them in with a shot for victory. With Stage 5 being all about momentum, any get-offs were met with time-consuming remounts, and the steep/narrow tracks also meant any off-course detours were LONG detours. So, all was still in play; if Morrison faltered, Perry could turn it around. Morrison did not falter however, and this was arguably her best move of the day because Perry was in fact ready to capitalize on any mistake. Morrison edged out Perry by mere tenths of a second and we wonder what might have been for the CES series leader had she not let so much time go on the opening tracks of the day. Swider gave up 18sec on the stage to finish 3rd but it was still good enough to improve her overall position to 4th after Sylvester let the course get the better of her giving up 53sec to the winner and finishing 5th. 4th on the stage was taken by Tasha Thomas (Barton Health / South Shore Bikes) at 34sec who after quietly riding a consistent pace all day was able to ramp up the tempo and move into 5th place overall just in time for the awards.
Janea Perry (Marin) all focus and determination on Stage 5.APRES-RACE
The vibe back down at the main venue post-race was pure stoke. New friends and old traded race stories over a pasta dinner and beer while results were tallied and awards were announced. As winners took to China Peak’s iconic wood stage and prizes were handed out, racers reveled in the unique, down-to-earth energy so inherent in the enduro world. From beginner to pro, from riders who DNF’d to those who podium’d, from those who crashed to those who kept the rubber side down all day, the feedback on the day was what enduro is all about. Pushing limits, getting rowdy, being high on bikes, and hanging out with like-minded folks.The top ten Pro Women shared $4,000 in Golden Tour prize money. The day's top five winners were: 1st - Amy Morrison 2nd - Janea Perry 3rd - Jackie Swider 4th - Zephyr Sylvester 5th - Tasha ThomasThe top ten Pro Men also divvied up $4,000 in Golden Tour prize money. The day's top five winners were: 1st - Dillon Santos 2nd - Cory Sullivan 3rd - Evan Geankoplis 4th - Ryan Gardner 5th - Matthew KoenThe Pro Women let loose at the end of a big day on the mountain. High fives to all who took on this taxing yet inspiring course, and congrats to the event's winners and current series leaders! Huge thanks to the riders, sponsors, and volunteers who make the magic happen.
Scroll to bottom for additional photos that illustrate this epic weekend in the southwestern Sierra. Or click here
to view photo album.
Check out full race results and current Golden Tour and series overall standings at californiaenduroseries.com
. Just around the corner: Round 5 – the Crafts and Cranks Enduro
at Big Bear July 22-23!About California Enduro Series
CES is a for riders, by riders non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting world-class enduro events that everyone from amateur to pro can enjoy, at a geographically diverse range of venues. The series is renowned for fostering an exceptional sense of community and encourages its participants to be involved in its planning.
The series is grateful for the support of VP Components
, Clif Bar
, Kali Protectives
, Michael David Winery
, Cranked Naturals
, Kenda Tires
, Adventure Sports Journal
, ESI Grips
, Mike's Bikes
Brian Astell (TrailWorks) showing his skills class how to successfully navigate Stage 3's rocky sections on practice day.
China Peak is not a course to ride blind. Most riders arrived Thursday evening to take full advantage of scoping out lines on practice day Friday.
Practice day: plenty of lift off on course.
Practice day saw plenty of crashes, too!
Bike prep' the night before the race.
Camp vibes at the Santa Cruz Bicycles compound.
China Peak Enduro race director Nick Cohee and CES director Steve Gemelos share the 411 at the rider meeting race morning.
What a way to start the day. Evan Turpen (Orbea) pushes up a grueling, steep section of the first transfer for Pro/Expert.
Janea Perry (Marin) smiling through the grind as she heads to her first stage of the day, on which she took 3rd. Perry fought her way to Pro Women 2nd place and retains the top spot on the series leaderboard.
Sean Bell (Santa Cruz Factory Racing) crushing the Stage 3 boulders.
Evan Geankoplis (Marin) negotiating Stage 3 chunder with finesse. Geankoplis took 3rd for the stage, and would go on to take 3rd place for the day, standing 4th for the series overall.
Rock gardens galore.
Christine Eikmeier (Michael David Winery) drops in to a chunky section of Stage 3, taking 2nd for that stage.
Ian Odom (The Path) refuels on Cranked Naturals between stages.
Ryan Gardner (Kona) and Cory Sullivan (Marin) comparing race runs at the bottom of Stage 3.
Riders check their times and standing in between stages at the CES Live! timing booth.
Amy Morrison (Marin) on a straight but loose section of Stage 4 high above Huntington Lake. Morrison says, "China Peak is a race I have always looked forward to and have enjoyed racing since I started racing four years ago. The beautiful location in the Sierra, the camping by the river with friends, the raw, rocky and loose terrain and everyone on an equal playing field as far as practice are few reasons why."
Zephyr Sylvester (Mike's Bikes / Yeti) has been racing hard this season. Her efforts have her currently standing in 2nd place Pro Women for the series overall, and she took 4th place at China Peak.
Shade, hydration, and nutrition at the top of stages 4 and 5, courtesy VP Components, Cranked Naturals, and China Peak respectively.
Nick DiNapoli (Scotts Valley Cycle Sport) sets out on Stage 4. Scotts Valley Cycle Sport currently leads the team competition for the series overall.
Zach Petersen (Mike's Bikes) hungry for more gnar at the top of Stage 4.
Stages 4 and 5 nearly touch in a few spots down the hill, but the two runs offer very different riding experiences.
