Race Report: California Enduro Series Finale - Ashland Mountain Challenge

Oct 8, 2020
by California Enduro Series  

Against all odds, the Ashland Mountain Challenge (AMC) went off without a hitch on a gloriously gorgeous weekend, wrapping up the abbreviated California Enduro Series 2020 season with a bang on October 3-4. The sold-out race was presented by Hope Technology and Ashland Mountain Adventures (AMA), and the event is a highly anticipated racer favorite year after year.

The COVID-19 pandemic had naturally turned things upside down … both figuratively and literally, as it turned out. Per US Forest Service permit requirements, this year’s AMC started AND ended at the top of Mt. Ashland. This meant riders raced their timed stages first, then tackled a mandatory climb all the way back to where they started.

The unconventional four-stage course was set entirely on Mt. Ashland's east side. It served up 4,800 feet of both downhill and climbing — same as past AMCs, only in a different order. In sharp contrast to the past couple of years, 2020’s course was ridiculously dry and slippery (think: minuscule ball bearings on hard pack) … just add FAST and you can imagine the challenging FUN racers were treated to.


To get to Stage 1, riders sent it down Upper Bull Gap, a primitive service road that’s being slowly but surely taken over by the forest … and plenty of loose, chunky rocks. Riders continued on to the start of Stage 1 with some muscle-warming cross-country pedaling on Lower Bull Gap singletrack.

The first stage of the day ran on Lower Bull Gap’s downhill section plus the upper portion of Missing Link and featured tons of rocks, roots, tight corners and flowy berms. This stage was the FOX Queen Stage, in which the racer from each category with the fastest time received bonus points toward overall ranking.

After a short uphill transfer, riders took on Stage 2, which ran on the lower part of Missing Link and the ever-popular Catwalk. This latter track starts off with a slabby rock garden, then segues into the furiously fast “freeway” and finishes with a zig-zag descent. Savvy racers shaved off time by setting up for full-on sprints out of the tight corners as they charged to the stage finish.

Another short transfer delivered racers to the top of Stage 3, which included Lizard, Caterpillar and Rabbit Hole. This stage was all about pumping and flow, keeping it upright on fast, dry corners and making the most out of rollers, tables, and banked berms.

From the bottom of 3, riders took on a longer transfer to their final stage, Marty’s. Racers were stoked for this stage as it was new to the AMC course. Adding to the stoke (and perhaps introducing a bit of trepidation for some), the stage delivered a particularly sketchy, techy, steep bit along the way. The dry conditions made this section even spicier… and as we all know, enduro racers live for spice!

But ... how ‘bout that pedal back up? Hehe, suck it up buttercup, this ain’t no DH race. From the bottom of their final run (Stage 4), riders made a mandatory 11-mile climb back to where they started their race — the Mt. Ashland Ski Lodge parking area — where a socially-distanced awards ceremony took place each day.

Pro Men, Pro Women, Sport and Beginner riders raced on Saturday; Junior Pro, Master Pro and all Expert riders took on Sunday. Both days being warm and sunny, the blue skies and fresh air were a sweet escape from the smoke-filled environment most racers had left at home.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the usual post-race feast couldn’t take place; instead, race organizer Ashland Mountain Adventures provided each racer with a meal voucher for Falafel Republic and a drink voucher for Gil's. Overall, riders welcomed the unusual “upside-down” day and had a blast racing with friends on an exciting course.

Huge thanks to Bill and Sue ‘n crew of AMA for yet another stellar event. With a season scattered with cancellations and postponements, it was great to wrap up the year on this incredibly positive note.

2020, take THAT!

Scroll down for more photos from the event by Bixxel Media. Check out full AMC race results and podium shots for all categories here.

Massive thanks from the CES crew to everyone who hung in there with us over this unpredictable and unusual season. We truly appreciate your commitment to the series — your passion and support inspired us to work hard to ensure the best series possible under even the most extenuating of circumstances!

A shout of congratulations to this season’s series champions Marco Osborne and Amy Morrison, with a special shout to Morrison for dominating the season by winning a whopping dozen of the 14 stages!

Joining Osborne in the top five Pro Men overall are Cody Kelley in 2nd, Todd Renwick in 3rd, Max Sedlak in 4th, and Dillon Santos in 5th.

Accompanying Morrison in the top five Pro Women overall are Porsha Murdock in 2nd, Essence Florie in 3rd, Isabella Naughton in 4th, and Erin McCaleb in 5th.

View series overall individual results for all categories here.

Congrats as well to Scotts Valley Cycle Sport and Team Midpack who tied for first place in the team competition. Team Mike’s Bikes took 3rd, while Summit/BLS/Deschutes and MTB Experience tied for 4th. Thank you all for racing!

View all team results here.

