The China Peak Enduro kicked off the 2021 California Enduro Series (CES) season this past weekend on Saturday, June 26 at China Peak Mountain Resort in Lakeshore. Already heralded as a racer favorite since its debut in 2013, this year’s event — an Enduro World Series (EWS) Gold Qualifier — delivered even more challenge and fun to its intrepid participants.
Challenge-wise, conditions were undoubtedly the driest they’ve ever been. Pair parched, steep terrain with fast, furious riding, and well, that’s what an enduro racer considers massive fun.
Equally fun was seeing all the mask-free faces and finally being able to connect in a way we couldn’t last season due to the pandemic. Camaraderie was strong and the vibe festive.
The event started out as usual on Thursday evening as racers and their families and friends arrived to set up camp along the creek and in the parking lot. Accommodations were also available on-site at the Inn at China Peak.
Cool temps and a sunny sky greeted riders as they rose for practice on Friday. Riders caught up with one another on the lift queue and tested out their lines on course as the day heated up. A dip in the creek was the perfect way to cool off after a long day under a hot sun.
Then before we knew it, the day we’ve all been waiting for — Round 1 of the 2021 season — was upon us. Race day (Saturday) served up more heat which naturally amped up the challenge, but the stoke was high and riders happily tore into the primitive, burly course.
Depending on their category, riders took on 20-25 miles of riding with 2,500-3,500 feet of elevation gain/loss over the course of the day. Beginner, Sport, Sport eMTB, and Tandem racers started their day with a climb to the top of stage 1; Beginners would go on to race stages 1, 2, 3 in that order, while Sport riders raced 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Specialized rider Cody Kelly would go on to win Pro Men
Meanwhile, Expert, Pro, and Open eMTB riders caught a lift to their first run of the day, Stage 3. They had five stages to put down, racing them in this order: 3, 1, 2, 5 and 4.
Stage 1 rewarded riders for their climbing fortitude with a super fast rip through the trees on loamy terrain and finished with a pedally transfer over to Stage 2. Stage 2 was all about fast, tight cornering. The loose, rocky bottom of this track zig zags down the hillside; think: racing inside a pinball machine … through chunky, rogue rocks and moondust.
Stage 3, accessed by chairlift, was the longest run on the course, extending from mountain top to bottom on China Peak’s illustrious “Gnarly” trail. This stage demanded excellent technical skills along with solid endurance. From a rocky start, a sprinting middle, challenging rock gardens, and a full-on sprint finish, racers were kept on their toes. This highly technical and physical stage was designated as this season’s all-new FOX Queen Stage, in which the racer from each category with the fastest time gets bonus points toward their overall ranking. This stage finished off the day for Beginner riders.
Stage 4 was also accessed by a lift transfer and kicked off on duffy exposed switchbacks littered with loose rocks. It then segued into a high speed middle section to let loose on and finished off with long rock slab chutes. This stage capped off the race for Sport Riders.
. Essence Florie on her way to winning the Pro Women
Stage 5 gave Expert, Pro and eMTB Open riders an extra helping of spice in between Stages 3 and 4. An extensive pedal to the start gave riders plenty of time to consider their strategy for this especially intense and daunting stage. An exceptionally tricky start set the tone for the gnar to come. Primitive and steep, this track challenged riders with its awkward turns, beefy drops, chunky corners, and rocky chutes.
Post-race, riders enjoyed food, bevos and a creek cool-off while waiting for results and the awards ceremony. Happy, dirty faces spoke to yet another amazing experience at China Peak. Racing bikes and hanging with friends … welcome back enduro season!
Pro Men Top Five
Pro Women Top Five
Sending it 'til we meet again in Shasta!
View results and podium shots for all categories here.
Next up: Round 2: Mt. Shasta Enduro, July 10-11, 2021 – two days of racing the southern slope of the iconic Mount Shasta at Mt. Shasta Ski Park in McCloud, CA.
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. Full CES schedule at californiaenduroseries.com.
CES is made possible by the generous sponsorship of industry and community businesses.
The series is grateful for the continued support of title sponsor Specialized, official suspension sponsor FOX, Race Face, SANS, WTB, Voler, Cranked Naturals, Michael David Winery, User Testing, Galfer USA, Adventure Sports Journal, Intense, Zodiac Lights and GÜP.
If you’d like to get involved and be part of CES’ exciting 2021 season, send an email to [email protected]
Learn more at californiaenduroseries.com.
Words by Michele Lamelin / Photos by Bixxel