Take a laid-back coastal oasis, add some rowdy, raw singletrack, and toss in a heap of folks who love to race bikes. Shake that all up, and serve poolside with a garnish of adventure: the perfect recipe for a spicy-sweet day known as the Ensenada Enduro.
The Ensenada Enduro kicked off the 2019 California Enduro Series in Baja California on Saturday, May 25. Brand new to the CES line up, the event enticed 160 racers — many accompanied by family and friends — to its unique venue, Horsepower Ranch, just outside of Ensenada in Mexico. The race was part of the Ensenada Bike Fest, a celebration of all things bike sponsored locally by Cycleogical Bikes, Podiatry Hotline, Küat, Baja E-Bikes, Baja Cronos, Imprenta Olimpia, California Boring, Agua Mala, Canneria Cerveza, AP Baja, and Jenn and Bros Trucking.
The event boasted a casual, festival vibe with an element of adventure and novelty that everyone from beginner to pro clearly appreciated. Pro Men champ Marco Osborne says, “When I heard CES was teaming up with Ensenada Bike Fest and putting on an event in Mexico, I couldn’t say no! Mexico is a special place to visit and always seems to provide a wild and raw experience. I was so impressed with this event; the venue was amazing, hospitality was top notch and the trails were world class.”
Pro Women champ Essence Florie equally looked forward to the experience. “I was beyond excited when CES announced they would be having their series kick off in Ensenada at Horsepower Ranch. I was excited not only because this race was close to my southern California home, but because this race was going to be a completely new adventure, in a new country, with trails I've never ridden before.”
Florie adds, “I absolutely loved Horsepower Ranch as a race venue for CES. It felt big enough to hold all the racers but was also intimate enough to create a fun and inviting community of racers by drawing them to the pool and taco stand.”
But while the festival and its venue were laid-back, the enduro course itself was anything but. “Fantastically chaotic,” “rough and primitive,” “raw, fast and challenging,” “full-on rowdiness” and “savage!” were some of the words racers used to describe the tracks.eMTBs welcome
The Ensenada Enduro had the honor of being the first CES venue to welcome electric bikes on course, with Expert and Sport eMTB categories offered for both men and women. (Other 2019 eDuro venues include China Peak Enduro and Mt. Shasta Enduro.)
eMTB participant Troydon Murison appreciated that the eMTB race was identical to that of the other categories. He notes, “There were no silly uphill bike stages or anything like that. It was simply who can go down the hill the fastest which is what we all love to do! [Racing eMTB class] kinda gives us mere mortals who are not as strong and fit as the top pros the ability to see where we would stack up if we had Lance Armstrong stuck away in our bottom brackets helping us pedal, haha.”
Murison adds, “On top of that, the racing in the eMTB class was actually really tight with some legit pro riders racing this class and coming within a second of each other on eight-minute stages. This has fully brought the fun back to riding and racing bikes for me. I just don’t get the time to keep as fit as I’d like to with the pressures of everyday life and work that so many of us face. Thanks CES for adding this class to the races, I really can’t wait to do more of these.”Fun under the Baja sun
The Ensenada Enduro commenced Friday for many participants as they arrived in time for a full day of practice, putting in laps under the warm Baja sun until dark. Then, tacos in tummies, it was off to bed. Rooms and camping spots were available on site, which made race morning easier to prepare for. The big day dawned with a cloudy sky that cleared up quickly as racers dispersed from their early morning rider meeting.
Riders were shuttled out through the city by bus to the start of their pedal to Stage 1 (bikes followed in trailers and pickup trucks). Florie notes, “It felt like we were all going on a school field trip with all our best friends.” Some riders got a little more of a warm-up than expected when their bus broke down part way up the hill and they had to hike the rest of the way. The adventure was ON.Tight tracks and sniper rocks
Stage 1: La Sierrita descended 1,243 feet over two-plus miles of true singletrack — and we’re talking singletrack in the purest sense of the word. La Sierrita is so narrow, there are literally no line options. Get kicked off the sole line and you’re off the trail … into the bushes. This stage gave riders a good taste of the region’s signature steep, rocky, loose terrain. Treacherous sniper rocks hidden by grass threatened to take out riders with pedal strikes. Savvy riders confidently charged the trail, feeling out gaps between the rocks.Hand pump is real
From the bottom of Stage 1, riders were bussed back up the mountain as far as they could go, then they began their long climb to Stage 2: Cielo. Cielo descends 1,922 feet over two-plus miles. Like La Sierrita, much of this track is steep, narrow and technical, with grave consequences if a mistake is made. Again, it was crucial to find gaps between the rocks to keep rolling.
