Round 3 of the 2018 season drew racers to the southwestern Sierra about 65 miles east of Fresno for some burly big mountain action on Saturday, June 30. The event drew 400 racers and injected the season with intense, uninhibited action on steep, primitive trails at high altitude. The rugged terrain of China Peak Mountain Resort offered the ideal setting for the first round of the CES Golden Tour — the series' pro triple crown which spotlights the gnarliest venues and courses. This race was also a 2018 Enduro World Series (EWS) Qualifier.
Riders began flooding in on Thursday, setting up camp and preparing for a long hot day of practice on Friday. Many brought their families along, seeing as the event was a great opportunity for a low-key mountain getaway with camping, fishing, swimming holes, lakes, waterfalls, hiking trails and hot springs nearby.
The lift line for Friday practice was long, but spirits were high as riders shared their anticipation and stoke. Under a relentless full sun, riders practiced their lines and got a feel for the parched, loose dirt. Later Friday evening, many riders celebrated the togetherness so inherent in the enduro community by attending a special bonfire arranged by Kali Road Warrior Cedar Kyes.
Come morning, you didn’t need coffee to get pumped — the electric vibe throughout camp and at the Day Lodge's main gathering spot sufficed. Beginner and Sport competitors pedaled out to take on the first two stages of their day: high-speed berm-fest through the trees Stage 1, and the leg and lung burning Stage 2 which featured tight, loose, rocky switchbacks and copious amounts of moondust. Both categories then caught a lift to Stage 3, the longest stage of the race running from top to bottom of the mountain. This track is infamous for its challenging rock garden dubbed "Gnarly." After a hard right into this beast, riders are faced with several line options that can knock you off your game and numerous boulders that demand momentum to pump up and over.
Stage 3 was the final run for Beginner racers. Sport racers went on to catch another lift to their final stage: the magnificently scenic Stage 4 which doled out a taste of just about everything: rocky corners, loose sandy sections, S switchbacks, and a long section of giant granite slabs running beneath the lift.
Pro and Expert athletes, on the other hand, started their day with a lift to Stage 3, taking on the longest stage of the race and its challenging rock gardens and boulders right from the get-go. At the bottom of this first stage, it was a pedal transfer to Stage 1's rip through the trees and over bridges, another pedal from the bottom of 1 to the top of the switchback-fest Stage 2, and yet another pedal from the bottom of that to the start of the especially primitive and chunky Stage 5. Straight away, this highly anticipated, intimidating stage challenged riders with dusty switchbacks, drops and rock-filled corners before dropping into a crazy rock chute. At the bottom of the chute, an awkward left turn into a steep granite slab forced riders to pick up speed, sending some pinballing into boulders. Once through this hair-raising section, riders were tested with two more short techy sections that saw some folks tossed off the trail due to poor line choices.
After surviving the physically and mentally demanding Stage 5, Pro and Expert racers hopped on a lift to their fifth and final stage of the day — the oh-so-diverse Stage 4, described above.
Dusty and tired after a beefy day on the mountain, many riders revived themselves at the nearby swimming hole — affectionately dubbed Stage 6. Back at the Day Lodge, riders were treated to a hearty post-race dinner and beer while waiting for awards to start. Tired but happy faces — some still masked with moondust — testified to a rewarding day on the mountain. Numerous riders were overheard claiming it was the most challenging race they'd ever competed in. Sport Women rider Jeni Boltshauser later posted on Facebook, "I need a bumper sticker that says 'I survived China Peak.' Damn that shiz is gnarly."
Gnarly shiz. Indeed.
Cory Sullivan in practice on Friday. Keeping your focus on the course and not on the view is a feat in itself!
A great number of racers took advantage of the free camping at this remote venue. The camping at China Peak certainly enhances the enduro camaraderie.
Brian Lopes rockin' the van life.
Lift access for both practice and race days was included in the entry fee, and gave riders the chance to really soak in their surroundings.
Kyle "Speedbump" Harder made damn sure to stay well protected from the sun ... and falling rock? Harder broke his toe prior to the race, but opted to come cheer on his teammates at China Peak anyway.
Riders stopped by the CES tent after practice to pick up their race day timing chips.
