High Sierra race venue continues to shine as crowd favorite
Words by Liam Ruff • Photos by Called To Creation • Video by Mitchell Nuyens and Sebastian Bauer
For the past several years the China Peak Mountain Resort has been the location for technical riding, good times, and one of the most anticipated races of the California Enduro Series.
This year the loose and chunky terrain of China Peak was the perfect way to start off the CES Golden Tour, three races that offer demanding riding and increased payouts to professional riders and greater media coverage. Boasting swimming holes, beautiful high Sierra scenery, and a unique remote atmosphere, the China Peak VP EnduroFest again proved itself as a very special event and one of the best enduro races in the state.
The trails of China Peak are some of the most exciting and challenging of the CES lineup and are a crowd favorite every year, offering a rugged backcountry singletrack experience coupled with the convenience of a chair lift and the excitement of competitive racing. Riders competed on three different stages with pro, open, and expert riders racing an additional fourth stage. All of the stages featured seriously loose dirt, blown out corners, and challenging rock gardens that embody the unforgiving terrain of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
After a day of pre-riding with the use of chairlifts on Friday, racers started race day with a solid climb to the top of the mountain for stage one. Stage one began with a series of loose and challenging corners that opened up into faster singletrack and a long fireroad section bringing riders flying into a rocky section of trail and a set of tricky sweeping corners at warp speed. The remainder of stage one featured tight blown out corners and just enough rocks to keep riders on their toes.
After stage one it was just a short climb to stage two which brought racers back down to the main lodge area. Stage two started with several fast and loose corners, then got rockier with a handful of tight technical corners that challenged riders to maintain speed. To finish stage two racers had to negotiate one of the most challenging sections of the course, a long set of extremely tight switchbacks that left all but the most skilled riders questioning their cornering prowess. At the bottom of stage two competitors were gladly transported back to the top of China Peak by chairlift where they started the longest and arguably the most demanding stage of the day.
Stage three brought riders from the top of the mountain to the bottom going through burly rock infested terrain, pulverized corners, a handful of painful full gas pedal sections, and the TRP Brake Zone which was located in the infamous “Gnarly Rock Garden” – always one of the most exciting aspects of racing at China Peak.
After finishing the physically and technically challenging stage three, some riders successfully completed their day of racing but pro, open, and expert riders continued on to stage four. After climbing one last time to the top of China Peak at 8,700 feet in elevation above sea level and battling a brutal 90 degrees in temperature, riders were ready to finish their day of racing with one last rough and rowdy stage. Stage four challenged racers with a flat sprint out of the gate and then nothing but solid technical riding to the bottom with steep granite faces, rock gardens, as well as loose and blown switchback corners.
Post race, riders enjoyed a recovery session at the swimming hole and more good times including a pasta dinner and the award ceremony. In the Pro Women’s category Rachel Throop finished fifth, Janea Perry finished fourth, Jackie Swider finished third, Amy Morrison finished second, and Kathy Pruitt finished first. In the Pro Men’s field Derek Teel came in fifth, Evan Turpen came in fourth, Ryan Gardener came in third, Evan Geankopolis came in second, and Brian Lopes took the win.
Learn more about the CES Golden Tour in our article by Lauren Gregg: Triple Crown Summer.
Liam Ruff is a semi-pro enduro and cross-country mountain bike racer in Northern California who has a deep passion for bikes and the outdoors.