Race Report, Video & Photos from the China Peak Enduro presented by Santa Cruz and VP Components
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Once of the nicest guys around sure has one mean game face! Check out the grimace as Ariel hammers the bottom of Stage 4 on his way to victory at the China Peak Enduro by Santa Cruz and VP Components.
Check out the killer video from Root One and read Ariel's race report below:
The Growth of a New Series and the Birth of a New Race By: Ariel Lindsley
With Enduro racing taking off, new enduro race opportunities are popping up everywhere. This is a great thing for all of us who love to race in this sport. I will say though, all events are not created equal. This weekend a solid new event was born.
I have spent much of my semi-adult life traveling the country in cars and vans, sleeping in parking lots and people's back and side yards or the occasional guest room. It may sound like not that much fun to you, but I can't imagine a better way to spend my weekend than camping out at a bike race with good friends.
This weekend we packed up the van and headed up to China Peak near Shaver and Huntington Lake in the Central Sierra Mountains. Our long time friend Evan was putting on a race and we were stoked to support him in his efforts. I have been to a lot of races in my life and seen quite a few of them be born and then mature into classics. Many of my good friends in Colorado are successful race promoters. I guess when you hang out at the races for 15 years you just naturally start getting to know the ringmasters of these little bike circuses somehow.
I didn’t really have super high expectations going in to the event even though Evan had been talking about how good this mountain could be since last summer when he built trails there. Also this was Evan’s first shot at putting on a race. I have known Evan about 7 years now. He is an organized and calculated guy. He is always the guy who brought the right tool on the ride to fix your weird bike problem on the trail. Or if you go dig trail he will always have a really solidly packed lunch box and mini cooler with just a couple of cold beers to wash the dust down at the end of the day. Oh and he always brings enough to share a little with your sorry butt who probably showed up with half a bottle of water and a bag of peanuts. But that is the kind of guy Evan is, he just wants you have a good time so you will want to go ride, or dig, or just come back for whatever crazy mission he has drug you out on this time. Driving up to China Peak felt like the same thing. When I started thinking about the race and the fact that Evan was putting it on, it really clicked for me that this was the perfect thing for him to be doing. He has been herding, helping ,and nurturing tons of bike geeks for most of his life.
When I get to a race I feel like I have a checklist that starts automatically that gives me an idea of how much fun the event will be. For me, camping at the venue is a big deal, and a big part of the experience. It is so nice to pull in, park your car, and just ride your bike and hang out with your friends all weekend. We rolled in late Friday evening around 11:00pm and there was someone in the main lodge ready to let us pay our basic camping fees and direct us to our site that night. They also informed us that there were showers and a kitchen that we could use to make things easier and there was a campfire pit provided for us in the camping area. The checklist was shaping up quickly but I was still wondering what the trails would be like. We found our corner of the parking lot to camp in, set up our camp, and cheered our friends on as they pulled into the little 10x10 camping tent and R.V. gypsy village. We finally retired to our van late Friday night after a few too many beers tired from a long week at work and the hot drive up. It felt good to sleep out in the mountain air in the Sierra high country.
We woke up Saturday and started making breakfast on our camp stove. Now that the sun was up and we could see the mountain it was obvious that I could check off the big challenging terrain box on my mental race checklist. About five minutes later while I was sitting with my coffee waiting for last night’s fun to wear off my friend rolled into camp and yelled, “I found the best swimming hole just up this little trail out of the parking lot!” Sweet swimming hole…Check!
Finally we got our riding gear on and headed out on the mountain. It was easy to tell that the conditions were going to be similar to those found anywhere in the Sierras…loose, rocky and dusty. The mountain looked to have about 1,500 vertical which is more than enough for a great DH or Enduro race. Once we got on course we were stoked to confront high speeds, loose turns, and lots of rocky terrain. This is not something many of the riders who traveled from the coast are used to and was a big adjustment for some, but most folks found their flow and were able to make the adjustment to the challengingly different conditions especially compared to the sticky rock-free dirt we have on the coast.
There were four stages to practice for Sunday. Stage 1 and 2 were shorter runs that basically divided the mountain up into halves. Top half and bottom half with a very short transfer stage. These two stages required riders to push extra hard since they were in the shorter 4-ish minute range. It was very similar to doing two DH runs. The second two stages were longer top of the mountain to bottom of the mountain runs. Though the terrain was no easier, they were twice as long requiring riders to budget there physical and mental output a little more conservatively. To start the race the racers would have to ride up to the top of the mountain for stages 1 and 2 and then be able to use the lift for the last two stages. The transfer stages were short and simple and were not really a factor in your overall energy output. Saturday night there were already some good war stories floating around the camp about the days riding on this loose challenging terrain that this mountain was dishing up. In the afternoon we hiked up to one of the nicest swimming holes I have ever been to and shared stories and drank a few more recovery drinks until the sun got too low to stand being wet anymore. Oh! I forgot to mention it was hot!! And the elevation made the sun extra intense.
Saturday night the parking lot party ramped up now that everyone was here. Stories were told loudly to friends three feet away. Wheelie contests ensued, the fire grew and grew until a few things got burned that probably shouldn't have. Insert "sorry for partying" here. Finally everyone fell asleep or passed out and there was some good fresh mountain air sleep to be had once again.
Sunday morning started of with a complimentary pancake breakfast and then Evan led the riders meeting making sure everyone had a good understanding of how the race was going to run. Basically we would start in one of three waves of riders from the base area of the mountain. Once your group started you were allowed to complete the stages in order, but at whatever time interval you wanted. This worked well and let you cruise the climbs and hang with your friends on the climbs and transfers. The atmosphere that this creates is probably one of the best things about enduro racing. It's just like being out on a great ride with your friends. The climb was steep and loose in parts and the heat made it even tougher. Luckily there was a feed zone with tons of energy food and water to refill at. That being said, the climb went by pretty fast. Once to the top riders put on protective gear and began dropping into course one to start their day of racing. All the stages of the race were technically demanding and it was easy to make mistakes that could cost you a lot of time. There was a small wait between each stage of the day I would say about 20 minutes. The nice thing though was each stage ended near one of the feed zones so it was just a great time to talk with your fellow racers, eat some trail mix, and keep downing fluids. It seemed like people chose one of two approaches…keep after it and get the stages done as quickly as starts and the lift would allow, or take big breaks to eat and relax at the bottom in-between stages 2,3,and 4. It was hot and I felt less time in the sun (relaxing or not) would be the best choice, so I chose to ride the stages until I was done with only short breaks for water and snacks.
The last rider finished around 4:45pm and Evan personally swept the course and made sure everyone made it out alive. While he headed in to the lodge to grind out the results, we headed back to the swimming hole of course. There was a big raffle with a ton of prizes to entertain us while we waited for results. In the end there was a small timing glitch which is always such a bummer for both the promoters and the racers. I know this was really hard for Evan since he puts a lot of energy into the details of everything he does and his main concern was that everyone has the best experience possible. He was very honest and straight up about it and was still able to give results based on the times for two of the stages. To be honest, at this point I think everyone had been enjoying themselves so much that no one felt all that disappointed.
In the end almost 200 people made the trek through a scorching Central Valley to race the first-ever China peak Enduro. This far exceeded Evan's expectations as did he exceed my expectations of his ability to put on one heck of a race. Even with the few small glitches so many of the things these guys did at China Peak were better than people who have been putting on races for a long time. If you run into Evan or his family who worked their butts off all weekend and late into the nights before and after the race, make sure you tell them thanks for creating a great race that has all the ingredients to mature into an all-time classic. Without people like them we would not have fun races like this. Lets just all hope we get do it again next year…