<b>Welcome to Ashland, Oregon, home of miles of amazing downhill singletrack trails and the third stop of the Oregon Enduro Series, The Ashland Mountain Challenge. Mount Shasta wished the riders well before the start of stage three.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Hometown hero, Nathan Riddle, finally captured a victory that has been eluding him for many years. It was hard-fought through every stage and Riddle wasn't on top until the end of the fourth and final stage.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>The winning machine. Riddle chose his Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc over his Bronson, for the high-speed and relatively buff singletrack trails. Make no mistake though, the full range of wheel sizes were well represented out on the mountain this weekend.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Rosara Joseph was looking pinned all day, and her speed and confidence aboard her Yeti took her to the top of the podium again. She's won all three Oregon Enduro races so far this year. Congrats!</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Kona's Matt Slaven had a solid weekend, and was 2 seconds up on Riddle...until Stage 4.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Jill Kintner came out for the ethirteen press camp and realized there was a race going on. With zero practice, she placed 2nd behind Rosara. Not too shabby for the Dirt/Norco rider in between World Cup downhill races.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Stage 1, Horn Gap Trail</b> -Casey Coffman
<b>The man behind the event and owner of Ashland Mountain Adventures, Bill Roussell, finally gets a chance to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labor. It takes a lot of hard work with plenty of volunteers to pull off an event of this scale and make it run smoothly Thanks Bill!</b> -Dan Severson
<b>The crowds gathered up at the top of Lithia Park for the raffle, awards, and the always-welcome post ride brewski!</b> -Dan Severson
<b>The first shuttle of the day gets ready to load up riders promptly at 7:30am. In addition to the free ride up, there was a decent amount of uphill pedaling between stages to reach the trailheads.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>The X-Fusion mascot (no, this is not John Hauer) was holding down the fort and keeping an eye on the goods.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Stage 2, Hitt Road Trail</b> -Casey Coffman
<b>Jon Buckell leads his teammates through a fast double at the top of Catwalk Trail during Friday’s practice.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Originally from New Zealand, currently residing in Vancouver, The Nomad Chris Johnston, made the journey in an effort to top the podium for a second time this year. He and his Bronson finished just off the box, taking sixth place.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>The braking bumps at the bottom of BTI Trail on Stage 4 were a mixed blessing. Every turn that amplified a racer's forearm pump brought him closer to the final finish line. </b> -Dan Severson
<b>The shady pits with post-race burritos and a swimming hole at hand were a welcome sight to riders as they crossed the line after four high speed stages racing in Southern Oregon.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Felt young gun, Kyle Warner, rode fast all weekend right into 9th place.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>The weather was mild over the weekend and contributed to the great racing, but that didn't mean the pits weren't on fire!</b> -Dan Severson
<b>The Incycle/ODI Enduro Team took home the win in the Muscle Milk Team challenge. </b> -Dan Severson
<b>Stage 3</b> -Casey Coffman
<b>Consistency is the name of the game for Specialized Racing's Curtis Keene. Here he's railing a berm on BTI trail during his last stage of the day.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Keene and his carbon Stumpy 29 have been on a whirlwind of an international campaign this season.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Giant's Adam Craig was off to a good start early in the day, but his luck took a turn for the worst while on Stage 3 where he had a mechanical. Once he was riding again, Craig opted to peel off the fire road portion of the track to ride another singletrack that will hopefully be incorporated into next year's race.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Another fresh face to the podium on the Oregon Enduro Series was fourth place finisher, WTB rider and Novato local, Marco Osborne. </b> -Dan Severson
<b>As the race winds down, riders hang out in the pits and swap racing stories.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Stage 4, BTI Trail</b> -Casey Coffman
<b>The fastest man on the mountain, Nathan Riddle, gets a chance to unwind after a long day of racing.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>All around fast guy, WTB/Cannondale's Jason Moeschler, was on a roll near the bottom of Stage 2 on Hitt Road. He pulled in for 11th overall.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>The lush forestland of Oregon provides a perfect terrain for a variety of amazing trails.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>San Luis Obispo racer, Tom Doran, made his first Pro Oregon Enduro podium in fifth place, riding for Slo2TheBone.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>The Pro Women celebrate in proper fashion.</b> -Dan Severson
<b>Nathan Riddle gets a much deserved champagne shower after a full day of racing. Thanks to Ashland Mountain Adventures and Oregon Enduro Series for a great weekend of racing!</b> -Dan Severson
Casey Coffman shares his Ashland Mountain Challenge experience
Ashland Oregon is a pretty unique town. The town's Shakespeare Festival actually lasts nearly all year and brings hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. There are a lot of drifter types that seem to collect in Lithia Park, near the bottom of some of the most fun singletrack you could ever hope to find. People wearing capes and combat boots, people with dreadlocks down to their knees, and people without consistent access to showers are all common sights as you come off the mountain and venture through town. This all adds a special flavor to the Ashland Mountain Challenge, the third stop of the Oregon Enduro Series.
