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CES '16 Round 1: Fontana Enduro from VP Components on Vimeo.

2016 California Enduro Series - Fontana Enduro

Sweat dripped from the riders' faces and dust coated their bodies, as one by one they rolled over the finish line and completed the first round of the California Enduro Series held Friday, April 1, at Southridge Park in Fontana, CA. A suburban Mecca for all things two-wheeled in SoCal, the dry, looming tract-home choked peak, offered riders a punchy, loose course with plenty of opportunities to have a little fun and take a couple of a chances.

Warm weather and bone-dry trails tested riders, Essence Barton passed with flying colors, she finished first in Pro Women.

Once the dust of the day had settled and the sidewall slashing rock gardens cleared, it was Evan Geankopolis and Essence Barton who ended up on the podium for Pro Men and Pro Women. “It was hot, dry, and loose, but it was some good trail and good fun,” exclaimed Geankopolis, 24, as he took refuge from the blazing afternoon sun.

Evan Geankopolis - Marin/Rabobank - had no problem with stage four’s rock gardens, he took first in Pro Men.

A rider for Marin Rabobank, Geankopolis finished the day with a time of 16:31.6, 15 seconds ahead of second place. "I had no idea where I was going to end up," said Geankopolis. “I felt good on stage one and laid down everything I had and tried to survive the rest, but I felt like I did what I needed to do.”

Essence Barton, 24, who comes off a win at the 2015 series' finale, isn't new to the course and terrain, but said the conditions definitely added a bit of chaos to the mix. “It was super dry. I rode here earlier in the week and there was even a little mud, but by today it was just dry and blown out,” commented Barton, who finished the course with a time of 20:42.2.

Barton was quickly snatched up by Marin/RaboBank for the 2016 season, but she has only raced a handful of the California Enduro Series’ venues. “I’m interested to see how I will do on the other courses and if everything will go smoothly,” she said. “I haven’t been on a team in a long time, so it’s really nice to have support and a group of people trying to get things done.”

From drops to steep uphills, legs and lungs were pushed to the limit.

Three-hundred-plus riders battled it out Friday on the 12-mile course that featured 1,800-feet of elevation change and not a single tree or shrub to provide relief from the sun. Stage one served up the longest course, with a technical start and brutal, flat, seemingly endless sprint to the finish line. Stage two and three provided their own mix of blown out turns, rutty chutes, and lung-busting uphills.

All the stages tested the athletes' technical abilities, but it was stage four that really proved who could pick a line. Boulders, derailleur catching crevices, and a nice little rock garden to end it, the fourth stage sapped what little energy was left in the riders and had them craving a much deserved burrito and beverage. "When we’re setting up events, we want to make sure the riders are getting a good bang for their buck," explained Don Jackson of Southridge Racing, the organizing partner for the event.

“You don’t want to hurt anybody and you want everyone to walk away having fun.”Rabobank was also at the race with its KOM/QOM challenge- putting $100 up for grabs for the fastest times on stage one. Evan Geankopolis and Essence Barton took the KOM/QOM for the Pros. Geankopolis had a time of 5:35 and Barton had a time of 6:53. Evander Huges and Christina Probert-Turner took it for the Expert category, with a time of 5:43 and 7:00. In the Sport category, Trenton Guthrie with a time of 6:00 and Merel Witteveen with a time of 7:47, walked away with the cash. Jesse Buerster and Sofia Dewolfe were the fastest in the Beginner category, Buerster had a time of 6:24 and Dewolfe finished with a time of 8:56.

The Rabobank KOM/QOM challenge is back, and extended to all 4 category groups for 2016. These stoked riders walked away with $100.

Riders seemed to be having plenty of fun at this first event. Luckily those competing in the series have a bit of a break until the Battle Born Enduro, the second round of the seven-round California Enduro Series, set for May 14.

“The Fontana Enduro was a great start to the 2016 California Enduro Series. The course was challenging and fun, and a good check for athletes coming back from the off season,” said Steve Gemelos, director of the California Enduro Series.  “Looking forward, we are excited to return to Battle Born, the venue brings high elevation, loose sandy corners, and technical rocky descents providing plenty of challenges.”

Pro Men Podium: (1) Evan Geankoplis, (2) Jubal Davis, (3) Dillon Santos, (4) Cory Sullivan, (5) Randy Graham.

Pro Women Podium: (1) Essence Barton, (2) Lauren Gregg, (3) Janea Perry, (4) Arian Altier, (5) Ashli Lewis.

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

CES Sponsor SRAM was at the race keeping bikes running smoothly over the weekend.

Ryan Chandler - Santa Cruz, Fox, Shimano - having some fun on the transfer.

Chad Walton - Turner Bikes - is having a good time racing the new CES Open Men semi-pro class.

Christina Probert-Turner - Turner Bikes - on her way to first place among the Expert Women category.

Clif Bar Team BA Sport had a strong showing that the Fontana Enduro targeting the Overall Series Team Champs.

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