Cielo opens up some toward the bottom. The dirt becomes grippier, and the rocks fewer and farther between. This section features berms, wooden ramps, drops and jumps, and racers went all out to the finish. Hand pump was real by the end of this stage, and riders were doing all they could to hold on to the bars through the finish.What really happened on Stage 3
From the bottom of Stage 2, riders took what was left of their hands and forearms and made their way past Horsepower Ranch and up to the top of Stage 3: River. Over a mile long, River is a fun trail that flows close to city limits and boasts tight, fast DG (decomposed granite). Unfortunately, locals were clearing vegetation with fire nearby. Eventually, it became too dangerous to continue running the stage, and race officials eliminated it from the race. Chute to thrill
Weary yet still stoked riders pedaled their way to the final stage of the day, Stage 4: Arenosa (aka Sandy). At just over a mile, this short but sweet track features a fun, fast, rocky beginning, then finishes with a steep, loose chute through deep sand. By the end of this stage, riders were either relieved or bummed that the race was over.Meanwhile, back at the ranch
After a pedal back to Horsepower Ranch, racers were treated to a hearty meal and beer, and many took advantage of the resort’s big, refreshing swimming pool. Race stories were swapped and new friendships made as results were tallied; an awards ceremony topped off the day.
Ensenada Bike Fest director Lou Mollineda says, “We’re proud to have presented the very first CES race to take place outside of the US. Many of us know Ensenada to be a magical place for a number of reasons — we’re so happy to have had the chance to showcase the best this region has to offer.” He adds, “It was so awesome to see everyone hanging out together at the pool after the race — good times with good friends. That’s what it’s all about.”
CES director Steve Gemelos adds, “We are stoked — Ensenada was a great opener for the 2019 CES season. We love bringing racers to new riding zones that most have never experienced before … and the Ensenada Bike Fest delivered! Super fun and challenging race stages … an awesome venue and vibe. Lou and his team, and Chuvy Franco and Majli Ruiz from Enduro Norte really did an exceptional job.”
View results and podium shots for all categories here
The Ensenada Enduro certainly served up the ideal mix of fun, challenge, adventure and camaraderie. Thirsty for more? Scroll down for additional photos from the event, and be sure to join us at Round 2: China Peak Enduro on Saturday, June 29 at China Peak Mountain Resort in Lakeshore. Full CES schedule at californiaenduroseries.com
Huge thanks to 2019 CES sponsors Specialized, FOX, Race Face, Maxxis, Voler, WTB, Peaty's, Cranked Naturals, Michael David Winery, Kenda, Adventure Sports Journal, CushCore, Intense, and Zodiac Lights.
Words by Michele Charboneau / Photos by Kasey Carames (image of Troydon Murison by Harley Hiles)
CES crew member Daniel Gillooley checks in father/daughter duo David McCaleb (Expert Men 50+ 6th place) and Erin McCaleb (Expert Women 1st place).
What a laid back vibe looks like.
Heading out for practice laps.
Getting a feel for the tight tracks in practice.
Nice spot for some air.
Did we mention the laid back vibe?
Some pre-race wrenching.
A dirty face is a happy face.
Allan Cooke whipping up something delicious for the Santa Cruz Factory Team.
Campin' is life.
The good stuff.
Where the mountain meets the sea.
Dan Francke (Expert Men 30-39 13th place) making his way through Stage 2 chunder.
Maud Duchac (Expert Women 3rd place) committing to a techy stretch on Stage 2.
Mike Lee (Pro Men 3rd place) rallying a Stage 2 rocky corner with ease.
Jesse Sinclair (Sport Men 30-39 4th place) launching down Stage 2.
Gavyn Scranton (Expert Boys U18 3rd place) in perfect form on a loose Stage 2 turn.
James Bradley (Expert Men 50+ 4th place) charging one of the oh-so-many rock gardens on Stage 2.
Scott Seymour (Sport Men 40-49 2nd place) working hard to keep it upright in the loose terrain.
Becky Gardner (Pro Women 4th place) telling the trail who's boss.
Rachel Kagan (Sport Women 1st place) with her eyes on the prize.
Stan Jorgensen (Pro Men 4th place) making it look easy on a tough course.
Kathy Pruitt (Pro Women 2nd place) keeping her cool as always, no matter what the trail has in store.
Emmitt Hansen (Expert Boys U18 1st place) back on his rear tire on terrain that's steeper than it looks.
Ryan Gardner (Pro Men 5th place) railing a steep turn with style and ease.
Jose Jaime Verdugo Valenzuela (Sport Men 18-29 9th place) flying through the Stage 2 finish.
Stage 4 DG.
Luca Cometti (eMTB Expert Men 1st place) negotiates a steep, loose section of Stage 4 on his e-bike.
Rachel Strait (Pro Women 3rd place) in full-on attack mode.
Kyle Strait (eMTB Expert Men 3rd place) pinned on Stage 4.
David Phreaner (Expert Men 50+ 1st place) sailing through the Stage 4 turns.
Getting up close and personal with the local flora.
The inevitable mechanical, bummer.
Stoke meter is PEGGED.
Racers check standings at the CES Live! timing tent.
Then off to the pool to relax and refresh.
Gathering for the raffle and awards.
A perfect Baja day.