Monday, June 27, 2016

China Peak Enduro Fest



For the past several years the China Peak Ski Resort has been the location for technical riding, good times, and one of the most anticipated races of the California Enduro Series. This year the loose and chunky terrain of China Peak was the perfect way to start off the CES Gold Tour, three races that offer demanding riding and increased payouts to professional riders and greater media coverage. Combined with swimming holes, beautiful high sierra scenery, and a unique remote atmosphere the China Peak VP Enduro Fest again proved itself as a very special event and one of the best enduro races in the state.


The trails of China Peak are some of the most exciting and challenging of the California Enduro Series and are a crowd favorite every year, offering a rugged backcountry singletrack experience coupled with the convenience of a chair lift and the excitement of competitive racing. Riders competed on three different stages with pro, open, and expert riders racing an additional fourth stage. All of the stages featured seriously loose dirt, blown out corners, and challenging rock gardens that embody the unforgiving terrain of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After a day of pre-riding with the use of chairlifts on Friday racers started race day with a solid climb to the top of the mountain for stage one. Stage one began with a series of loose and challenging corners and then opened up into faster singletrack and a long fireroad section that brought riders flying into a rocky section of trail and a set of tricky sweeping corners at warp speed, the remainder of stage one featured tight blown out corners and just enough rocks to keep riders on their toes. After stage one it was just a short climb to stage two which brought racers back down to the main lodge area. Stage two started with several fast and loose corners and then got rockier with a handful of tight technical corners that challenged riders to maintain speed. To finish stage two racers had to negotiate one of the most challenging sections of the course, a long set of extremely tight switchbacks that left all but the most skilled riders questioning their cornering prowess.


At the bottom of stage two competitors were gladly transported back to the top of China Peak by chairlift where they started the longest and arguably the most demanding stage of the day. Stage three brought riders from the top of the mountain to the bottom going through burly rock infested terrain, pulverized corners, a handful of painful full gas pedal sections, and the TRP brake zone which was located in the infamous “Gnarly Rock Garden” which is always one of the most exciting aspects of racing at China Peak. After finishing the physically and technically challenging stage three, some riders successfully completed their day of racing but pro, open, and expert riders continued on to stage four. After climbing one last time to the top of China Peak at 8700 feet in elevation above sea level and battling a brutal 90 degrees in temperature, riders were ready to finish their day of racing with one last rough and rowdy stage. Stage four challenged racers with a flat sprint out of the gate and then nothing but solid technical riding to the bottom with steep granite faces, rock gardens, as well as loose and blown switchback corners. After the long day of racing riders enjoyed post race recovery at the swimming hole and more good times including the award ceremony. I finished 6th place in the Open Men or Semi-Pro category a result I am proud of but hope to improve in the future.


Friday, January 22, 2016

TBF MTB Kickstart

Getting through a mud section of the course.
Last weekend I officially started my 2016 mountain bike race season and competed in the Total Body Fitness Mountain Bike Kickstart cross-country race in Granite Bay.  Although not my original plan coming into the race I decided to race in the professional category for the first time and that proved to be an interesting experience.  Racing against seriously fast competition I finished 8th place in Pro, however truth be told there were only 8 racers in the professional category.

The start of the Pro and Expert racers.
 I have been racing on the trails surrounding Folsom Lake since I first started racing mountain bikes so it is always fun to start my race season at a familiar venue that has become somewhat of a tradition to me.  With weeks of rain leading up to the race it was a pleasant surprise that the weather held off for the duration of the race and only started raining after the event, and because the course consists of primarily crushed granite the trails drain very well and were in perfect condition on race day.  Despite the not so great result I still had a good time racing my bike again and identified areas that I need to improve on before the NICA Nor Cal race series begins.

Hammering up one of the many short but punchy climbs.

 I am super excited to take on what the 2016 race season has to throw at me and what will be almost a full year of cross-country and enduro mountain biking.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

CES Finale Kamikaze Bike Games Enduro


Blasting through the rock gardens of stage 1 in my favorite flannel!
     The long awaited finale of the California Enduro Series brought racers to the staggering terrain of the Eastern Sierras on Mammoth Mountain for the Kamikaze Bike Games Enduro.  The riding at Mammoth was a great way to bring the long season of enduro racing to an end with breath taking mountain views as well as courses that pushed the technical capability and fitness of every rider to its limit complete with the infamous “kitty litter” dirt Mammoth Mountain is known for.

