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Race Report: California Enduro Series Round 2 - China Peak Enduro

Jul 4, 2019
by Michele Charboneau / Cali Enduro  
Master Pro Men 40+ first place finisher Eric Palmquist pinned on Stage 3.

So. Much. Rock. Glorious, rowdy, race-worthy rock. An enduro rider’s paradise, the China Peak Enduro — Round 2 of the CES 2019 season — enticed 350 intrepid souls to take on the rugged, granite-infused terrain of the southwestern Sierra on Saturday June 29. The event, held annually at China Peak Mountain Resort in Lakeshore, is renowned for its burly, primitive course and casual camping scene. The race was also an Enduro World Series (EWS) Qualifier.

Many riders arrived on Thursday with friends and/or family in tow to settle in for a mountain getaway and to get used to the altitude. 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.

Settling in for a few days of camping, camaraderie, and playing bikes.

On Friday, riders got in the zone, examining their lines and familiarizing themselves with the terrain. After a full day of practice, many unwound along Big Creek and compared notes, excited for the next day’s challenge.

Getting a feel for the terrain in practice.

Race morning dawned bright and sunny. After the rider meeting, Beginner and Sport racers started their climb to the top of Stage 1, while Expert and Pro riders caught a lift to their first run of the day, Stage 3. Beginner racers went on to tackle two more stages (2 and 3), while Sport went one stage further for a total of four stages. Expert and Pro riders had five stages to slay, and raced them in this order: 3, 1, 2, 5 and 4. In total, riders took on 20-25 miles of riding with 2,500-3,500 feet of elevation gain/loss.

Stage 1 rewarded riders for their climbing fortitude with a super fast rip through the trees on loamy terrain, complete with water crossings and berms. From the bottom of Stage 1, it was a traverse on over to the top of Stage 2 which put legs and lungs to the test. Tight switchbacks comprised of loose rocks and moondust kept riders on their game.

The longest run of the day — Stage 3 — was accessed by chairlift. All categories took on this highly technical and physical stage that extended from the top of the mountain to the bottom on China Peak’s illustrious “Gnarly” trail. Challenging rock gardens demanded quick reflexes with multiple line options and massive boulders to pump up and over. A slippery sprint through standing water and over slick bridges finished off the stage.

Junior Pro Men U21 winner Aiden Chapin crushing rocks on Stage 3. Chapin says, "China Peak 2019 was so sick! A combination of loose and muddy trails made for an epic and rowdy race day for everyone including myself. Definitely one of my favorite races of the year. I was blessed enough to have an almost perfect race day to take the win in the U21 class. Thank you to the race organizers for putting on such a great event."

Stage 4 was also accessed by a lift transfer. This incredibly scenic stage (not that anyone was looking at the view!) kicked off on duffy exposed switchbacks littered with loose rocks, then segued into a high speed middle section to let loose on. A spectacular series of giant granite slabs amped up the sketch-o-meter toward the bottom of this stage.

Pro Men champion Evan Geankoplis charging Stage 4. Geankoplis says, "The courses were all running real good this weekend. Nothing but good times camping and hanging out with everyone at this event. Stage 3 is my favorite track; I set my bike up to suit that track and pushed real hard on it. I was able to start the race with a good lead and just try to hang on to it. Fun watching Max, Myles, and Duncan battle it out and keep chipping away at my times on the other tracks."

An hour-long pedal to the start of Expert- and Pro-only Stage 5 gave riders a good chance to consider their strategy for this especially intense and daunting stage. Primitive and steep, the track challenged riders with its awkward turns, beefy drops, chunky corners, and rocky chutes. The stage included a brand new section through the trees built specifically for the race this year and finished with a drop into a tricky off camber corner.

Pro Women champ Essence Florie keeping her cool on the uber-intense Pro/Expert-only Stage 5. Florie says, "Wow, what a weekend! It was a challenging course a great deal of climbing at 8,700 feet elevation (meaning breathing was hard, haha), rock gardens, steep chutes, and some water crossings to keep you on your toes. I’m beyond excited and humbled to take the win against not only a fast group of ladies, but an awesomely encouraging group as well. Thanks CES for another great race at another wonderful venue!"

Post-race, riders celebrated the day, exchanging race stories at the nearby swimming hole while rinsing off the dust and mud. The tired but stoked masses enjoyed a hearty meal and beer while waiting for results and the subsequent awards ceremony.

Stage 6.

