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Pro Women champ Essence Barton charging her final stage — Toro Park's renowned Pipeline Trail.

The hills were alive with the sound of unadulterated STOKE for the 2018 California Enduro Series season kick off. On Saturday May 26, 360 racers took to the sweeping trails of Toro Park in Salinas for the Toro Enduro presented by CCCX Cycling. A light rain the night before made for the best dirt yet for this event that’s now in its third year. Bold cows on course, “nasty ruts to death,” and sketchy finish line shenanigans gave a rowdy feel to a race more known more for being relatively chill and orderly.

Despite the wilder-than-usual feel, the race itself was superbly organized. Race director Keith DeFiebre has been running his highly successful CCCX cycling races at Toro for 17 years, and his events are well respected for being clearly-marked, fun and appealing to all levels of racer. Sport and Beginner riders raced four stages of tacky flow (with just enough loose sandy bits to keep ya guessing) on trails that ranged from pedally to flowy to techy, taking on a good 20 miles with 3,200 feet of climbing and descending. Pro and Expert riders raced the same course with the addition of a particularly challenging fifth stage to cap their day. This highly anticipated stage on Toro Park’s renowned Pipeline Trail was the first ever sanctioned race run down a gnarly and narrow 2.2 miles teetering above a steep ravine.

Toro’s centralized venue allowed for riders to conveniently swing through to the CES Live! timing tent to check their times and see how they were measuring up against their competitors. Teammates gathered around to compare stages, then set off together to tackle the next segment.

Mother Nature never loosened her grip on the day’s dense cloud cover, which made the transfer climbs and pedally timed bits more comfortable, although the race run start lines were a bit chilly. The smiles and laughter of a few hundred riders warmed things up post-race, as folks enjoyed burritos and swapped race stories while waiting for results and podium. After a tight fight to the finish, Evan Geankoplis of Ibis Cycles took the Pro Men top step, while Geankoplis’ teammate Essence Barton took first for Pro Women.

Ahh, that sound of stoke. What a sweet start to the season!

Rider check-in.

CES crew member Josh Baker demonstrates to racers how to use the timing chip.

Fueling up for the day.

Big sweeping turns are a hallmark of this course.

Pro Men champ Evan Geankoplis pinned on Stage 5.

Cory Sullivan in full slay mode. He ended the day in Pro Men second place.

Pro Men third place finisher Paul Serra taking on his final stage — the long and narrow Pipeline Trail.

Last year's Toro Enduro champ James Eves back in fine race form after being sidelined due to an injury at EWS Chile practice in March. He wound up in fourth place at the end of the day.

CES Ambassor Matt Guntert took this fierce determination and focus all the way to fifth place on the Pro Men podium.

Essence Barton won all five stages, taking the Pro Women top step on the day.

Local pro Brianne Spiersch giving it all she's got coming in to the finish of her final stage. Spiersch took second place overall.

Caroline Jarolimek shredding hard in her fun Shredly's. She rode strong and fast all the way to Pro Women third place.

Zephyr Sylvester was calm, cool and collected as she railed her way to fourth place on the Pro Women podium.

Heidi Kanayan made short work of a fast, challenging course and took fifth place Pro Women.

A peek through the oaks at the flowy singletrack Toro is known for.

Toro Park is known for its cows, too. And they wound up on course. Just ask Brianne Spiersch ...

Brian Butler pinned on Pipeline. He went on to take first in Master Pro Men 40+.

Erik Szayna came in first place Junior Pro Men U21.

Daniel Reynolds took first place in Expert Boys U18.

This father/son tandem team — Gabriel and Jeffrey Jantos — raced all five stages!

An impressive thirty Sport Boys 12-15 showed up to race. William Jackson races on the Scotts Valley Cycle Sport enduro team.

Beginner racer Kim Rafter looks confident and focused. Sixteen women showed up to race in the beginner category at this venue that is well known for offering a confidence-inspiring transition into racing.

Foot out flat out.

Toro Enduro race director and CCCX founder Keith DeFiebre took first in his category of Expert Men 50+. He says, "what a great way to start the season... California Enduro Series race #1! It was amazing because we got this rain overnight and it was sprinkling in the morning, so the course turned from loose, dry sand to tacky, grippy dirt. Perfect for railing those turns. I’m just as happy as can be that everyone seemed to have a fun time."

Pro rider Brian Astell has teamed up with CES again this year to offer FREE skills coaching and course previews. Brian will lead group pre-rides of each course and help racers out with line selection and riding technique, and will also advise on training, nutrition and fitness. These are free sessions courtesy of TrailWorks and CES.

Pro Men Stage Summaries and Podium

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2018 Toro Enduro Pro Men champion Evan Geankoplis started out strong on the first Pro/Expert run of the day, the loose-cornered, sprint-y, warp-speed Course 3. Geankoplis finished the stage with a time of 2:41.6, followed by Cory Sullivan at 2:42.7. Matt Guntert, Ian Massey and Ryan Gorman came in at 2:43.0, 2:43.1 and 2:45.3 respectively.