They were also stoked to receive complimentary Dynaplug kits, thanks to Dynaplug's generosity.
Kali Road Warrior Cedar Kyes' bonfire Friday night topped off the campin' vibes.
Race day rider meeting.
Cory Sullivan drops into the toughest run on the course, Stage 5. Sullivan took the top step of the Pro Men's podium at day's end.
Janea Perry looking smooth and confident on Stage 5. Perry took the stage win on this incredibly difficult track, and went on to take the top step of the Pro Women's podium.
Erik Szayna defended his Junior Pro Men U21 lead, winning all three events this season so far.
Jeffrey Jantos and his son Gabriel raced Stages 1 through 4 on their tandem. Incredible.
Hoppen Zander finished in first place Sport Boys 16-17.
Some cyclocross happened.
Expert Women first place finisher Sara Schneider is one of the eight MTB Experience team members who raced China Peak — and all eight women made the podium.
Riders and spectators alike swung by the CES Live! timing tent to check standings throughout the day.
Stage 2 featured rocky, dusty, tight corners that challenged racers to stay upright.
Some found it faster — and safer — to head down this steep, loose section of Stage 5 on feet vs. wheels.
Pro Ryan Gorman had a solid start to his day but his race fell apart in his final stage. He says, "It was going great until it wasn't. I think I broke a spoke first, then I flatted and then broke the chain trying to get it spun up. But hey, I got it fixed and got down the hill!"
Sport Women first place finisher Macy Craft keeping her eye on her line.
Bonus Stage 6 winner for style, hands down.
The dirt tan game is strong with these lads.
Series leader Evan Geankoplis was taken out of the race from the start with a destroyed wheel on Stage 3. Geankoplis wasn't the only pro rider who DNF'd at this event. Both James Eves and Jackie Swider were forced out by crashes.
Nothing like a hefty plate of chow after a colossal day on the bike.
Kali Protectives is a long-time sponsor of the series. The Kali Road Warrior Cedar Kyes brings the Kali Race Support Program to each of the CES Golden Tour events.
FOX is another long-time sponsor of the series and continues to donate forks to be raffled off at each event. FOX also contributed Transfer seatposts this year to be given away as social media contest prizes.
"Gnarly Shiz Fizz."Top 5 Pro Men Podium and Stage Summaries *Golden Tour Round 1*
The top ten Pro Men shared $4,000 in Golden Tour prize money. The day's top five winners were: 1st - Cory Sullivan / 2nd - Matt Guntert / 3rd - Myles Trainer / 4th - Todd Renwick / 5th - Evan Turpen. Guntert stepped into the lead for the series overall.
Pro racers kicked off their day with a lift to Stage 3, where bike handling skills were put to the test on the track’s infamous rock gardens. Evan Geankoplis, who was standing at the top of the leaderboard going in to this round, was taken out of the race from the start with a destroyed wheel on this stage. Round 2 champ Matt Guntert took the stage win at 8:25.8, a solid lead on Ryan Gardner who clocked 8:32.4. Cory Sullivan took third on the stage at 8:35.6, Todd Renwick fourth at 8:40.0, and Evan Turpen fifth at 8:46.2.
After checking in at the CES Live!
timing tent and refueling, it was time to take on the Stage 1 transfer climb to the top of the mountain. Guntert took another stage win and made a course record clocking 3:58.7 on this warp speed run through the trees. Myles Trainer came in second at 4:00.6. Sullivan and Ryan Gorman were neck and neck with Sullivan clocking 4:03.3 and Gorman 4:03.4. Spencer Rathkamp took fifth on the stage at 4:04.4.
At this point, Guntert was in the lead with a total time of 12:24.5, followed by Gardner at 12:38.5. Sullivan was just behind Gardner at 12:38.9, Renwick at 12:44.4 and Trainer at 12:48.9.
From the bottom of Stage 1, it was a traverse over to the top of Stage 2. Trainer slayed this stages and its ridiculously tight, rocky switchbacks fastest with a time of 4:18.5. Renwick came in second at 4:20.8 with Guntert just a hair behind at 4:21.1. Turpen was fourth at 4:22.9, and Sullivan rounded out the top five for the stage at 4:23.3.
