Friday, July 17, 2015

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.
     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!

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