Geankoplis also took the second stage of the day — fast and flowy Course 4 — with a time of 2:11.8. Sullivan followed at 2:13.5 with Guntert just .01 second behind him. Massey came in at 2:14.5, and James Eves rounded out the top five stage winners at 2:16.0.

Coming in to the third stage — Course 1 — Geankoplis, Sullivan, Guntert, Massey and Paul Serra were standing in the top five spots respectively. Serra shook things up a bit by narrowly taking this stage over Geankoplis (2:38.8 and 2:39.3 respectively), with Ryan Gorman coming in behind them at 2:41.5, Guntert at 2:42.7 and Sullivan falling back to fifth on the stage at 2:44.8.

After three stages, the ranking was Geankoplis, Guntert, Sullivan, Serra and Massey. Guntert, however, took his first stage win on Course 2 with a time of 4:29.6, while Serra came in second at 4:31.2 and Sullivan third at 4:32.9. Geankoplis lost some of his lead coming in at fourth at 4:33.6 and Massey rounded out the top five stage finishers with 4:36.5.

Coming into the final stage of the day, Geankoplis was standing in first (12:06.3) by two and a half seconds over Guntert (12:08.8). Serra was in third with a total time of 12:12.5, Sullivan in fourth with 12:13.8, and Massey in fifth with 12:21.2. Sullivan stepped it up for Stage 5 — the long and especially narrow Pipeline Trail — taking it by a two full seconds over the next fastest time of Steven Godman (7:31.8), and three seconds faster than Geankoplis who was third on the stage. Serra came in at fourth with 7:33.6 while Guntert slipped from second overall to fifth at 7:59.5 on this lengthy final stage.

At day's end, the Pro Men podium spotlighted Geankoplis in first place with a total time of 19:39.0, Sullivan in second with 19:43.6, Serra in third with 19:46.2, Eves in fourth with 20:04.3 and Guntert in fifth with 20:08.3.

Pro Women Stage Summaries and Podium

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2018 Toro Enduro Pro Women champion Essence Barton set the tone for her day by finishing in first place on Course 3. Barton's time of 3:05.0 was nearly ten seconds faster than the next fastest pro woman on the stage, Caroline Jarolimek. Zephyr Sylvester took the third fastest time with 3:15.8. She was followed by Lili Heim at 3:17.2 with Brianne Spiersch hot on her wheel at 3:17.9.

Barton also took the second stage of the day — on Course 4 — with a time of 2:30.3, a solid three seconds faster than Sylvester who clocked 2:35.3. Jarolimek came in third with 2:36.5, Heidi Kanayan in fourth at 2:38.6, and Lili Heim rounded out the top five at 2:39.3.

By the finish of Stage 3 (Course 1) Barton had held on to her stage win streak clocking 3:04.0. Heim took second on this stage with a time of 3:04.5, with Spiersch and Jarolimek less than a second behind her.

Stage 4 on Course 2 found Barton extending her lead even more with yet another stage win at 5:04.4 — apparently avoiding a cow on the course who chased the riders behind her — coming in nine seconds faster than second place Spiersch (5:13.3). Jarolimek took third just one second slower than Spiersch, Sylvester came in fourth at 5:15.5, and Heim came in to fifth at 5:17.5.

Going into the final stage of the day, Barton held a commanding lead with a total time for four stages at 13:43.7. Jarolimek was in second at 14:11.1, with Sylvester in hot pursuit in third at 14:14.4. Heim stood at fourth with 14:18.5, while Spiersch was in fifth with a total of 14:19.9. The most challenging run of the day, Stage 5 could easily change everything ... and it did. Although Barton took the stage win yet again (making it a perfect race for her, winning every stage), Spiersch made up a lot of time, coming in just three and a half seconds behind Barton and a solid ten and a half seconds faster than Sylvester who came in third at 9:10.7. Jarolimek took fourth on the stage with 9:11.5 while Kanayan rounded out the top five with 9:13.9.

In the end, Barton took the first win of the season with a total time of 22:40.3, with Spiersch moving up to second place at 23:20.2, Jarolimek in third at 23:22.6, Sylvester in fourth at 23:25.1 and Kanayan on the final podium step at 23:43.3.

View full race results here.

Words by Michele Charboneau
Photos by Kasey Carames


Next up: Round 2 June 16 – the Mammoth Bar Enduro at Auburn State Recreation Area and Mammoth Bar OHV in Auburn, produced by The Hub Roseville and Total Body Fitness.

About California Enduro Series
CES is a for riders, by riders non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting world-class enduro events that everyone from amateur to pro can enjoy, at a geographically diverse range of venues.

The series is grateful for the support of the following sponsors:
FOX, CLIF Bar, Specialized Bicycles, Dynaplug, WTB, Kenda Tires, Kali Protectives, Cranked Naturals, Michael David Winery, Voler Apparel, Adventure Sports Journal, ESI Grips, Gamut USA, Zodiac Lights.

Check out the 2018 schedule and learn more about the series at californiaenduroseries.com

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