Enduro squad!
     Stage 1 of the Kamikaze Bike Games Enduro was the Bullet Downhill course, a rough and wild trail that is one of the mountain’s “Pro Lines” sending riders down large drop-offs, burly rock gardens, and a handful of manmade features.  From the start gate to the finish line racers had to battle to keep from hitting the ground through the deep pumice soil and maintain the strength to keep their bikes moving through challenging rock infested sections of trail and over terrifying drops that landed in another rock garden.  Starting the day with a real deal DH stage left competitors eager to tackle the other trails the mountain had to offer and challenge themselves mentally and physically for the rest of the day.

Starting the day on the Bullet DH course.
     After a short but steep climb racers rode chair 2 to the second stage of the day, a long and extremely physical course that ended with an almost vertical chute known as the “Elevator Shaft”.  The beginning of stage two consisted of a long undulating traverse that left riders to find how much pain they could tolerate in order to put down a good race time.  At the end of a few paver switchbacks the stage started to pick up speed, with a fast and loose portion of ski run into a split where competitors had a choice of going down a technical but faster line or wrapping around the section on a sweeping turn.  After a bit of rowdiness through the trees, racers were faced with the intimidating ladder drop on Flow trail which is much faster than the alternate route but comes with a high penalty for failure.  Once down the “Flow Drop” a thrust of acceleration propelled racers down the rest of the trail, onto a wall ride, over a little bit of flat ground, and finally down the “Elevator Shaft”.  Racers flailed down the slope slicing through a foot of dust and spraying lava rock everywhere as they crossed the finish line of stage 2.

Happy to have finished and all be in the top five of Junior Expert.
     If there was one stage out of all the races in the season that could be described as jaw-dropping it would be stage 3 of the Kamikaze Enduro.  Beginning close to the summit at 11,050ft in elevation the start of stage 3 resembled the terrain of the moon and was an amazing way to kick off the longest stage of the day.  At the top, Upper Skid Marks was fast and smooth but soon became incrusted with square edged rocks that made keeping tires inflated a problem for a lot of riders, tight switchbacks also provided a challenge to many racers.  After a few miles of physical high alpine singletrack stage 3 merged with the CAT 2/3 downhill race course making for a fun final section of trail to the end of stage 3 which finished on the dual slalom course.

Finishing stage 4 on Bullet.
     Stage 4 was another downhill orientated stage that started with a series of technical root drops and loose turns that kept riders on their toes.  After sprinting along a flat portion of singletrack the course descended a high speed section of fire-road that connected to the bottom of the Bullet DH course bringing competitors down part of the same action packed piece of trail as stage 1 for a satisfying finish to a great day of racing.

The overall Junior Expert podium for the California Enduro Series.
     I stayed smooth and consistent the entire day and finished 5th in the Junior Expert Category.  I also took 2nd in the Junior Expert Series Overall.  This season has been such a blast and I am so thankful for being able to make it to each of the California Enduro Series races.  I will be taking a little bit of time to rest off the bike but will soon begin training for the 2016 mountain bike season!

Friday, September 4, 2015

CES #5 Northstar Enduro


Took my first ever enduro win!
     The fifth race of the California Enduro Series converged with the North American Enduro Tour at Northstar Ski Resort in Truckee, California for two days of action packed racing.  This year most of the race trails were the real deal downhill runs of Northstar and put every competitor’s bike skills and willingness to find the limit of their riding to the test.  For Pro and Expert racers the course consisted of six challenging stages over two days with race times over 36 minutes. Sport and Beginner riders competed on all the same stages except the final stage on day two.