With three stages out of five down, Guntert had a solid 16.5 second on Sullivan; Guntert with a total time of 16:45.6 and Sullivan at 17:02.2. Gardner was just behind Sullivan at 17:03.0, followed by Renwick and Turner at 17:05.2 and 17:07.4, respectively.
Another pedally transfer took the pro men to the extremely steep, loose and gnarly Stage 5, where Renwick pulled off the stage win at 6:14.6. Trainer was less than half a second behind at 6:15.0. Trainer had a full five second lead over Guntert, who — despite cracking a rim and running much of the stage with just 10psi — came in third at 6:19.6, while Sullivan and Gardner were just a fraction of a second apart, coming in fourth (6.21.6) and fifth 6:21.7 respectively.
With one more stage to go, Guntert was still in the lead by 14.6 seconds at 23:19.8, followed by Renwick at 23:05.2, Trainer at 23:22.4, Sullivan at 23:23.8, and Gardner at 23:24.7.
Catching a lift to the top of Stage 4 gave riders the chance to take a breath, soak in the incredible views, and compare stage runs with fellow racers. Sullivan pulled out all the stops for the stage win on this demanding track, finishing with a time of 5:49.3 — a whopping 10 seconds faster than second place Jack Achey who clocked 6:02.0. Trainer was just behind Achey in third at 6:03.4, Steven Godman in fourth at 6.07.6 and Turpen rounded out the top five at 6:10.2. A crash on this stage cost Guntert a couple of seconds, enough to keep him out of the top five on the stage. Gardner broke his dropper post cable on this stage, forcing him to complete the run with his seat up. He came screaming in to the stage finish … literally.
So how’d all that shake down? A day that included five stages of some of the series' most challenging riding saw Sullivan on the top step of the pro men podium with a total time of 29:13.1. Guntert took a close second at 29:17.8. Trainer came in third at 29:25.8, Renwick fourth at 29:28.1 and Turpen fifth at 29:52.3.
Cory Sullivan (1st place) in perfect form on Stage 3. He says of his race that culminated on the top step of the Pro Men podium, "The courses were very raw, loose, there's not a whole lot of support. I ended up taking the win, pretty excited about that. I was a little behind going in to the last stage. Just kinda put it all out there on the table and ended up walking away with the W." The Golden Tour lead is looking forward to getting after it at Northstar and Mammoth.
Matt Guntert (2nd place) looking fierce on Stage 4.
Myles Trainer (3rd place) poised and controlled on Stage 5.
Todd Renwick (4th place) making short work of Stage 3's chunder.
Evan Turpen (5th place) was China Peak Enduro's very first race director. Here he takes on Stage 5, a track he dreamed of adding to that very first China Peak Enduro back in 2013. He ran out of time then, but last year helped built the now-infamous stage.Top 5 Pro Women Podium and Stage Summaries *Golden Tour Round 1*
The top ten Pro Women shared $4,000 in Golden Tour prize money. The day's top five winners were: 1st - Janea Perry / 2nd - Zephyr Sylvester / 3rd - Heidi Kanayan / 4th - Amanda Propst / 5th - Lili Heim. Kanayan took the series overall lead for Pro Women.
The pro women kicked some technical butt on their first run of the day as well. Zephyr Sylvester made short work of the long, rocky stage clocking 10:23.5, over eleven seconds faster than the second fastest rider Janea Perry who came in at 10:34.8. Heidi Kanayan finished third clocking 10:49.4, while Jackie Swider came in fourth at 11:02.1 and Amanda Propst came in fifth at 11:07.6.
After the pedal to the top of Stage 1, Kanayan's keen dash through the trees gave her the stage win with 04:46.2. Perry again came in second at 04:48.8. Swider came in a couple seconds ahead of Sylvester with a time of 04:54.0. Propst rounded out the top five stage winners at 05:01.1.
At this point, Sylvester led the Pro Women by four seconds with a time of 15:19.6, followed by Perry, Kanayan at 15:35.6, Swider at 15:56.1, and Propst at 16:08.7.
From the bottom of Stage 1, it was a traverse over to the top of the short but switchback-sweet Stage 2. Perry slayed this run with an impressive 5:12.1, nearly five seconds faster than Sylvester who came in second with 5:17.3. Kanayan was hot on Sylvester's wheel clocking 5:18.2. Lili Heim came in fourth at 5:31.1 and Swider fifth at 5:36.6.