In addition to the FOX Queen Stage that added bonus points to the series overall standings to the winner of the stage in each category, Race Face Performance Products awarded a winner’s choice bar/stem/grips combo to both the amateur male and amateur female racer with the most stage wins.

Hunter Preston won for amateur male with eight stage wins out of 14 stages that made up the three races of the 2020 CES.

There were two female racers, Daisy James and Hannah Spendlove, with the same number of five stage wins.

Congrats to Hunter, Daisy, and Hannah. View all FOX / Race Face Stage Wins here.

100% of the proceeds to benefit fire relief efforts, as well as trail projects in two of our beloved racing communities!

Thanks to this year's title sponsor Specialized, CES has two Specialized bikes to raffle off at the end of this unprecedented season.

The winning tickets for a 2020 Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp Carbon and a 2020 Specialized Enduro Expert will be pulled on October 31, 2020.

Proceeds from this raffle were originally slated to benefit the series — we're a 501(c)3 non-profit organization — as well as trail projects in two of the communities that host races on the series schedule: Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association (RVMBA) and Siskiyou Outdoor Recreation Alliance (SORA).

However, in light of devastating wildfires that have impacted many friends in the CES community, we at CES are donating 100% of our portion to fire relief efforts where it's most needed.

In addition to donating our portion of the Specialized raffle proceeds, CES is also donating 100% of the funds raised from this season's FOX raffles. Five FOX forks and four Transfer seatposts have already been raffled off — there's one more of each still up for grabs.

Raffle tickets are $5 each, or five for $20 and twelve for $40. You need not be present to win, and your prize can be shipped anywhere around the globe. Bike winners get their choice of frame size and color. Fork winners get their choice of a 36 or 38; seatpost winners get their choice of size.

Community is the heart of the California Enduro Series. Please help us help others and get the chance to win an incredible eMTB, mountain bike, fork or seatpost while you're at it!

Purchase tickets on-line 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. Full CES schedule at californiaenduroseries.com.

Behind the masks ... CES founders Steve and Megan Gemelos flanked by dedicated crew members Daniel Gillooley and Josh Baker (far left and second from left) and series photographer Aaron Lesieur (far right).

CES is made possible by the generous sponsorship of industry and community businesses. The series is grateful for the continued support of title sponsor Specialized, official suspension sponsor FOX, Race Face, WTB, Voler, Cranked Naturals, Michael David Winery, Adventure Sports Journal, Intense, and Zodiac Lights. Plus, big thanks and a huge welcome to new sponsors SANS, User Testing, Galfer USA and GÜP!

Contact us at sponsorship@californiaenduro if you’d like to get involved and be part of CES’ 2021 season.

Words by Michele Charboneau Lamelin / Photos by Bixxel Media

The Ashland Mountain Challenge took place on Mt. Ashland, just over the California border in Ashland, Oregon. Although smoke from various Oregon and California wildfires could be seen in the distance, event participants and volunteers were treated to blue skies and fresh air in Ashland over the race weekend.

AMA practice shuttles were available on Friday, but this season's AMC was a shuttle-less race due to COVID restrictions.

Curtis Keene getting a feel for Ashland's unique dirt in practice. The watershed's decomposed granite (DG) is tacky perfection when wet, but delightfully sketchy when dry.

The AMC course served up a mix of smooth, flowy tracks as well as chunkier sections to keep riders on their game.

The Mike's Bikes team takes teamwork very seriously, right down to their perfectly coordinated practice kit.

Tight, dry, loose corners required exceptionally skillful bike handling.

Getting boosty in practice.

That look on your face when you clear a challenging bit. Yeewww!

After a full day of practice, riders stopped by Ashland Mountain Adventures in town to pick up their race plates and timing chips.

The AMC COVID edition started and ended at the Mt. Ashland Ski Lodge parking lot, per USFS permit requirements. This unconventional format was right in line with a highly unusual 2020.

Getting ready to race. Let's do this thing!

No CES recap would be complete without a cute doggo pic.

A cool and focused Todd Renwick on Stage 4. Renwick took 2nd place for Pro Men.

Cody Kelley looking fly on the FOX Queen Stage, Stage 1. Kelley was second fastest rider on this stage (Osborne took first) and came in Pro Men 3rd place on the day.

Curtis Keene charging Stage 4. Keene came in Pro Men 4th place.

Mike Lee at ease in the air as always. Lee rounded out the top five Pro Men podium.

Essence Florie taking flight down Marty's. Florie took 2nd place for Pro Women.

Kate Lawrence getting after it on Stage 4. Lawrence made the Pro Women podium in 3rd place.

Porsha Murdock blazing down a Stage 4 rock garden. Murdock came in Pro Women 4th place.

Diniana Piekutowski railing the DG turns on Stage 1, the FOX Queen Stage. Piekutowski finished up the day in 5th place for Pro Women.

Jake Keller, Junior Pro 1st place finisher, skimming over the Stage 4 chunder.