Boondocks was stage 3 on day 1.
      On day one of the Northstar Enduro, riders competed on three stages that featured everything from fun flow trails to burly double black diamond terrain.  The race started close to the village and racers had a quick transfer stage to start the day.  The first stage consisted of the fast and slightly rocky Manure Pile trail which connected to Woods trail a fun singletrack that proved to be technical in certain sections.  Stage 1 finished on Mineshaft a ripping bike park trail with table top jumps and berms.  After another climb up to mid mountain and a chair lift ride it was time for stage 2, a long and physical top to bottom run on the Flameout trail.  Even with many crucial pedaling sections on Flameout it was still a blast to race on with a handful of technical sections and the occasional ladder drop or tabletop.  After recovering from stage 2, racers had one long pedal that brought them close to the top of Mt. Pluto at around 8,500 feet in elevation for the longest and easily the most challenging stage of the day.  Stage 3 was made up of a long fast fire road sprint that connected to Boondocks, a double black diamond trail with stout rock gardens, large drops, and numerous jumps.  The top of Boondocks has a handful of tricky rock sections and after a big rock drop and two large table tops the trail became extremely loose with a mix of High Sierra sand like conditions and threatening rocks everywhere.  At the bottom of this rough and rowdy rollercoaster, Boondocks resembles more of the classic bike park trail with several consecutive man made drops and jumps made out of dirt, wood, and pavers.  After finishing the first day of racing competitors enjoyed food and beverages at mid mountain and later had the option of watching the ground breaking new mountain bike movie from Teton Gravity “Unreal”.


Manure Pile was the first stage on day 1.
 
      Day two also had three very fun yet challenging stages on the menu for competitors with everything from purpose built bike park runs to pristine alpine singletrack.  After starting the day with a solid pedal from the village to the top of the Vista lift racers prepared themselves for the first stage of the day, a relatively short stage that combined the trails of Gypsy and Livewire into an awesome race stage that was a blast to ride.  Gypsy consists of nonstop action packed terrain with countless wooden wall rides, large jumps, and other man made features including the infamous GoPro feature.  Here racers were routed to the left option for a huge wall ride with a drop into a fun rock armored section, after a quick sprint along a fire road stage 4 followed Livewire, a trail famous for gigantic tabletops and huge sweeping berms into the finish at mid mountain.  To get to the next stage racers took the Vista Lift and then rode the Booster trail to the beginning of Sticks and Stones.  Sticks and Stones is a very challenging double black diamond trail that starts with two large table tops and a ladder bridge, but soon gets steeper and rougher with extremely difficult rock gardens, plentiful drops, and never ending blown out corners.  After reaching a fire road stage 5 finished on Pho Dog a great section of trail with numerous tabletops and berms.  For the last stage of the event Pro and Expert racers took one more ride up the Vista Lift and then climbed the Mountain View fire road to the top of the Tahoe Trail for an unforgettable final stage down the Tahoe Trail, Sinuous, Karpiel, and Speed Control.  The Tahoe Trail offered momentary refuge from the constant technical beat down that the other trails of Northstar put on racers, with a fast and smooth trail tread and a quick view of Lake Tahoe.  Sinuous featured a handful of loose turns and table tops and soon meet Karpiel for a steep and extremely loose dissent with technical rock gardens and pulverized corners.  Stage 6 next headed down the fast and smooth Speed Control trail and continued down lower Sticks and Stones into the finish of a great weekend of enduro racing. 

                   

Gypsy to Livewire was the first stage on day 2.
     At the end of two hard days of racing I finished first ever in my category of Junior Expert racers for my first ever endure win.  I can not wait for the final event later in September at the Kamikaze Bike Games in Mammoth Lakes, California.

Photos by Steven Kohl.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Downieville Classic Downhill

After crashing hard in last years downhill race on the First Divide trail and coming in last place I was hungry for redemption and was excited for another opportunity to race on my favorite trails in the world.  The Downieville Downhill is a 15 mile long technically and physically demanding course that can easily destroy even the most modern and sophisticated bikes and can be unforgiving to those who choose to race down the steep, rocky, and fast trails of Downieville.

Sprinting out of the start gate at Packer Saddle.
This year my race went very well and despite getting a tad bit sketchy in the difficult rock garden known as the "waterfall" and getting tangled up with another racer at one point I had my fastest times ever on the Downhill course and ended up finishing 3rd place in Expert Junior Men with a 49:35.

Expert Junior Men Downhill podium.
I was able to pass five other racers in my category who started ahead of me and had no mechanicals or major crashes which can easily put a damper on anyone's race run.  With my 5th place in the cross-country the day before and a 3rd place finish in downhill I ended up taking 3rd in the Junior All-Mountain World Championships a result I am very happy with.

