The California Enduro Series
wrapped its 2019 season with the Ashland Mountain Challenge
— presented by Hope Technology
and Ashland Mountain Adventures
— on Saturday, October 5 in Ashland, Oregon. Perfect conditions treated 290 riders to a race even Goldilocks would have been stoked about: Not too hot, not too cold; not too dry, not too wet. Hero dirt and sunshine made everything "Just Right."
Racers started arriving in Ashland early in the week to get in some practice and enjoy the quaint southern Oregon town situated just over the California border. By Thursday and Friday, Ashland Mountain Adventures was hoppin’ with folks getting last minute bike repairs and detailed beta for race day ... plus, of course, catching shuttles to the top of Mount Ashland, undeterred by random snow flurries each day.
Come race day, though, the sun was out in full force. Although a bit chilly in the morning (especially on the mountain, brrr), it was overall a beautiful day — to the relief of those who recalled last year’s fickle weather. Precipitation in the days leading up to the event had turned Ashland’s decomposed granite terrain to tacky perfection, and riders arrived at the Lithia Park venue pumped for a fun day of racing some of southern Oregon’s fastest trails.
Sport/Beginner racers warmed up first thing in the morning with a hefty 8.5-mile climb from Lithia Park to Stages 1 (Horn Gap) and 2 (Hitt Road). Horn Gap is a fast and flowy singletrack trail that runs through sections of tight trees and throws in a punchy little climb partway down. From the bottom of Stage 1, it was a pedal transfer over to Stage 2 on Hitt Road, a high-speed double track run featuring plenty of water bars, rocks, and “S” turns to keep riders on their game.
As the Sport/Beginner racers headed up the west side, Expert riders started their day with a pedal as well, albeit a significantly shorter one. Their first run of the day took place on Stage 5 (BTI), an old-school Ashland classic. This short but oh-so-sweet stage boasted big grippy berms to rally and tight techy corners to sprint out of.
Meanwhile, Pro racers caught a shuttle to the top of Mount Ashland for the pedal out to their first stage of the day, Stage 3. Straight-up cold off the shuttle, riders blasted down a primitive service road followed by some muscle-warming cross-country pedaling to the Stage 3 start. Linking up several sweet sections of watershed trail (Lower Bull Gap DH, Upper and Lower Missing Links, and Catwalk), Stage 3 was by far the longest run of the day. This stage served up plenty of rocks, roots, tight corners, sweeping berms, and luscious loam.
From the bottom of Stage 3, the Pros had a chance to recharge on the mellow pedal across Toothpick and up Caterpillar to the top of Stage 4, which ran on Lizard and Jabberwocky. Together, these trails make up about three miles of all-out flow with giant dishy berms, and tables, rollers, and doubles galore.
Both Lizard and Jabberwocky are located toward the bottom of the watershed, and are made up almost entirely of decomposed granite. Although still pretty grippy from the previous rain, the top layer was starting to dry out some, giving the feel of micro ball bearings under the tire. Riders who anticipated this shift in terrain and adjusted their riding accordingly were definitely favored on this stage.
As the Pros were railing Stages 3 and 4, Expert riders made short work of Stage 5, checked in at the timing tent, then caught their shuttles up to take on 3 and 4. Pros chipped in at the bottom of Stage 4, then made their pedal up to Stage 5.
Keeping track of the logistic, so far? Good! Then you’ll already have the notion that Beginner and Sport riders would be finishing up their first couple of stages on the west side, chipping in at the timing tent, and then hopping on their shuttles to Stages 3 and 4 (no Stage 5 for these categories). And around the same time, Expert and Pro riders would be making that 8.5-mile climb to slay their final stages of the day, 1 and 2.
When all was said and done — with riders from all categories gathered back at the Lithia Park venue — ear-to-ear grins on sweaty, dirty, tired faces testified to a ridiculously ideal and satisfying day on the bike.
While waiting for results, everyone enjoyed a Mediterranean feast catered by Falafel Republic, and beer, cider and wine from Gil’s of Ashland.
A generous raffle preceded a lively awards ceremony that honored the day’s top five winners from each category as well as the top five CES 2019 overall winners, both individual and team competitions.
Also during the awards ceremony, CES pulled the winning ticket for its Specialized Stumpjumper EVO raffle (congrats to Marc Brown!). This fundraiser — which also raffled off the all-new Specialized Enduro Expert at Round 5 - EWS Northstar — brought in a whopping $14,000. Half of this benefits the non-profit 501(c)3 series, and the remaining $7,000 will be split evenly between Truckee Bike Park
and Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association (RVMBA)
A Fox 36 fork and Transfer seatpost have been raffled off at each CES event this season, and the season finale winning tickets were pulled during the awards ceremony as well.
Ashland native Nathan Riddle took back his AMC Pro Men championship title from last year’s usurper Cory Sullivan, while Syra Fillat took the win for Pro Women.
Essence Florie, who came in second place on the day, took the top step on the CES 2019 Pro Women overall podium, while Mike Lee, who took third in the event, led the Pro Men overall. Scotts Valley Cycle Sport hung on to their lead in the team competition, taking home the season’s championship for the second year in a row.
Ashland Mountain Challenge organizer Bill Roussel says, “This year’s Ashland Mountain Challenge was amazing in many ways. The weather gods shined on our race with sunshine day-of but several days of moisture prior to the event so the trails were in prime condition. CES timing was smooth as always, and the racers kept everything moving. Everyone was extremely polite to our crew and for that I want to say thanks.”
Roussel adds, “Our staff and volunteers once again knocked it out of the park — without these people, we wouldn’t even attempt to put this event on. A special shout of thanks to Sue for being so well organized and taking care of all the details that make this event as special as it is.”
CES director Steve Gemelos says, "It's been an amazing 2019 CES season, and there was no better way to wrap it up than with the Ashland Mountain Challenge. Bill and Sue and the rest of the crew put on an incredible event. Congrats to everyone who podium'd this weekend, and to all with series overalls. We look forward to seeing you again next year!"
Check out full AMC race results and podium shots for all categories here
. View series overall individual results here
and team results here
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 grateful to its 2019 sponsors Specialized, Fox, Race Face, Maxxis, Voler, WTB, Peaty’s, Cranked Naturals, Michael David Winery, Kenda, Adventure Sports Journal, CushCore, Intense, and Zodiac Lights.
Learn more at californiaenduroseries.com
. Follow CES on Facebook @californiaenduroseries
, and on Instagram @ca_enduro
.Words by Michele Charboneau / Photos by Kasey Carames