Editor’s note: This post was written by Clint Classen. All photos are courtesy Mother Lode Epic/Scott Williams. You can see a huge gallery of images here. For complete race results head to timeyourrace.com. To learn more about the event, visit motherlodeepic.com.
Two days before the eclipse, the inaugural Santa Cruz Bicycles Mother Lode Epic was held on trails just outside of Sacramento, California. The event brought to life a new format of cross country racing, aimed at combining a grueling XC effort with strategy and comradery. Add in the fact that it’s a point-to-point race with a shuttle to the start, and a boat transfer across Folsom Lake, and this four-stage, 32-mile race was indeed epic.
Part of the inspiration for the route was the path taken by pioneers when gold was discovered in Coloma. When they found the “Mother Lode,” their path back to the encampment at Mormon Island followed the South Fork of the American River to what is now Folsom Lake. After a shuttle from Beals Point at Folsom Lake, the race would start at Magnolia Trailhead off of Highway 49 near Coloma and make its way back to Beals Point over the 32 miles that were broken up into four equal 8-mile stages.
Stage one had the most climbing, with 1300 feet of vertical gain in 6 miles, after the first two miles of rolling singletrack sorted the riders out. The route took riders into Cronan Ranch where trails are old farm roads with big climbs and fast descents.
Stage 1 finished at the top of West Ridge in Cronan Ranch, with great views of the Sierras. After recovering at the aid station, racers started the next stage with an individual start format just a few feet down the trail. The descent from West Ridge is a high-speed roller coaster with trail crossings and water bars to scrub or boost for extra fun. Stage 2 has an overall descent of 1600 feet, with plenty of singletrack and a few kicker climbs in the middle. It took riders all the way down to the bridge at Salmon Falls Road.
Stage 3 is a favorite trail for locals, and like the two previous stages has never hosted a race. Darrington Trail, or Salmon Falls Trail as it’s commonly referred, is the most technical stage of the race. Nearly all singletrack, this trail has bluff exposure along the lake’s edge with rocky, rooty rolling terrain for 8 miles until it connects to Peninsula Campground. This stage is where the full suspension bikes shined.
Awaiting riders at the end of stage 3 was a mile-long transfer on the paved park roads, downhill to the launch ramp where two pontoon boats and three ski boats awaited them.
After the boat ride across Folsom Lake, racers tried not to cramp getting out of the boats and walking up the beach. Stage 4 was a group start by your boat load of around 15. Racers sprinted for the well-known singletrack of Granite Bay, which is flowy and fast if you know the corners. However, once riders finished weaving through the familiar race trails, the route kept going south and onto the new State Park system singletrack that stretches all the way to the finish at Beals Point. This stage sapped a number of riders, with a deceiving amount of climbing in the rolling terrain. The general comment from locals was that it’s the race that “Made Granite Bay hard!”
Beals Point was a well-received finish venue, a shaded park along the lakes edge. Racers and families gathered under the trees and went for a swim as the event concluded. Many racers collapsed on their top tubes after crossing the line. But all had smiles and a well-earned sense of accomplishment.
“I think I worked harder, sweated more, ate more dust, talked to more riders, and had more fun on a bike than I have in a long time.” – Rich Burger, second Sport 51+
“Four quick, punchy stages added up to unique experience. It kept even the most experienced racers on their toes with strategy and pacing.” – Matt Niednagel, second Expert 45+
“One of the best races I’ve done this year.” – Cody Schwartz, Pro Men winner
“People who say XC isn’t fun just aren’t doing it right.” – Tracie Nelson, second Pro Women
1st – Cody Schwartz – Cycling Development / Scott USA
2nd – Ron Shevock – Folsom Bike / POC / Kappius
3rd – Kell McKenzie – King Kog
1st – Julie Baker
2nd – Tracie Nelson – Arts Cyclery
3rd – Sara Heuston – Roseville Cyclery
1st – Jeff Scott – Data Driven Athlete
2nd – Adam Koch – Kinetic Cycles
3rd – Joe Mckeen – Chainbreakers Cycling
Like Mountain bikes for sale, visit here.