Expert Junior Men All-Mountain podium.
As always the Downieville Classic proved to be an awesome weekend of tough mountain bike racing and good times for four days in the Sierra!  I can't wait to test my self against the burly trails and stout competition of Downieville next year.

Happy to finish 3rd in Downhill.

Downieville Classic Cross-Country

For the past four years the Downieville Classic has been the race I looked forward to the most and this year was even more special as it marked the twentieth anniversary of this rugged and gnarly mountain bike race.  The Downieville Classic All-Mountain World Championships is comprised of two days of racing, the absolutely brutal 29 mile point to point cross-country race on Saturday and the long very demanding downhill race on Sunday. 

My new Specialized Camber Expert Evo did great on the courses at Downieville.
This year I was able to get a position in the front of the huge field of Expert racers, a group of around 100 racers that all start at the same time.  I had a good start and tried to hang with the top 5 racers in my category but was soon dropped only 1.5 miles into the 8 mile 3000 foot climb to Packer Saddle. However, I did not loose hope and kept up a consistent pace making it to the top in roughly one hour my fastest time ever.  I was able to pass several racers on Sunrise Trail and was not over taken on the long fireroad traverse to the section known as "Baby Heads".  This fast and loose jeep trail is where the course begins to cater to my strengths and I was able to rip down Baby Heads and over take a few other racers.  After I crossed Pauley Creek I began to catch up with a few racers in my category and was even able to pass a few of my competitors.  The end of Butcher Ranch Trail went well and I caught another person in my category on the climb to Third Divide Trail.  With only a few other racers on Third Divide who let me pass I was able to really let loose and make up some time on this surreally fast plunge of singletrack.

Powering along First Divide.  Photo by Rhianna Roush.
At the bottom of Third Divide it is time to spend time in the pain cave all the way to the finish in Downieville.  First there is a flat to downhill fireroad and then First Divide Trail a mostly flat and slightly rocky trail that follows a gold rush era ditch grade to main street in Downieville where racers have one more hard sprint on pavement into the finish.  I felt good on First Divide and tried my best to put power into the pedals even though I was totally exhausted.
 
Looking how I felt after the hard Downieville Classic XC.
On the final sprint along Main Street I caught one of my racers in my category right as we crossed the finish line but was not able to cross the line ahead of him missing 4th place and a podium spot by only one second.  Even though being so close to podium was slightly disappointing I had my best time ever of 2:12:40 on the XC course and was happy to do well against such stiff competition.
 
I came in 5th out of 35 super fast racers and was only one second off of 4th.
 
 
 



Friday, July 17, 2015

CES #4 Ashland Mountain Challenge

I took 3rd in Junior Expert.
The fourth stop of the California Enduro Series took place just over the California border in the beautiful town of Ashland, Oregon.  With thunder storms saturating the ground during the previous week and all the way up to race day some 300 competitors were treated to cool temperatures, absolute hero dirt, and some of the best trails you can race on.

Home for the weekend.
     The trails off of Mt. Ashland are simply amazing, starting at the Ski Lodge at 6,600ft in elevation a mouth watering 5,000 foot descent into town awaits. Starting in an alpine dream world riders sail through moss covered pine trees and over perfect black dirt with the occasional rock or two to keep it interesting.  As the trails get lower in elevation the ground gets drier and pine trees turn to oak and madrone, but the trails are just as fun offering some of the fastest flow you can find, all of the trails in Ashland make for huge smiles at the bottom.

