Words by Ryan Gardner @gofastgardner
The Golden Tour is a “series within a series” representing the most technical and difficult races of the California Enduro Series. The first stop of this year’s Golden Tour brought me to China Peak resort, deep within the Sierra Mountains east of Fresno, California. The terrain at China Peak has become well known over the past few years as both the California Enduro Series and the Pro GRT DH series has made stops here. The entire hill is made of granite in various stages of decay testing racers with steep, rough tracks and minimal traction in the dusty corners. This year the late winter added a new feature, mud bogs which seemed to grow exponentially from practice to race runs, dotted a few of the stages. The variable terrain made for tricky tire selection. There were a ton of Vigilantes and Breakouts roaming around, but I decided to run the full mullet with a tough/high grip vigilante up front and a tough/high grip Riddler in the rear. Pump those baby’s up to 32psi each and I felt comfortable that I could smash my way through China Peaks gnarliest rock gardens while still rolling fast enough to buy me some time on the pedally stages of the weekend.
It turned out that even a fast rolling tire like the Riddler wasn’t enough to save my legs after a tough week of work and too much sitting! After three days of meetings I got up early on Thursday, flew to Los Angeles for yet another meeting, flew home to the Oakland Airport at 9pm, hopped in the van, and made the 4-hour drive directly to China Peak. I did what I could to get my head back in the game during practice on Friday, but the pop just didn’t seem to be there. My suspicions were confirmed during the first few stages of race day. I was riding well and my Process 153 was feeling perfect, but I just couldn’t summon the power to make up time on the long pedally sections. Lucky for me China Peak kept my favorite stage from last year, a long, rocky and mostly downhill track that includes some long open sections of exposed rock slab that were riotously fun. After making up some serious time on stage 4 and crawling back into the top 5 it was time to take on the much talked about stage 5.
This stage was new for 2017, lovingly cut by hand by fellow racer Evan Turpin earlier that week. Everyone agreed this track was the hardest yet raced at any CES event. It was steep, rocky, and completely blown out by race day. I knew there was only so much you could push in the upper section which had steep chutes into tight corners filled with light fluffy decomposed granite. Even in these tough conditions the Vig/Riddler combo was doing work and allowed me to get through the anti-grip corners with good speed. I took it clean and consistent and then opened it up a bit towards the bottom and was stoked to take the second fastest time of the day and move myself up to 4th overall.
I was more than happy to take home some points and some confidence at a traditionally tough race for me. Plus, I got my first novelty check which will be proudly hung in the garage. Now it’s time to take a few weeks to tune the motor and get ready for the next race of the series as I make the move south to Big Bear Lakes in a few weeks.