China Peak Enduro race director Nick Cohee was, with good reason, very happy with how the event went. He says, “This year’s China Peak Enduro, again an EWS Qualifier, was the best one yet. We were graced with a big winter and lots of runoff this spring, so conditions were all time. I love coming back to China Peak each season to get this race going. Its diversity challenges every racer’s skill set and it brings us back to why we love riding bikes. Thanks to our partnership with CES we look forward to many years of the China Peak Enduro.”

CES director Steve Gemelos adds, “China Peak has come a long way since its debut in 2013 and CES is proud to have played an integral part in its growth. But although it has grown and improved over the years, the race has retained its raw, rustic feel which riders really seem to appreciate. The on-site camping boosts the camaraderie even more than usual, and it’s simply a really great time all around.”

Congratulations to the day's top ten Pro Men: 1 Evan Geankoplis / 2 Myles Trainer / 3 Max Sedlak / 4 Todd Renwick / 5 Mike Lee / 6 Allan Cooke / 7 Steven Godman / 8 Duncan Nason / 9 Blake Mastrangelo / 10 Trevor Boldi

And congrats as well to the day's Pro Women: 1 Essence Florie / 2 Rachel Strait / 3 Kathryn Lawrence / 4 Syra Fillat / 5 Tasha Thomas / 6 Kristen Martin del Campo / 7 Xylena Hoppen / 8 Julia Gibbons

View results and podium shots for all categories here. Get current individual standings here and team standings here.

Want more big mountain action? Scroll down for additional shots from the China Peak Enduro. And be sure to join the tribe for Round 3: Mt. Shasta Enduro on Saturday, July 13 at Mt. Shasta Ski Park in McCloud, CA. Registration for this event closes Monday, July 8 at midnight.

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.

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


Rider check-in at the CES timing tent.

Packed venue.

A nice look at the terrain toward the top of Stage 3.

Troydon Murison (Expert eMTB Men 1st place) Stage 3. China Peak was the second of three venues (the final is Mt. Shasta July 13) that welcomed eMTBs to the race course. Murison, who also raced his eMTB at the series kick off in Ensenada, appreciated the opportunity to do it again. He says, "The eMTB class at China Peak was insanely fun and really put our bikes to the test. It seems they were up for the challenge and everyone made it through the gnar. A ton of fun was had by all, across all categories, and at the end of the day that is why we ride and race bikes so I see that as the biggest result of the weekend!"

Max Sedlak (Pro Men 3rd place) keeping his focus in a loose corner on Stage 3.

Gavyn Scranton (Expert Boys U18 4th place) taking flight on Stage 3.

Chad McInnis (Sport Boys 12-15 10th place) getting after it on Stage 3.

Mark Jeffrey (Expert Men 50+ 1st place) winding his way through the Stage 3 trees.

Erin Bixler (Sport Women 2nd place) taking on Gnarly, Stage 3.

Jamey Rodriguez (Sport Men 40-49 2nd place) rocking the boulders on Stage 3.

It was a balancing act at the bottom of Stage 3 on the slick, narrow causeways.

Jesus Colis (Beginner Men 1st place) giving it all he's got to the Stage 3 finish.

Chipping in at the timing tent between stages.

Those views from the top of Stage 4!

The beginning of Stage 4 challenged riders with deep, loose, rocky turns.

Spectators watch as Devin Kjaer (Junior Pro Men U21 4th place) drops into the granite on Stage 4.

Rachel Strait (Pro Women 2nd place) focused and determined down the granite slabs on Stage 4.

Mike Lee (Pro Men 5th place) making it look easy on Stage 4.

Kassiopia Krebs (Sport Women 8th place) smiling through the challenging terrain on Stage 4.

It doesn't get rowdier than Stage 5.

Travis Collins (Master Pro Men 40+) ripping down Stage 5.

Trevor Boldi (Pro Men 10th place) with his focus forward after exiting a steep, loose turn on Stage 5.

Jarred Beilke (Expert Men 30-39 17th place) digs deep to take on an off-camber bit on Stage 5.

Stage 5 was no joke — relentlessly challenging and intense.

Chow time ... yaaaass.

The swag toss is always a crowd pleaser.

And another incredible day of bike, dirts, and friendship is in the books!


2 Comments

  • + 2
 Thanks CES and China Peak for a great event! Even though it was tough to put up good results in that terrain and at altitude, it was by far one of the most fun weekends I've had on (and off) the bike in quite a while. I already can't wait for next year!
  • + 1
 missed out on this one but there's a particular vibe about that place. love the venue and organizers

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