Almost done with the climb.
     Pro and Expert racers started with a shuttle ride to the Ski Lodge for stages 3 and 4 while Sport and Beginners took on the other side of the mountain with stages 1 and 2.  From the top riders had a slightly rough double track descent and a bit of climbing to get to the start of stage three.  This stage started with the Lower Bull Gap Trail a surreal singletrack descent that was a total blast to ride and race on.  After Bull Gap racers were sent on a super fast fire road that took racers to the top of Catwalk.  Catwalk began with a mild rock garden and then dropped down into a large double, for riders who could clear it this was a much faster option than others who rode around the right side. After Catwalk the trail consisted of ripping singletrack with bermed switchbacks, high speeds, and tacky dirt all the way to the finish.
Demoing a Marin Attack Trail!
     Stage 4 was the second stage of the day for Pros and Experts; it started with a bit of pedaling and quickly plunged down the side of the mountain accelerating riders straight into BTI a fast and fun bike specific trail with berms and lots of places where riders could choose to double up smaller roller jumps.  At the end of BTI racers had a bit of sprinting and then returned to the venue for the finish of stage 4.
Chilling after a day of racing.
     After refilling water bottles and hydration packs as well as picking up some snacks competitors started the long 8 mile 3,000 foot climb to Horn Gap for stages 1 and 2.  Stage 1 took place on the Horn Gap Trail a fast singletrack twisting trough majestic trees, fog, and perfect dirt.  After a fireroad descent and a bit of climbing it was time for stage 2. 

     Stage two followed Hitt Rd. which began as a fast fire road and then turned into doubletrack after a massive waterbar, at this point the trail really got going and sent riders flailing through rollers, rock gardens, and of course the Kali Protective’s Speed Trap into the finish of an awesome day of racing.

     The Ashland Mountain Challenge offered some of the most fun trails in the California Enduro Series and proved to be a great time on and off the bike.  I felt great all day and finished 3rd in Junior Expert!  The Ashland Mountain Challenge was such an amazing event and offered awesome trails making it a must for anyone who loves mountain biking to attend.

CES #3 China Peak Enduro Fest

 
Stoked on 5th place!
     The VP Components Enduro Fest at China Peak came back better than ever for its third year in a row and proved to be one of the hardest races that the California Enduro Series has to offer both physically and technically.  With Pros and Experts racing four stages over thirty miles of riding with close to six thousand feet of climbing it made for a long day on the bike.   The trails at China Peak were the definition of High Sierra technical riding with a curated mix of blown out switchbacks, burly rock gardens, kitty litter dirt, and granite slabs.

After some trouble on stage 3 I got caught.
     One of the things that makes this race so special is its location, China Peak Ski Area is located high in the mountains sixty-five miles northeast of Fresno on highway 168.  There is only one way in and one way out, you feel like you are getting out into the back country going to China Peak which creates the perfect atmosphere of camaraderie and fun times necessary for a good enduro race.  Camping was available at the venue, turning China Peak into a tent and RV village of mountain bikers.
 
Home!
     For practice on Friday the chairlift was running all day giving racers a perfect opportunity to get all the runs in they wanted and find their lines through the numerous tricky rock garden sections.  It was all pedaling race day though, making China Peak a true test of the physical fitness of racers as well as technical skills.  Stage one started with a handful of pulverized loose corners that made it a challenge to keep the bike up, after twisting in and out of some pine trees the course opened up into a fast fire road section that connected to a rocky singletrack through the infamous “kitty litter” dirt of the Sierra Nevada and kept racers heavy on the pedals to the finish.  After a short transfer stage back up to mid-mountain it was time for the next course. 

     Stage two began with several fast sweeping turns, sending riders through a few sharp corners and rock sections, after a bit of pedaling the course dropped down some extremely tight switchbacks full of rocks and ruts that could make or break a race run.  Stage two ended with a fast fire road sprint to the finish at the bottom of the mountains, where racers had the luxury of restoring their bikes and bodies before returning to the top for stage three.

Powering through the rocks and dust.
     After a stout transfer stage that climbed to the top of China Peak riders prepared themselves for stage three the longest and most demanding race trail of the day.  This stage began with some fast corners into a rocky chute, stage three kept riders on their toes from the very start.  The entire course was littered with technical rock sections and corners reduced to powder by the end of practice, it also included a bit of climbing.  The infamous rock garden on Stage three is always a challenge for racers to navigate at speed and this year there was a speed trap sponsored by TRP rewarding the man and woman with the fastest speed entering the rock garden.  After smashing down the gnarly rock infested section of the stage racers had a bit of singletrack and a long sprint into the finish at the bottom of the mountain.

     At this point some riders had finished for the day but for Pro and Expert racers it was time to climb up the mountain for the third and final time for the rowdy and rocky stage four.  Stage four was considered by many to be the most technically challenging of the day and with the inclusion of a flat traversing piece of trail for the start it tested racers physical stamina as well, especially at the end of a hard day of racing.  Even though the final line could eat bikes and racers alive, stage four was by far the favorite stage of many racers and was a perfect way to end a stellar day of enduro racing.
 
