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Words by Patrick D. Rosso

Photos by Called To Creation

Video by Mitch Nuyens and Sebastian Bauer

Combine wicked trails and ripping riders and what do you get? Good times at the VP EnduroFest, held June 26, in Lakeshore, CA. Set at the China Peak Mountain Resort, the park is a hidden gem not too far from Fresno, CA. For the fourth race of the California Enduro Series, organizers kicked up the gnar with alpine sun, sand traps, and plenty of granite.

“We just like community involvement and we like to get things started. The Enduro format is just a fun way to ride your bike fast,” said  Erik Saunders, the brand manager for VP Components and race organizer.  “I love racing and getting people out, and VP Components supports that 100%.”

The four stages devoured by the Pro and Expert riders hovered around 7,000 to 8,500 feet, leaving racers gasping for breath as they pedaled close to 17 miles and climbed nearly 3,500 feet, after a chairlift ride to the top. Sunscreen dripped from rider’s red faces for the transfer stages up, and hands stayed clammy as the competitors descended, inhaling a mixture of granite and alpine duff typical of the Sierra Nevada. With plenty of techy terrain Saturday, it was two racing veterans who showed that a bit of skill and plenty of knowledge can go a long way.

Kathy Pruitt, riding for Santa Cruz Factory Racing, decimated the field in Pro Women. She was a spicy 1.14 minutes faster than second place, with an overall time of 26.24 minutes and also took the RaboBank QOM challenge on Stage 3.

“The mountain was dusty. There were a ton of boulders and you’re basically battling your bike and the terrain the whole time,” Pruitt commented as she enjoyed her post race beer. “It was tight. There was a lot of light and dark spots; you just had to be ok with not being able to see where you were going.”

Nothing was easy for Intense/Maxxis/X-fusion rider Brian Lopes, who faced a stacked field, but he buckled down on the final three stages and finished in the top spot for Pro Men, with an overall time of 22.56 minutes, and also claimed the RaboBank KOM challenge.

“Good trails and good vibes; it’s great being up in the mountains doing some real mountain biking,” Lopes said as he waited to be called up to the podium. “I don’t go to a ton of races anymore, so I try to go to events that I know are going to be fun!”

With rocks, rocks, and more rocks riders couldn’t get away from the rugged terrain found on the side of the 8,700-foot peak. Part of the Golden Tour — a three race, big money, big mountain competition within the series—Saturday’s competition was just an appetizer compared to the other two high-country races on the tour: Northstar and Mammoth.

“They’re the more technical races of the series and we’re trying to elevate and highlight those as the premier ones,” explained Steven Gemelos, director of the California Enduro Series. “There’s a $24,000 pro purse spread throughout those three races, so we hope to see some good competition.”

Pruitt, with a background in downhill racing and hailing from Northern California, also expressed excitement for the upcoming races and their rutted and rowdy trails.

“I’m stoked to have this momentum going into the next two,” said Pruitt. “It’s local for me, so maybe my mom will show up; that’d be pretty cool.”

The Rabobank KOM/QOM challenge also put $100 up for grabs for the fastest times on the lung-busting third stage. Matt Guntert and Megan Welch took it for the Expert category, with a time of 8.52 and 10.40. In the Sport category, Ryan Lasder with a time of 9.27 and Merel Witteveen with a time of 12.11, walked away with the cash. Steven Anzel and Rachel Seymour were the fastest in the Beginner category. Davis had a time of 9.57 and Fleming finished with a time of 14.09.

Additionally, the TRP “Brake Zone” was set up for Saturday’s race, which added a bit of green to the game. With the zone  at the infamous rock garden at the base of stage three, Ali Osgood took the check for Pro Women with a speed of 15.9 mph. In Pro Men it was a tie between Brian Lopes and Jeff Kendall-Weed who both had a speed of 17.9 mph.

Full Race Results, CES Individual Standings and Team Standings are posted on the CES website - along with a new Leaderboard on the front page.

Brian Lopes was in the zone and off the brakes taking first in Pro Men. Photo: Called to Creation

Kathy Pruitt was on Saturday and cruised to first in Pro Women. Photo: Called to Creation

Despite a few lines, waits were short and everyone had plenty of time to finish the race. Photo: Called to Creation

Cory Sullivan was looking smooth on the berms and finished ninth in Pro Men. Photo: Called to Creation

The Rabobank KOM/QOM challenge is back, and extended to all four category groups for 2016. These riders walked away with $100. Photo: Called to Creation

Pro Men Podium: (1) Brian Lopes, (2) Evan Geankoplis, (3) Ryan Gardner, (4) Evan Turpen, (5) Derek Teel. Photo: Called to Creation

Pro Women Podium: (1) Kathy Pruitt, (2) Amy Morrison, (3) Jackie Swider, (4) Janea Perry, (5) Rachel Throop. Photo: Called to Creation

Ali Osgood took the check for Pro Women with at the TRP “Brake Zone” with a speed of 15.9 mph. Photo: Called to Creation

In Pro Men it was a tie between Brian Lopes and Jeff Kendall-Weed who both had a speed of 17.9 mph. Photo: Called to Creation

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