This summer in Orange County, Enduro Stuff held a series of four races in the local country parks, entitle OC Parks Tour, starting at Aliso & Wood Canyons Park, then Santiago Oaks Regional Park, O’Neill Regional Park, and ending at Caspers Wilderness Park. I had not raced any other races put on by Enduro Stuff before, and they did a great job of organizing and running these events. They even held formal pre-rides for riders to come check out the course before the events. Being XC races, I was on my SS for this series.
The first race, held at Aliso Woods, was especially early in the morning on May 5th with a start time of 6:30am. Luckily for me, I live in Aliso Viejo, so the 5 minute drive to the event was the shortest drive ever for me to any race. It was chilly on the line with the sun having just crept above the horizon. The course was a lollipop layout starting with fire-road off the starting line (which was just across the street (Alicia) from the entrance to Laguna-Niguel Regional Park). The fire-road let to the Aliso trail-head bypassing main paved entrance. From there it headed directly to the bottom of Mathis via the main fire-road. Up until that point, the course was relatively flat. Mathis is a major climb ascending about 1000′ft. in 1 mile. The first 25% of the trail is the steepest, and clearing that part is the hardest section of the climb. On the SS is it quite a lung-burner. After the climb, Mathis leads to the ridge-line trail West Ridge. A quick right then and the course head down to Rock-it trail. If you cannot gather or guess from the name, there is a large rock garden in the middle of this trail which is like a big cheese grater. It starts out with nice, tight, and twisty single-track that opens up in the middle with the rock garden and then back to awesome, flowy single-track with a long straight chute out at the bottom. From the bottom of Rock-it, the course made one more loop up Mathis and down Rock-it a second time before returning toward the start/finish the we we came. If Mathis was not hard enough the first time, it surely was the second. I ended up with a 3rd place finish for this race.
I missed the second race of the series on July 14th at Santiago Oaks, as I was out of town.
The third race was held at O’Neill Regional Park on Aug 25th. I had never ridden in this park before, so I definitely took advantage of the pre-ride event to familiarize myself with the course. The course had two sections to it, an out-and-back first section to separate and thin out the riders, and then a single-track loop. Starting briefly with some single-track the course quickly led to a river-bed crossing. This section was sandy, rocky, loose and a potential hike if you lost your momentum. I wanted to be the first through this section as to not get bogged down by other riders struggle through or dismounting. Across the River began a short pavement climb to a longer mild upward pavement grade. After about 2 miles or so, we made a U-turn and jumped onto single-track that paralleled the road for the return route.
The first section of the course was pretty straight-forward and uneventful with a few switchbacks at the end, but the looping section of the course is where all the fun (good & bad) was to be had. Passing back through the starting area, the lap began up pavement for a few hundred yards before jogging left and onto single-track. A mild climb led to a quick single-track descent, with a quick turn at the bottom where too much speed could be troublesome. From there the course headed a pavement climb that was steep enough to be tough, at for me with each recurring lap on the single-speed. At the top of the pavement a double-track trail continues the upward grind. After quick descent the trail hit the steepest section and was just barely cleanable for me with only one gear. Shortly after this section the trail reaches it peak and a single-track drops off to the left. This is the major descent of the loop and it is fast, fun, and twisty. This was by far my favorite portion of the course. At the bottom it spits out to a pavement section that led generally down toward more laps or the finish line. I completed this race with a 5th place finish.
The fourth and final race of the series was held on Novemeber 3rd at Caspers Wilderness Park in the San Juan foothills. It was a chilly 43 degrees (F) upon driving up to the race venue and slowly warmed up into gorgeous racing weather. The course was simple one and consisted of a short loop and a long loop branching off of the same climb. Out of the gate the course started on pavement for a bit then headed to a left and began an undulating climb of varying grades. For the short course, a quick left down the hill over some loose dirt led quickly down to a lower rolling fire-road which headed back to the start for then next lap. The long loop passed the turn for the short loop and continued the climbing. At the top of the long loop, a FAST fire road descent lead down to the same lower road, but another mile or so out. I finished this race in 2nd place.
With three out of four races completed I ended in second place overall for the series. This series was unique in the it was held solely in local Orange County parks, and made great use of the available trails. The events had a great atmosphere and weas well enjoyed by the racers. Ron ,the head of Enduro Stuff, made sure to choose courses that were spectator friendly and fun for the racers. Post-race each event had food available and a raffle (in which I won a new light). Being a newer race series for the area the attendance was reasonable, but not overwhelming. In other words, if you have not been to or raced at one of these events, there is room for you!
Special thanks to Called to Creation, local MTB photog, for all the photos above. You can view more MTB photos from all the these races and other events as well on his site.