The trails in Ashland are certainly not known for their rocks, their steeps, or their technical challenges. But that doesn't mean they don't make for some great racing. Wide open, all-out speed sections combined with loose, sandy corners provide plenty of challenge to all who race. These trails are easy to ride, but difficult to ride fast.
Equipment decisions may leave riders second-guessing at Ashland. Tire choices were all over the place, from skinny, fast-rolling types, to tires that would offer more grip in the loose corners. 26, 27.5 and 29ers were all present beneath a race field that neared 300 competitors.
Stage 1 (Horn Gap) starts out as a tight, twisty trail winding its way through the trees. It has a 20-second, punchy climb, and a few really tight sections through Douglas Fir and Madrone trees. The lower half opens up a little and offers places to really put some power down, allowing for speeds up into the 30mph range. Tight sight lines make it hard to commit to opening it up, which gave an advantage for people that had more experience on this trail. I had a good run on stage 1, and was happy to land in the top 5.
Stage 2 (Hitt Road) is pretty much all-out the entire way. A 20-foot huck off a water bar, over a big ditch starts racers on their way down a wide open trail. There are a few very loose, sketchy corners that require a good memory to know where to begin braking in order to make it around the turns cleanly. An over-cooked corner put me on the ground, and cost me a lot of time on stage 2.
With a lunch break between stages 1-2 and stages 3-4, racers were able to chill out and chat with friends about their runs on the first half of the day before heading up to Mt Ashland for the second half of racing. Most riders agreed that stages 3 and 4 would be the deciding factor for the race, as 3 and 4 were much longer, with some crucial pedaling sections.
Stage 3 starts with some meandering singletrack through the woods and enters a wide-open fire road before dropping into the crowd favorite, Catwalk trail. Catwalk is 4 minutes of pumptrack-like trail…but at 25 mph. There are some switchbacks that require careful navigation, and a mean sprint to regain speed on the exit. Stage 3 went well for me as I tried to stay clean after the mistake on stage 2.
Stage 4 was the most painful one of the day. It had two long pedaling sections linking Caterpillar and BTI trails before dropping racers to the finish at the expo. BTI was very dry and loose, and claimed more than a few racers, who tested their luck on the sandy soil. Stage 4 was mentally and physically exhausting, as it was hard to lay the power down after 3 hard stages.
Finish times were extremely tight, as is becoming common in the Oregon Enduro Series with so much talent in the Pro class. My one crash on stage 2 put me out of the top 10 and into 17th place. It's frustrating, but a learning experience for sure.
Times were posted within an hour of the last finisher, and Ninkasi beer was flowing freely. The small reservoir next to the finish offered a great place to cool off after a hard day on the trails. While these trails may not be the roughest or steepest, they still offered great racing for everyone. Congrats to Nathan Riddle and Rosara Joseph on their hard-fought wins!
Casey races in the Pro division for Felt Bicycles.
For Results and race information, visit OregonEnduro.com