After three stages of racing, Perry took the lead just 1.2 seconds ahead of Sylvester, who was 16.9 seconds ahead of Kanayan at 20:53.8, followed by Swider at 21:32.7 and Propst at 21:54.2.
The pro women then faced their second transfer climb to the top of Stage 5, a run that can be intimidating to even the most skilled riders. This challenging stage saw Perry finishing first at 8:10.9 with a giant lead over the next fastest rider Sylvester who clocked 8:45.1. Propst came in third at 9:42.1, Kanayan fourth at 9:51.4 and Swider fifth at 10:15.4.
With one more stage to go, Perry held a commanding 35.4 second lead over Sylvester. Kanayan was in third at 31:36.4, followed by Propst and Swider.
A lift took the pro women up to the top of Stage 4, their final stage of the day. Perry seemed to ride stronger as the day progressed. She took her third consecutive stage win on this demanding stage with 7:22.4, several seconds ahead of second place stage finisher Sylvester who came in at 7:30.0. Kanayan came in third at 7:48.7, Heim came in fourth at 8:01.8, followed by Propst at 8:06.4. Swider crashed on the final stage taking her out of the race.
After a tight day of aggressive riding, Perry took the top step of the pro women's podium — and the 2018 Golden Tour lead — with a total time of 36:09.0. Sylvester took second at 36:52.0, Kanayan third at 38:33.7, Propst fourth at 39:42.8 and Heim fifth at 41.07.2.
Janea Perry (1st place) powering through Stage 3. Perry's solid day of riding earned her the day's top step. She says, "My day went pretty good. Pretty tough ... two big climbs got me pretty tired. The most rowdy stage was Stage 5. I was going clean the whole stage, then the last gnarlier section, I wadded it. Other than that, the day was really fun." The Golden Tour lead is excited for more big mountain action at Northstar and Mammoth.
Zephyr Sylvester (2nd place) keeping her cool through one of Stage 2's many tight, loose, rocky turns.
Heidi Kanayan (3rd place) smoothly navigating the granite slabs on Stage 4.
Amanda Propst (4th place) looking mighty against Stage 3's massive granite.
Lili Heim (5th place) in full-on attack mode, slaying a Stage 3 rock garden. After this stage, she was challenged by more than the rowdy course. She explains, "My derailleur pulley wheel flew off towards the bottom of Stage 1. [Fellow pro rider] Tasha Thomas helped me look for it and found it eventually! Then a couple other people helped me get my derailleur back together enough so I could coast/pump down Stage 2. Then we put some new parts at the bottom so I could finish the last two stages and transfer!"
View full race results and podium shots from all categories here
. Check out 2018 series standings here
Matt Guntert — taking his first stage win of the day here on Stage 3 — took over the Pro Men overall lead from Evan Geankoplis by the end of this challenging race ...
... while Heidi Kanayan — focused and determined here on Stage 3 — snagged the Pro Women overall lead from Essence Barton.
Mike's Bikes currently holds the overall lead for team competition. Rider: Joseph Smith, Expert Men 18-29, Stage 5.
Next up: Round 4 of the 2018 season, the Crafts and Cranks Enduro is presented by Team Big Bear and takes place as part of the 4th Annual Crafts and Cranks Bike and Beer Festival at Snow Summit Bike Park in Big Bear Lake the weekend of July 28-29. Riders will enjoy two full days of racing on trails within and outside of the bike park. The festival is a family-friendly weekend offering something for everyone from bike racing, beer tasting, a climbing wall, bounce house, ferris wheel, music, and food.About California Enduro Series
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 for the support of the following sponsors: FOX, CLIF Bar, Specialized Bicycles, Dynaplug, WTB, Kenda Tires, Kali Protectives, Cranked Naturals, Michael David Winery, Voler Apparel, Park Tool, Mynesweepers, Adventure Sports Journa, ESI Grips, Gamut USA, Zodiac Lights.
Check out the 2018 schedule and learn more about the series at californiaenduroseries.com
Words by Michele Charboneau
Photos by Kasey Carames and Owen Ransom