Jonathan Smith, Master Pro 1st place finisher, making it look easy on Stage 1.

Cody Kelley lovin' the mandatory climb after the morning's timed stages.

Back up at the lodge parking lot, podium winners and their families enjoyed some downtime while waiting for awards.

Keeping social distance while swapping race stories while waiting for the awards ceremony.

Pro Men podium - 1st Marco Osborne, 2nd Todd Renwick, 3rd Cody Kelley, 4th Curtis Keene, 5th Michael Lee.

Pro Women podium - 1st Amy Morrison, 2nd Essence Florie, 3rd Kate Lawrence, 4th Porsha Murdock, 5th Diniana Piekutowski.

Junior Pro podium - 1st Jake Keller, 2nd Jack Sprenger, 3rd Jake Snow, 4th Ethan Jeffrey, 5th Body Briggs.

Master Pro podium - 1st Jonathan Smith, 2nd Brian Durling, 3rd Jonathan Reed, 4th Mikey Thomas, 5th Rod Kreiss.


  • 36 2
 It's interesting to see Pro Men being won by a 34 while mere mortals who will never see the podium seek 38's for their bikes. "cuz enduro". I'm sure I'll be down voted to oblivion lol.
  • 14 0
 This is one of those races that a long travel bike was almost more of a hindrance, lots of pedaling out of corners and fairly smooth trails.
  • 8 7
 @nerds-on-dirt-mtb: oh for sure! I'm just pointing out that a lot of guys seem to buy their suspension for what will do best on the gnarliest tracks while ignoring the fact they're not all like that. To each their own tho, as long as riders "upgrade" for no reason it helps keep shops open and the industry going which is obviously a good thing.
  • 13 0
 @skierdud89: different horses for different courses. Naturally different races have different terrain, but if you could only have one bike and raced, I would be overbiked on the pedally races vs underbiked at the gnarly races (northstar, china peak etc).
  • 1 0
 One of the stages last year was over 22 mins for me (I'm not that fast, top guys were doing it in like 17 or 1Cool . That stage has a ton of pedaling and isn't all that steep. A good pedaling bike is a must for that stage and that stage is a significant potion of the whole race.
  • 2 2
 @Austink: Ya I'd agree. However for the riders I'm talking about racing makes up such a tiny percentage of their overall riding so they're overbiked the majority of the time. IDK maybe this is just my inner Mike Levy coming out.
  • 1 0
 @skierdud89: You gotta tamp that down, stat...
  • 12 0
 Marco winning on a... Spur? Whoa. Tracks must've been pretty pedally?
  • 5 0
 Ashland has long descents but not all that steep, a winning race bike usually includes fast rolling tires and short travel. this year was that same recipe with maybe an exception on Stage 4 (steep and rocky).