Pre race meeting with Coach Newman.
     Post race food and beverages were supplied at the China Peak lodge and many good times were had before and after the podium ceremony.  Even though I suffered from severe mechanicals and several crashes I managed to hold it together for 5th place in Junior Expert a solid result.  Super stoked for Ashland in a few weeks!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

CES #2 the Wildwood Adventure Enduro


 
The Expert U18 podium.
Hundreds of mountain bikers migrated into the redwoods of Mendocino County for the second stop of the California Enduro Series and two ripping days of enduro racing that was the inaugural Wildwood Adventure Enduro.  Riders could find camping at the Jughandle Farm or at a private meadow down the road with post race festivities being held at the Caspar Community Center.  Racers were treated to sweet singletrack all weekend thanks to the Mendocino Bike Sprites and an all around good time.

Done with day one!
With eight stages over two days of racing it was challenging to preride all of the race trails and left a lot of racers with no choice but to race blind, this kept race day interesting and competitors on their toes all weekend.   Most of the trails were very tight and tricky to race on with some exposure to cliffs and the ever present challenge of threading through redwoods.  A few stages however were the exact opposite with wide open sections and steep grades that kept racers at mock stupid and grinning all the way down.  The first day of racing riders had four timed stages over thirty miles with five-thousand feet of climbing.  The second day there was three stages with Expert and Open riders racing an additional stage.  Ride profiles were similar both days making it one long, tough, but very fun race.

The wait at Manly.

Expert and Open racers started earlier and rode stages in a different order than Sport and Beginner racers to avoid congestion at timed stages.  On day one race stages consisted of Manly Gulch, Motorcycle, Linquist, and Caspar Crossing trails.  Manly and Caspar were tight but flowy pieces of singletrack with the occasional log bridge or switchback that required consistency and conservancy to get a clean run in.  Motorcycle followed an old road grade and saw the fastest speeds of the weekend making it a favorite for downhill oriented riders.  Linquist Trail was a completely different animal with sandy dirt and loose blown out switchbacks that made it a challenge to stay on the bike and keep it fast.

The enduro crew.
For the second day of racing Sport/Beginner riders raced on Hi Chutes, Forrest History, and Big Trees, Expert/Open racers had an additional stage the Big Dipper trail.  Hi Chutes was a true test of physical fitness and technical skill, starting with a short climb it made racers sprint for a decent time and soon after dropped down into a fast and rutted old road bed that saw scary fast speeds with a high penalty for failure.  After climbing up Manly Gulch racers had Forest History trail a long and fun stage with everything from fast sections to pedaling, and sharp switchbacks.  Big Trees started with the beginning of Motorcycle trail a fast plunge along a ridge top and then turned to tight cliff side singletrack that kept racers ducking around and under trees and even over a set of stairs.  The Expert/Open stage Big Dipper was a fun mix of physical singletrack and wide open doubletrack with a few lips that could send racers hucking to flat if they were not careful.

Getting ready for Forest History.

The Wildwood Adventure Enduro was an awesome test of rider’s physical strength and technical ability on the bike as well as a fun weekend in the redwoods with great people.  With the success of its first year this event should become a staple mountain bike race in the future.  I kept it consistent and stayed on my bike finishing third in the competitive Expert Junior U18 category.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Nevada City Dirt Classic #3


The final race in the Nevada City Dirt Classic race series took place on the Hallelujah and Upper Pioneer trails and proved to be a fun and challenging venue.  Racers experienced flowing fast singletrack, fun descents, and one very steep loose uphill that left everyone in the pain cave.

 

I did not feel my best on the first lap but after my first time around I was able to put the hammer down and make up some time and catch a few competitors.


I was able to hold my position and kept up a good pace especially on the physical descent from Skillman to Hallelujah.


At the end of four grueling laps and over 25 miles of hard racing I came in fourth place in the Expert 15-18 category which had some of the fastest riders in the state competing in it.


Make sure to check out next years Nevada City Dirt Classic race series!  These events are always a blast whether it is your first time racing or an experienced racer.  For more information go here.