2019 season kick off takes racers on a new adventure

By Essence Florie

Ensenada Enduro

Florie charging the course’s steep, loose, rocky terrain. Photo: Kasey Carames.

Ever since I was a little girl I had a heart for Mexico and learning Spanish, but never did I think I would get the chance to race there. I was beyond excited when the California Enduro Series announced that they would be having their series kick off in Ensenada at the Horsepower Ranch. I was excited not only because this race was close to my southern California home but because this race was going to be a completely new adventure, in a new country, with trails I’ve never ridden before.

While some of the other pros got the chance to go down to Ensenada to pre-ride the course before race weekend, I unfortunately wasn’t able to. It made me really nervous because from what I heard the trails were long and technical while the climbs were steep and exposed. I decided to not worry about it. I showed up to pre-ride and race my race in the same weekend, hoping that my legs wouldn’t be too burnt out from pre-riding the entire course the day before the race. Unfortunately, Friday was a lot more strenuous then I was expecting.

Ensenada Enduro

Heading out for a practice lap. Photo: Kasey Carames.

The stages were long and fun while the transfers definitely made sure to test your fitness with good long pedals through exposed chaparral. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous to race the next day after practicing the whole course the day before the race. The trails took a lot of energy out of you as well as the climbs even with the shuttles, but I believe that’s how Enduro should be. You shouldn’t be able to ride the whole course and be 100% the next day. You shouldn’t be able to memorize every corner and every rock because it’s more about testing a riders natural ability to make it through a long technical ride after pedaling up a good climb.
Ensenada Enduro

Getting ready to shuttle the race. Photo: Kasey Carames.

After a lot of good tacos and a good nights sleep, it was finally race day. We loaded up in big buses for what felt like we were all going on a school field trip with all our best friends. We were shuttled through the city and the dropped off to begin the race. Stage one was long with lots of little rocks that could easily make you clip a pedal and make you lose your groove. I got clipped twice but made sure to keep my cool because I new everyone would be struggling as I was.

We were picked up by the buses again and shuttled back up as far up the mountain as we could go. Like a mob of excited school kids, we began our strenuous climb, and at times hike-a-bike, to stage two. Stage two was even longer than stage one (which is awesome in case you’re wondering). It was very technical with some nice obstacles and rock gardens with steep consequences if you made a mistake. My hands definitely felt like they were going to fall off by the end. I was mostly just praying my hands would keep holding on to the handle bars till the end.

All focus and determination. Photo: Aldo Linares/Entronke.

Stage three was incredibly fun and flow with lots of big flowing rocks and fast flowing corners that allowed you to interact with locals since it flowed down closer to the city. Nothing gets me more pumped then having kids watch and yell “dale dale!” as you race down their local mountains. [This stage was later eliminated from the race as locals were clearing vegetation with fire nearby and eventually it became too dangerous to continue running the stage. —Ed.]

Stage four was short and sweet with a fun fast top and a steep loose shoot at the bottom that made you stay on your toes all the way to the end of the race.

Out of all the stages, I would have to say that my favorite run was stage two. It was my favorite because it was long and technical, and went through so many types of riding in just one stage. My conversation to myself during my race run went a little something like this: “Don’t die, don’t die, let off the breaks, slow for this sharp corner, man I love this (feeling peace for a moment) … okay, wait … focus, don’t die.”

Ensenada Enduro

Poolside post-race with friends. Photo: Kasey Carames.

When the race was finally over, I wasn’t the only one who was perfectly content with exhaustion, the way it should be after a good long race. I went with the rest of the ladies to chip in at the CES tent and found out that I had won. I was shocked! Earlier, when I saw that Kathy Pruitt was at the race I literally said to myself, “Well, I’m getting my butt kicked this weekend.” Kathy has been one of my role models in biking since I was a little girl going to the World Championship Mountain Bike races in Canberra Australia in 2009. Of course then I was strictly a cross country racer, but even then there wasn’t ever a thought in my mind that one day I might actually be as fast as her, let alone be able to beat her. I was honored and humbled to be sharing the podium with Kathy, along with all the other fast ladies there this weekend.

Although there weren’t a lot of pro ladies at this race, I was incredibly proud of all the women who did come. I hope that we women of mountain biking can continue to encourage the young ladies to get out on their bikes and try something new, challenging, and scary so that they can realize that they are strong enough to overcome even the most challenging of obstacles.

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Florie on the top step of the pro women podium. Kathy Pruitt in second place, Rachel Strait in third, and Becky Gardner in fourth. Photo: Kasey Carames.

Ensenada Enduro

Pro Men podium. Marco Osborne in first place, Matthew Koen in second, Mike Lee in third, Stan Jorgensen in fourth, and Ryan Gardner in fifth. Photo: Kasey Carames.

I absolutely loved Horsepower Ranch as a race venue for CES. I think it might have been their best venue yet. It was definitely my favorite so far out of all the venues I’ve been to. It felt big enough to hold all the racers but was also intimate enough to create a fun and inviting community or racers by drawing them to the pool and taco stand.

I must confess that I’m tempted to race all the races down in Mexico now!

Ensenada Enduro

View of Ensenada and the ocean from the course. Photo: Kasey Carames.

Ensenada Enduro

Florie and her fellow racers enjoyed the laid back vibe at Horsepower Ranch. Photo: Kasey Carames.

Navigating the narrow, steep singletrack. Photo: Aldo Linares/Entronke.

Ensenada Enduro

Horsepower Ranch is a coastal oasis. Photo: Kasey Carames.

Ensenada Enduro

Event organizers Chuvy Franco (Enduro Norte), Steve Gemelos (CES), Lou Mollineda (Ensenada Bike Fest), and Majli Ruiz (Enduro Norte) show off the unique event t-shirt featuring custom artwork by local artist Lizett Galvan. Photo: Kasey Carames.

Essence Florie did her first pro enduro race at the 2016 China Peak Enduro, a stop on the California Enduro Series China Peak schedule. It was love at first race. She immediately felt that enduro was the perfect sport for her, combining both her fitness and technical downhill riding abilities. She began officially racing pro the year after in 2017 focusing mainly on CES. In addition to racing, Florie is also a dancer, choreographer, teacher, has her Bachelors in Exercise Science, and Masters in Education.

Florie is grateful for the team support she has received from Ibis in the 2018 racing season and is grateful for their continued support into the 2019 season. She is also sponsored by Fox, DVO suspension, G-Form, Kenda, Industry nine, Langtown Racing, and Praxxis. Photo: Ian Hylands.