For example, course favorite Nathan Riddle (out this year with a broken collar bone), won on a SC Blur with the WTB riddler on front and rear last year. Albeit, the course was different last year and but gives you an idea of how important it is to have fast rolling tires and pedaling efficient bike!
  • 2 0
 Perfect Ashland bike.
  • 2 0
Yup, and Joshua Kahn podiumed on Nathan's Blur in pro class a couple years ago.
  • 1 2
 @airsoftesneeto: pretty sure he was on a tallboy
  • 2 1
 Marco is just winning.
  • 3 0
 @airsoftesneeto: Nathan Riddle was one of my teachers at the Ashland United Bicycle Institute mechanics course I took a couple years ago. Very nice guy.
  • 16 8
 Typical, California has so few legit bike parks that they have to go to Oregon to race an Enduro, Seriously California get a life and start building or allowing more legit mountain bike parks, especially in the Bay Area!!!
  • 12 0
 While I am all for more bike parks, it takes way more than having a bike park to put on a race. Take mammoth for example, one of the best parks and it doesn’t have a race because the person who organized the kami games left. Bill and Sue up at Ashland mtn adventures do a great job organizing this race and that is why it is a fan favorite and included in the Ca enduro series, not because there aren’t enough parks in California.
  • 5 0
 What is a legit bike park, all I know is low budget and high budget bike parks.
  • 5 1
 State of Jefferson. It's a grey area
  • 4 2
 @Austink: fair enough, but it's hilarious that the only legit mtb "trail centers" in the Bay Area are Demo Forest and Camp Tamarancho and even those are barely a "trail center" there's not a legal, maintained, legit Jump Line anywhere in the bay area, other than Dave's fun park which is probably burned down now Frown I totally don't get it and it's very frustrating.
  • 5 4
 @Fullsend2-13: you should check out Pacifica
  • 5 1
 @jepc: Pacifica is no fun, too many pissed off hikers and theyre tearing down the trails anyway. people should stick to demo and tamarancho. much friendlier vibe and not crowded.
  • 2 2
 @jepc: oh I have, but that's not well maintained
  • 4 0
 You can do it! Check out the sponsor/donations board at Stafford Lake Bike Park in Novato, think about the size of the piece of land you'd need for the type of trails you're imagining, multiply the Stafford numbers by whatever factor for how much bigger and more infrastructure and maintenance and location, and start organizing!
  • 7 0
1. Ashland isn't a bike park. They are just locally made and maintained trails that start at the ski hill parking lot.
2. You should look at a land ownership map of the Bay. Puts into perspective how hard it'd be to stuff in a bike park.
3. The Bay is great for xc mtb. Anything more rowdy (with very few exceptions) and you have to go into the Sierra's or SC
@Jimmy0 lol "state of jefferson" is even less feasible than socal breaking off.
  • 2 1
 @NorCalNomad: I know, but I have to admire the spirit of it. I like southern oregon so much more than southern California.
  • 3 1
 @Fullsend2-13: Are you willing to pay someone to 'maintain' your lifestyle or do you have some land to donate? FFS!
  • 2 0
 @suspended-flesh: sure I have nothing wrong with paying
  • 3 0
 @Fullsend2-13: Let's buy some land and develop a bike park or Trail Centre, then! Will will just need a team of lawyers, an LLC, an EIR, some VC, and a metric shite-tonne of insurance.
  • 6 0
 @NorCalNomad: there have been discussions about trying to build a lift serviced bike park near Gilroy Gardens with MBOSC participating. MBOSC needs to change their name to MBOBA or something given how much they are doing outside of Santa Cruz.
  • 2 0
 @Giddyhitch: That'd be pretty rad.
  • 2 0
 @Fullsend2-13: Stafford Lake up near Novato? ... a whole bike park with jumpline..
  • 3 0
 @cuban-b: Tamarancho is completely different from Pacifica in terms of the type of trails and features. i only have a dh bike so I cannot ride at tamarancho
  • 3 0
 @filmdrew: yeah, but that's not trails, it's just a dirt jump park
  • 2 0
 @suspended-flesh: FFS? How is it unreasonable to want public bike trails as a person who doesn't own land? Why are you presenting that as a selfish request?
  • 4 0
 @lafayettebiker: You misinterpreted what he is saying. His point is in this day and age trying to develop a bike is complicated and expensive.
  • 3 0
 @lafayettebiker: What NorCalNomad said, plus to quote your comment: "legal, maintained, legit". I'm tempted to say that in the Bay Area you can "'pick 1". Bike access is not valued around here by most land managers like it is from Mendo to BC. I guess I could have left off the FFS, but as grizzled long timers here, we're used to getting nearly nothing that isn't paid for in some way or dug in the shadows. Not only do we get hate from horse and "foot-people' but yesterday I drove over to China Camp for a quick loop because I had something to do in San Rafael later and a roadie came by in full costume on a full-carbon Grand Tour type racer with one of those hubs that each pawl costs a root canal calling all the people who parked their cars along the road a*sholes! and threw in a Go Back To The City! as he click-clacked away.
  • 4 0
 @suspended-flesh: f*ck, I don't miss the Marin NIMBY-ism.
  • 2 0
 I loved the stages this year, did not miss the west side trails at all. Baring the dehydration problem I had (really bad cramping) the climb back up was not... horrible. The road part kinda sucked but I will never complain about the 8 mile climb in the start of the normal race lol.
  • 6 1
 EPIC RACE 2020 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So Damn GOOOD !!!!!!!!!!
  • 1 0
 'Delightfully Sketchy' is not the term I'd used to describe DG. 'Sand On Concrete' is how it starts out, and 'Beach Sand' is where it ends up after enough people have ridden on it
  • 3 1
 I am interested in knowing more about this winning an enduro race on a flex stay 120 travel bike with a 34 fork
  • 1 0
 dont need a lot of travel in Ashland when racing, exception this year might have been stage 4. that said, that spur can handle what most 120mm bikes cannot. Last year on a different course Nathan Riddle won on a blur with WTB riddlers front and rear
  • 1 0
 Just as others have said. Ashland is FAST, smooth and pedally. A 160-170mm smasher is probably a disadvantage.
  • 1 0
 This race was a blast. Thanks to the organizers for making it happen. I really enjoyed the course, even if I could have gotten away with a smaller bike.
  • 3 1
 What a fun weekend! Thanks CES!!!
  • 2 0
 Falafel republic was so good after that long day on the mountain!
  • 2 0
 I pick a winner for my first Enduro. Can’t wait till next year.
  • 2 0
 No mention of the tandem team???
  • 2 1
 Really Love This Race! Ashland is just Heavenly
  • 1 0
  • 1 3
 Only 1st place is allowed the superman, 2 arms up pose.
  • 1 0
 I knew you'd be here
  • 1 0
 Keene went full Nixon pose

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