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Race Report: California Enduro Series Round 4

Aug 29, 2019
by Michele Charboneau / Cali Enduro  
Richie Rude (EWS) on a tear to the weekend's top step.

The fourth round of this season’s California Enduro Series (CES) took the flourishing grassroots mountain bike race series to a whole new level of distinction. The 2019 Northstar Enduro, which has been an integral part of CES since 2014 — the series’ sophomore year — was chosen to be a stop on the prestigious Enduro World Series (EWS) schedule … and the world-class venue near Lake Tahoe in the High Sierra did not disappoint. In fact, it set the stage for the tightest race in EWS history!

EWS

On August 24-25, 510 racers took to the slopes at Northstar California Resort. 196 of these riders — considered to be the world’s fastest and most talented enduro racers — went through a vigorous pre-qualification process before competing in the sold-out, intensely challenging event which was the seventh round of the EWS season.

The global elite series, which launched in 2013 (the same year as CES’ debut), regularly includes Colorado venues on its line-ups, but this is the first time it has come to California. (Last year, the Northstar Enduro — CES Round 5 — was part of the EWS North American Continental Series.)

EWS riders arrived to trail conditions the polar opposite of what they raced at the previous round at Whistler just two weeks prior. Whistler’s slick, wet terrain gave way to a dry, loose and dusty course at Northstar that featured the toughest tracks on the mountain.

Per stringent EWS rules, riders got just one chance to practice each stage (in addition to an opportunity to walk the course on Thursday), increasing the gnar factor considerably.

On Day 1, EWS competitors raced two stages, covering nearly six miles and descending just about 2,323 feet. On Day 2, they tackled four stages, covering just over 19 miles, with nearly 1,611 feet of climbing and 4,458 feet of descending. Check out the EWS course map here.

Isabeau Courdurier held on tight to her EWS series lead with another 1st place Women finish.

Tightest race in EWS history

After a battle with Sam Hill that kept everyone on the edge of their seats, 2018 Northstar Enduro champ Richie Rude took the men’s win with less than a second to spare — .8 seconds to be exact — clinching this round as the closest EWS race ever. In more “first ever” news, Mitch Repolato put in a remarkably impressive performance that saw him to his first EWS podium in 3rd place.

In the women’s race, Isabeau Courdurier fought hard for her seventh EWS win of the season. Noga Korem took the crucial Queen Stage and landed in 2nd place. Andreane Lanthier Nadeau, last year’s Northstar Enduro Pro Women champ, finished in 3rd.

EWS founder Chris Ball says, “Northstar has proved itself to be an incredible new venue. The riding here is truly unique and challenged the racers at every turn, resulting in the closest race in the history of the series.”

He adds, “We can’t thank our hosts the California Enduro Series and Northstar enough for their hard work and support, they’ve done an amazing job.”

Sam Hill (EWS) came within .8 seconds of the EWS win, taking 2nd to Rude's 1st place Men finish.

Mitch Repolato's (EWS) strong riding landed him in 3rd place Men — his first EWS podium.

Noga Korem (EWS) gained bonus points by winning the Queen Stage, putting her in 2nd place Women.

Andreane Lanthier Nadeau (EWS) gave both Courdurier and Norem a solid run for the money, finishing the weekend in 3rd place Women.

Local hero and crowd favorite Marco "Randy" Osborne (EWS) pinned on TNT.

Another popular local pro, Amy Morrison (EWS) was looking strong and determined as always. Plagued with a rear flat at the top of Stage 5, she still made it through the chunder and finished in 7th Women.

Curtis Keene (EWS) took the gnarly course in stride as always.

EWS Men's Podium: 1st Richie Rude / 2nd Sam Hill / 3rd Mitch Repolato

EWS Women's Podium: 1st Isabeau Courdurier / 2nd Noga Korem / 3rd Andreane Lanthier Nadeau

EWS100 AND EWS80

In keeping the highly coveted event accessible to riders of all levels, alternative races were also offered (as is the case with all other EWS events this year). While registration for the Northstar EWS main event was restricted to competitors with sufficient global rank points, the EWS100 and EWS80 races were open to any rider on a first come basis, with no pre-qualification requirements.

The rules for these sold-out events were more relaxed than the main EWS race … but the course was all but relaxed, boasting the rowdy and physical challenges that “Gnarstar” is renowned for.

The flexible format of these races allowed contestants to select / adjust their start position during the day, and pair up with friends and teammates across categories. That flexibility didn’t extend to practice, however; EWS100 and EWS80 riders were also restricted to just one practice run per stage in addition to the opportunity to walk the course on Thursday.

