CODY KELLEY, 2020 CHINA PEAK ENDURO PRO MEN CHAMPION, SETTING UP FOR A TIGHT STAGE 4 CORNER.
Well, 2020 has been quite the year so far! For enduro enthusiasts, however, things certainly took a turn for the better this past weekend … a tight, loose, techy turn, that is, as the California Enduro Series
finally got to kick off its season with big mountain action at the sold-out China Peak Enduro.
The event — which took place at China Peak Mountain Resort
in Lakeshore on June 27 — has been on the CES line up since the series debuted in 2013, and was once again an Enduro World Series (EWS) Qualifier. Year after year, it’s a racer favorite because of its primitive terrain, burly course, fun camping scene, and casual vibe.AMY MORRISON, 2020 CHINA PEAK ENDURO PRO WOMEN CHAMPION, LOOKING FIERCE ON STEEP AND TECHNICAL STAGE 5.
This season, the remote, granite- and conifer-infused venue in the southwestern Sierra offered a revitalizing escape for riders and their families after months of shelter-in-place restrictions. Many arrived on Thursday to set up camp along Big Creek and in the parking lot, or check in to the inn.
On practice day (Friday), riders familiarized themselves with the rocky terrain as the hot sun beat down on them. The mood was festive; the stoke high.
Race day (Saturday) was hot and sunny, too. The course was dry, rocky, and drifty — in other words, ridiculously fun and challenging. Depending on their category, riders took on 20-25 miles of riding with 2,500-3,500 feet of elevation gain/loss over the course of the day.
Beginner, Sport, and Sport eMTB racers started their day with a climb to the top of stage 1; Beginners would go on to race stages 1, 2, 3 in that order, while Sport riders raced 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Meanwhile, Expert, Pro, and Open eMTB riders caught a lift to their first run of the day, Stage 3. They had five stages to put down, racing them in this order: 3, 1, 2, 5 and 4.
Stage 1 rewarded riders for their climbing fortitude with a super fast rip through the trees on loamy terrain and finishes with a pedally transfer over to Stage 2. Stage 1 is a great warm up for Stage 2’s fast, tight cornering. The loose, rocky bottom of Stage 2 zig zags down the hillside; think: racing inside a pinball machine … through chunky, rogue rocks and moondust.
Stage 3 was accessed by chairlift and is the longest run on the course, extending from the top of the mountain to the bottom on China Peak’s illustrious “Gnarly” trail. This stage demands excellent technical skills along with solid endurance. From a rocky start, a sprinting middle, challenging rock gardens, and a wet log sprint finish, racers were kept on their toes. This highly technical and physical stage was designated as this season’s all-new FOX Queen Stage, in which the racer from each category with the fastest time gets bonus points toward their overall ranking. This stage finished off the day for Beginner riders.
Stage 4 was also accessed by a lift transfer and kicked off on duffy exposed switchbacks littered with loose rocks. It then segued into a high speed middle section to let loose on and finished off with long rock slab chutes. This stage capped off the race for Sport Riders.
Prior to hitting Stage 4, Expert, Pro and eMTB Open riders took on Stage 5. An extensive pedal to the start gave riders plenty of time to consider their strategy for this especially intense and daunting stage. An exceptionally tricky start heralded the gnar to come. Primitive and steep, this track challenged riders with its awkward turns, beefy drops, chunky corners, and rocky chutes.
Post-race, riders enjoyed a hearty meal and beer while waiting for results and the subsequent awards ceremony. It might be a “new normal,” but surely everyone was stoked to finally get together with friends and race bikes, taking in the clean mountain air at China Peak.China Peak Mountain Resort is located in the eastern Sierra next to Huntington Lake, and is an enduro rider's paradise.The rustic resort's spacious parking lot and outer edges along the creek hosted a myriad of happy campers from tent dwellers to RV glampers. Discounted lodging was offered at the resort’s inn for those not so enamored with the van life.Race entries included camping; the event offered a revitalizing escape for riders and their families after months of shelter-in-place restrictions.COVID-19 protocol included a face covering requirement and social distancing measures in the venue.That view never gets old.Getting a feel for the loose and chunky terrain on practice day.Conifers and rocks galore.Dropping in to one of the resort's signature tight, loose turns.Trust us, it's steeper than it looks.Have we mentioned the rocks?Considering line options in practice.Negotiating a tricky bit.Teamwork makes the dream work.Now that's a sweet kit.Dialing things in.A little family fun to cap off a day of practice.Another great way to end practice day.Max Sedlak going for the most direct line on Stage 3's "Gnarly" rock garden. Sedlak took 2nd place for Pro Men.Marco Osborne pinned on Pro/Expert-only Stage 5. Osborne came in Pro Men 3rd place.Dillon Santos tearing into a tight corner on Stage 1. Santos made the Pro Men podium in 4th place.Colton Peterson skipping across the chunder on Stage 5. Peterson rounded out the top five Pro Men podium. Essence Florie on Stage 4, looking cool and focused as always. Florie took 2nd place for Pro Women. Isabella Naughton getting after a Stage 4 corner. Naughton made the Pro Women podium in 3rd place.Porsha Murdock in fine form on one of Stage 3's most technical sections. Murdock came in Pro Women 4th place.Syra Fillat flying down Stage 2. Fillat finished up the day in 5th place for Pro Women.Matthew Sterling, Junior Pro 1st place finisher, wow'ing the spectators on Stage 3. Eric Palmquist, Master Pro 1st place finisher, is full steam ahead on Stage 4. Meanwhile, in the eDuro, James Eves demonstrates that electric mountain bikes can indeed fly on Stage 2. Eves took the top step of the Open eMTB Men's podium at day's end.Jesse Buerster charging the wickedly diverse Stage 4. Buerster came in 2nd place Open eMTB Men. Troydon Murison crushing a Stage 3 rock garden. Murison finished up the day in 3rd place Open eMTB Men.Jeff Evans navigating a loose and chunky Stage 1 corner. Evans made the Open eMTB Men podium in 4th place.Jason Wishengard sailing smoothly on the highly technical Stage 5. Wishengard rounded out the Open eMTB Men podium in 5th place.Sooo good to be racing again!Double checking results at the CES timing tent.Nothing tastes better than a post-race meal and bevo. And then there was Stage 6 ... FULL SEND! Camp shenanigans.
View results and podium shots for all categories here
. Get team standings here
Want more big mountain action? Be sure to join the tribe for Round 2: Mt. Shasta Enduro on Sunday, July 19 at Mt. Shasta Ski Park in McCloud, CA. Camping on-site is included. Registration closes Monday, July 13 at midnight, so get on it! Learn more and register 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.
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, 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
if you’d like to get involved and be part of CES’ exciting 2020 season.
Words by Michele Charboneau, with guest contributor Essence Florie, CES Pro Women 2019 and 2018 champ and 2020 Specialized
pro rider / Photos by Bixxel Media
.LEARN MORE HERE!