Race Report: California Enduro Series Finale - Ashland Mountain Challenge

Oct 9, 2019
by Michele Charboneau / Cali Enduro  
Pro Men champ Nathan Riddle carving his way down home turf.

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.

Pro Women champ Syra Fillat powering down her first stage of the day. Fillat took 2nd place for the series overall.

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.

A glimpse of Christian Ferrone through the leaves. Ferrone finished in 1st place Master Pro Men 40+.

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.

Riders chipped in and checked their times between stages.

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.

CES director Steve Gemelos with FOX fork winner Aiden Murphy.

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.

Ashland Mountain Challenge top five Pro Women: 1st Syra Fillat / 2nd Essence Florie / 3rd Andrea Napoli / 4th Nikki Piertsegaele / 5th Heidi Kanayan
Ashland Mountain Challenge top five Pro Men: 1st Nathan Riddle / 2nd Dillon Santos / 3rd Mike Lee / 4th Cory Sullivan / 5th Josh Kahn

Ashland Mountain Adventures shuttled riders up to a snowy Mount Ashland for practice runs prior to the race, and also on race day.
Early season snow was a surprise and a delight; precipitation in the days before the race created spectacular riding conditions.

Heading out for practice in a winter wonderland.
Deep dark chocolatey tracks in practice.

Packet pickup at Ashland Mountain Adventures Friday evening.
Dillon Santos was stoked to be back racing Ashland and took Pro Men 2nd place.

Essence Florie says Ashland is "like going into a mystical land with beautiful towering trees, running rivers, and unending greenery. It’s always a joy to go explore riding in areas that are unlike anything where I live." The Pro Women rider landed in 2nd place on the day, and 1st for the series overall. "Although Ashland wasn’t my best race of the season due to exhaustion from over training and feeling ill, I still pushed through and gave my best effort. I’m stoked to have taken 2nd place for the day and 1st for the series. It’s definitely time for some rest and recovery now for the off season!”

Mike Lee on the hunt. He nabbed Pro Men 3rd place at day's end, as well as the series overall championship. Lee — who made it to every CES race this season — says, "What an incredible year! The series was awesome, starting off in Mexico. The diversity of the series had me loving every minute of it. From border to border, it was awesome. Having the final race in Ashland really put the icing on the cake. The weather brewed up some of the more incredible conditions of the season."

Andrea Napoli with her eyes on the prize. She finished the day in Pro Women 3rd place.

Cory Sullivan, who's been off the race circuit most of the season due to a shattered wrist, came back with a vengeance, taking Pro Men 4th place. He says, "Pumped to finished out the season on a positive note. It's amazing what the body can do with a little motivation, optimism and care."

Nikki Piertsegaele looking focused and determined on her way to a Pro Women 4th place finish.

Josh Kahn getting after the goods on Stage 3; he came in Pro Men 5th place.

Heidi Kanayan on a tear to Pro Women 5th place. Kanayan was grateful for the chance to compete in Ashland this season. She explains, "Eleven months ago, after nearly dying in a freak moto accident, this didn't seem possible. I even raced three EWS events this season, too! Thank you to all who made this race possible."

It was great to see Ryan "R-Dog" Howard — world renowned for his freestyle prowess — having a blast on the AMC course.

Junior Pro U18 3rd place finisher Ethan Jeffrey looking cool and confident on Stage 3.

Carter Kawell catching some air. He took Expert Boys U18 1st place, as well as 1st for the series overall.

Expert Men 30-39 rider Ernest Saponara finished the season in 1st place for the series overall.

Expert Men 30-39 rider Grant Conzaman in the zone.

Marty "The Raven" Crosley flying down the Catwalk rock garden — caw! caw! He finished the day in Expert Men 50+ 3rd place.

Paule Bates (Expert Men 50+) dropping in to Catwalk on Stage 3.

Expert Women rider Erin McCaleb rolling fast through the tacky loam. McCaleb finished the season in 1st place overall, as did her team Scotts Valley Cycle Sport.

Scotts Valley Cycle Sport rider Tucker Evans stylin' on Stage 3. He took Sport Boys 16-17 2nd place on the day, as well as for the series overall.

Ryan Young rallying the DG on his way to a Sport Men 30-39 1st place finish.

Eric Chapman (Sport Men 40-49) making his way through the trees.

Nicole Falke raced every CES event this season, taking Sport Women 1st place overall.

Jeni Wages (Sport Women) looking strong and purposeful on Stage 3.

Beginner Men rider Cody Ciciarelli came in 1st place on the day, as well as for the series overall.

Yo doggo, where's your race plate?

Fall foliage is going off throughout Ashland.

Race director Bill Roussel congratulates adaptive athlete Sean Simonson for a solid day of racing. Simonson says, "The Ashland Mountain Challenge did not disappoint. It had to be the cleanest and best traction dirt I have ever been on. The race directors put on a super organized race and it was a perfect way to finish an unbelievable race season." He is the first adaptive athlete to race the Ashland Mountain Challenge, the first to race and win CES, and the first to win EWS.

CES co-founder Megan Gemelos (left) helps a future racer with his raffle ticket.

Nathan Riddle giving his wee ripper a lift. The day's champ says, "It was an absolutely fantastic day. Everything about it was fantastic — the people are fantastic, the event, the coordination is fantastic. The conditions were really amazing. Kinda cool, not too hot, not too cold. And the dirt was as good as it gets here."

Hope has been sponsoring the Ashland Mountain Challenge for years and always contributes incredible awards and prizes.

CES 2019 top five overall Pro Women: 1st Essence Florie / 2nd Syra Fillat / 3rd Rachel Strait / 4th Tasha Thomas / 5th Kate Lawrence (absent from podium)
CES 2019 top five overall Pro Men: 1st Mike Lee / 2nd Todd Renwick / 3rd Myles Trainer (absent from podium) / 4th Cody Kelley (absent from podium) / 5th Evan Geankoplis @genomain (absent from podium)

The CES crew congratulates this season's winners and high fives everyone who raced the series this year. Looking forward to getting after it again in 2020!


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

Regions in Article


  • 10 0
 LEE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 10 0
 One of the best places in Oregon to ride a mountain bike. Wild Bill and Sue have one of my all time favorite shuttle services.
  • 2 0
 Place had some of the BEST Single-track I've ever seen!!!!
  • 3 0
 ashland is lowkey one of the best mtb places in the world when october hits.
  • 1 0
 Yeah Josh gettin' it on the Crowbar!!!!! Stoked with a 5th overall, and only 5 days on the bike beforehand!
  • 2 0
 Oh shit thats me! Yellow pants FTW!
  • 2 0
 Real nice write-up and photos. Killer content, Michele!
  • 2 0
 Congrats to all the Rogue Valley Racers!
  • 2 1
 Enduro race won on a Cross Country Bike with simi slicks tires front and back...SO ENDURO
  • 1 1
 Those trails are not full enduro but it still takes a lot of technical skill to get to the bottom quick. Also, that guy is a top finisher in races like Trans Cascadia and Downieville.
  • 1 0
 Best day ever! Thank you again for putting on such an awesome race! Hopefully I can make it again next year.
  • 3 2
 Sounds like someones bitter about something....
  • 1 0
 Was a super fun day, 30 miles miles never felt so fun!
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