EWS100

174 EWS100 competitors took on the full Northstar Enduro course, completing six stages over two days, just like the EWS racers. On Day 1, they raced two stages, covering nearly six miles and descending just about 2,323 feet. On Day 2, they tackled four stages, covering just over 19 miles, with nearly 1,611 feet of climbing and 4,458 feet of descending. Check out the EWS100 course map here.

Warren Kniss (EWS100) took 1st place Men.

The top step is a familiar place for Essence Florie (EWS100), who took 1st Women. Florie maintains her spot at the top of the CES leaderboard.

Travis Collins (EWS100) sent it to 1st place Men Master 40+.

Kaia Jensen (EWS100) navigated the ridiculously loose, chunky course to a 1st place Women U21 finish.

Dugan Merrill (EWS100) got some air on his way to 2nd place Men U21.

Kristen Martin Del Campo (EWS100) rocked it to 2nd place Women Master's 35+.

Christine Sodaro (EWS100) finished in Women 5th place.

Connor Austin (EWS100) dashed through the trees to 5th place Men U21.

Jason Gifford (EWS100; Men) on a Stage 5 berm.

Casey De Shong (EWS100; Men Master 40+) on Stage 5.

Eli Katzenstein (EWS100; Men U21) on the Queen Stage.

EWS100 Men's Podium: 1st Warren Kniss / 2nd Connor Henderson / 3rd Eric Storz

EWS100 Women's Podium: 1st Essence Florie / 2nd Sara Schneider / 3rd Cindy Abbott (absent)

EWS80

140 EWS80 riders raced four stages (80% of the course; see stages listed below) on Saturday only. Over the course of the day, EWS80 racers covered a little over 15.5 miles, climbing nearly 768 feet and descending 5,249 feet. Check out the EWS80 course map here.

Leon Hanson (EWS80) snagged 1st place Men.

Cassidy Seckman (EWS80) took 1st Women.

Jake Keller (EWS80) landed in 1st place Men U21.

David Phreaner (EWS80) ended his day on the top step Men Vet 50+. Here, Phreaner is followed by William Huffman (EWS80; Men Master 40+).

Erin McCaleb slayed the EWS80 course, taking 1st place Women Youth 13-16. McCaleb remains at the top of the CES Expert Women leaderboard; she rides for Scotts Valley Cycle Sport, which is holding on to its position as the top CES team. Fun fact: McCaleb's father David McCaleb raced EWS100 Men Master 40+; like his daughter, holds the top spot for his category — Expert Men 50+ — on the CES leaderboard.

Sean Simonson (EWS80) reveled in his accomplishment of being the first adaptive athlete to compete in and finish an EWS race. Simonson also raced the China Peak Enduro (CES Round 2) this year, and is set to race the Ashland Mountain Challenge (CES season finale) October 5.

EWS80 Men's Podium: 1st Leon Hanson / 2nd Jake Oswald / 3rd Juan Guillermo Hagn

EWS80 Women's Podium: 1st Cassidy Seckman / 2nd Lindsay Helmuth / 3rd Dorothy Voelker

COURSE STAGES

Northstar California Resort is renowned for its burly, technical trails. Racers tackled long, hot transfer climbs at elevation — interspersed with lift transfers, ahhhh — and steep, loose, and rocky timed stages consisting of blue, black and double-black terrain.

For the most part, course stages strung together tricky sections of the park’s toughest trails. The course threw a brutal mix of challenges at riders including massive rock gardens, sharp switchbacks, steep rooty bits, high speed loose corners, and hefty drops. Battling clouds of dust while smashing rocks was the name of the game.

Stage 1 River Styx (EWS/EWS100/EWS80) ran on the following trails: Sticks & Stones > (New) River Styx > Woods > Manure Pile > Kickback Tech > Kickback. It was the first of two stages on Day 1 for EWS/EWS100, and the first of four stages for EWS80. This run kicked off the race with steep chutes and endless line choices.

Stage 2 Karpiel (EWS/EWS100/EWS80) ran on Sinuous > Karpiel. It was the second of two stages on Day 1 for EWS/EWS100, and the second of four stages for EWS80. This stage featured the Vietnam rock garden, a favorite spot for watching and heckling.

Stage 3 Queen Stage (EWS/EWS100/EWS80) consisted of Tahoe Trail > (New) Tahoe Trail Short Cut > Upper Karpiel > Sticks & Stones > Mineshaft > Liftline. It was the first of four stages on Day 2 for EWS/EWS100, and the third of four stages for EWS80. The longest stage of the course, this physical run demanded strength and endurance.