The start to the already-infamous Stage 5. China Peak Enduro's very first race director Evan Turpen shares, "Back in 2013, for the first race at China Peak, I wanted to utilize that steep top section under the lift, but I simply ran out of time and couldn't add it to the course then. When we were building it this year I found marking tape still attached to tree branches from when I had hiked it four years prior!"
Turpen in a reflective moment at the top of Stage 5. He says, "I would have to say Stage 5 turned out to be one of the toughest tracks to ride in recent enduro racing history. Very steep, dry, and loose ... which makes controlling your bike more of a roll of the dice than a sure thing." He adds, "The China Peak Enduro has come a long way since I first ran it five years ago. I'm stoked! In its inaugural year, there were 197 competitors and four stages, and unfortunately timing system issues. Since then, the event has grown into one of the best stops on the CES schedule. With 400 racers, five stages, live timing, an EWS Qualifier, and a large pro purse, this is much more along the lines of what I had envisioned it being long term. I can see this event continuing to grow, and I would love to see the world's best tackle the China Peak Enduro full-on!"
Freshly cut by a crew of dozen volunteers just days before the July 1 event, Stage 5's route was loosely based off of a Pro GRT downhill track that Turpen scouted in 2013. The Stage 5 trail crew included Turpen and his girlfriend Margaux Elliott, current China Peak Enduro director Nick Cohee, CES co-founder and former China Peak Enduro director Erik Saunders of VP Components, Saunders' son Stone and friend Paul, and Santa Cruz Factory Racing team members Kyle Harder, Matthew Wilbur, Sam Markling and Sam Carr.
This section of Stage 5 was where the heckling went down ... and so did many of the riders.
Sarcodes sanguinea ... Sarcodes being derived from the Greek word sarkodes, which means "resembling flesh" and Sanguinea being a Latin term meaning "blood-red." Hmm, considering China Peak carnage, there just might be a theme here. The plant's common name "Snow Plant" speaks to its emergence from snow-covered ground at high elevation. This specimen is just past its prime but still a striking sight along the trail.
Nick Gallizioli throws dirt aside on Stage 5. Gallizioli took the Open Men top step and commands the top spot on the series leaderboard as well.
CES co-founder and former China Peak Enduro director Erik Saunders sports a fine coat of Stage 5 grit. Saunders says, "This race started with the vision and action of Evan Turpen. I grew the event from his vision and everyone involved has worked really hard to prove that enduro is viable and worth investing in from the standpoint of the venues. The China Peak staff, led by Nick Cohee, is ready to push this to the very top level in years to come with support from Evan and me. Evan, Nick and I have a lot of great plans ... Stage 5 was just the beginning and improved the race for pro and expert riders. Look for more improvements for other categories, as well as better accommodation for media and spectators, too."
Flinging Kali Protectives swag to the crowd before podium. The Kali Protectives Road Warrior, Cedar Kyes (right), was on hand to hook riders up with demo helmets as needed. Kali Protectives launched its Race Support helmet demo program to support events and racers of all levels. If a rider's helmet becomes damaged and unsafe to continue to use during an event that the Road Warrior is at, the rider can demo a new Kali helmet at no charge and continue on with his or her race. Learn more at the Kali Protectives website.
Trading race stories over brew at the end of a hard yet exhilarating day.
Paule Bates (Roaring Mouse) earned his beer. Bates took Expert Men 50+ 5th place after a big day on the bike.
CES is excited to showcase the Canyon Spectral, a replica of the bike Canyon rider Joe Barnes is racing in the EWS. This fine steed will be on display at the remaining 2017 CES races, and Canyon will be on hand with their demo fleet at both the Crafts and Cranks and Kamikaze Bike Games events.
Team CES shows off the brand new series jerseys provided by Voler. Left to right: Josh Baker, Michele Charboneau, Megan Gemelos, Steve Gemelos, and Justin Beck. Learn more and order yours on the CES website. Trail and XC styles available. A percentage of the proceeds benefits CES, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Big thanks to Fox for donating 2018 forks to be raffled at each CES event of the year. Congrats to Jason Morvay (Scotts Valley Cycle Sport), Round 4's lucky winner! Morvay took 3rd Sport Men on the day, and currently stands at 3rd overall for the series.
Pro Men winner Dillon Santos with his trusty steed, the Ibis Ripley LS. Santos says, "I had a blast at round 4 of the California Enduro Series. This was the first stop of the golden tour series and the stoke level was high! The trails offered up a good mix of loose corners, fast straights, rocks, and as much pedaling as you were willing to put in. This weekend really pushed me mentally and physically. At the end of each stage I needed a few minutes of top tube drooling to get my thoughts back together." He adds, "I'm really happy to have earned the win and celebrated with loads of ice cream! As for the rest of the series I will be attending the remaining Golden Tour Events as well as the CES final in Ashland."
Words by Michele Charboneau and Erik Saunders • Photos by Scott McClain • Video by Mitch Nuyens and Sebastian Bauer
Pro Women winner Amy Morrison (Marin) with the new Wolf Ridge, a bike that handles the rough and tumble howling with stoke. Morrison says, "This race is always physically demanding due to the longer DH stages, altitude and sun, but one more stage really made it a battle for the best rider to hang tough all day. Stage 5 was a great addition to the pro/expert course. The top was super loose with rocks and steep sections and it had a good power pedal section in the middle before finishing on lower stage 2. My goal was to ride smooth on the top which meant being super conservative then power through the bottom." She adds, "I'm racing the rest of the Golden Tour, which I hear has a stacked women's field for Northstar. I would love to see myself in the mix with the Gehrig twins there, but landing a spot just below them is the definite goal."