Fun fact: EWS introduced the “Queen Stage” concept this year, with one stage — be it the longest, hardest or crux — designated as Queen. EWS racers across categories vie to win this stage to receive bonus EWS series points, making it a game changer for sure.

Stage 4 Tell No Tales (TNT) (EWS/EWS100) was created by Northstar especially for EWS and was hands-down the most savage stage of the race. Dropping into a gnarly rock garden straight out of the gate, TNT tested riders’ mettle and skill with its super steep, ridiculously loose terrain. This highly-anticipated stage was the second run on Day 2 for EWS/EWS100 riders.

Stage 5 Dogbone (EWS/EWS100) gave riders plenty of techy chunder to chew on and some sweet berms to rail. It was the third run on Day 2 for EWS/EWS100.

Stage 6 Boondocks (EWS/EWS100; Stage 4 for EWS80) was the fourth and final stage of the EWS80 race, and the sixth and final run of EWS/EWS100 (Day 2’s fourth stage). Rocky and super loose, this stage boasted the challenging but fun V-Rock feature and ended with a series of high-speed corners, spurring riders to an all-out rip to the finish.

Mike Lee (EWS; Men) holds on to the top spot on the CES leaderboard.

Racing "the fastest and most fierce ladies," Anita Gehrig (EWS) made top ten with a 10th place Women finish.

Gehrig's twin Caro (EWS; Women) started out strong on Day 1, but suffered a couple of crashes on Day 2.

Katy Winton (EWS) in fine form; she finished in 5th Women.

Alba Wunderlin (EWS) took 1st Women Master 35+.

Tasha Thomas (EWS) came in just behind Wunderlin in 2nd Women Master 35+.

Heidi Kanayan (EWS) kept her cool to a 5th place Women Master 35+ finish.

Antoine Vidal (EWS) ended the weekend on the top step in the Men U21 category ...

... while Lucy Schick (EWS) took 1st for Women U21.

Duncan Nason (EWS) looked fierce on his way to a Men U21 2nd place finish.

Francescu Camoin (EWS) grabbed 9th in the Men U21 category.

POST RACE FESTIVITIES

Award ceremonies took place at the end of each day (EWS80 awards on Saturday; EWS and EWS100 on Sunday.) Hot and dusty riders traded race stories over chow and brew at mid-mountain, and snagged sweet goodies in CES’ popular swag toss.

Also during the Sunday awards ceremony, CES pulled the winning ticket for its Specialized Enduro Expert raffle (congrats to Noah Morrison!). Proceeds from this fundraiser benefit the series as well as Truckee Bike Park and Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association (RVMBA).

A FOX 36 fork and Transfer seatpost are raffled off at each CES event, and the winners for these were pulled at Sunday’s podium as well.

CES director Steve Gemelos was beyond thrilled with the event’s success. He reflects, “From grassroots to the big show. This past weekend’s race was the culmination of seven years of building the California Enduro Series; six years working with Northstar to create a world class enduro race, and three years working with Northstar and EWS to bring this event to California.”

He adds, “It couldn’t have gone better — the course was awesome, the racing was tight, and the best zones were packed with spectators.”

Although overnight camping was not allowed, riders set up home base each day in Northstar's parking lot.

Santa Cruz Bicycles took good care of its team with all the goodies.

Dust. Lots of dust.

Catching up with friends on a lift up ...

... And hanging out with friends at mid-mountain.

Shenanigans.

More shenanigans.

Mid-mountain.

CES co-founders Megan and Steve Gemelos beaming alongside Northstar Enduro race director Eric Whitaker (right).

'Twas a race well-heckled. Even by the local wildlife.

RESULTS

View EWS, EWS100 and EWS80 results here. CES results have been calculated based on EWS results and reranked according to CES category. Get CES results and podium shots for all categories here. Get current individual standings here and team standings here.

WHAT'S NEXT

Spots are still available for Round 5: Fox US Open Enduro / EWS Continental Series Finale September 14 at Snow Summit Bike Park in Big Bear Lake. Register here.

Support CES and get the chance to WIN a Specialized Stumpjumper Evo to be raffled off at our season finale, the Ashland Mountain Challenge October 5. Learn more and buy raffle tickets here. Proceeds benefit CES, a non-profit organization, as well as Truckee Bike Park and Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association (RVMBA).

ABOUT CES

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.

Words by Michele Charboneau / Photos by Kasey Carames


1 Comment

  • 3 0
 So rad to have this level of riding in our hometown! Let's keep the energy up in years to come by allowing free spectator access up the Gondola. The racers deserve more hecklers and the sponsors more action at their booths.

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