Santa Cruz Bicycles Mother Lode Epic race report

Unique 32-mile multi-stage format (with boat transfer)

News Race Coverage
Mother Lode Epic

Racers gathered early at the finish area, excited for what was to come.

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.

Mother Lode Epic

Mike’s Bikes sponsored the event, providing the use of their purpose-built box trucks for the morning shuttle.

Mother Lode Epic

The event was sold out, so staff packed efficiently for the 45-minute drive to the start.

Mother Lode Epic

Sam Guzman knows how to chill, waiting for the school bus shuttle to arrive.

Mother Lode Epic

School busses are used to housing nervous energy.

Mother Lode Epic

The sun rose to bikes waiting for riders at the start line near Coloma.

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.

Mother Lode Epic

The race started with five multi-category waves.

Mother Lode Epic

Sprinting into the start loop, racers speed off to the hills and 1300 feet of climbing for stage 1.

Mother Lode Epic

Out front, Ron Shevock, Cody Schwartz, and Kell McKenzie duked it out all day. With Schwartz taking the overall victory and Shevock coming in with a stage victory and second place.

Mother Lode Epic

Racers spread out on the climb of Cronan Ranch.

Mother Lode Epic

Cronan Ranch is the home to an old west movie set.

Mother Lode Epic

Stage 1 wound through the hills with views of the Sierras from the top.

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.

Mother Lode Epic

Stage 2 finished up with a fast, rocky descent down to the South Fork of the American River.

Mother Lode Epic

Neutral support was at the ready to keep bikes fresh for the next stage.

Mother Lode Epic

It was hot out there, and water was at a premium. But this aid station was stocked with plenty of fish-themed fuel courtesy of the Salmon Falls 50k Endurance Run organization.

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.

Mother Lode Epic

Stage 3 raced along the edge of Folsom Lake.

Mother Lode Epic

One of the brief points of recovery on stage 3.

Mother Lode Epic

Jim Pavlichek navigates one of the many rock gardens on stage 3.

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.

Mother Lode Epic

Another aid station with bacon wrapped pickles, Gatorade snow cones, and electrolyte margaritas greeted racers before they loaded the boats.

Mother Lode Epic

Joe Dirt was on hand to take your bike aboard his pontoon.

Mother Lode Epic

Bon Voyage!

Mother Lode Epic

The boat ride was certainly a highlight of the day for racers.

Mother Lode Epic

Bikes on board, comin’ in hot!

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!”

Mother Lode Epic

Stage 4 started with a group start by boat load, then quickly filtered into the flowing singletrack of Granite Bay.

Mother Lode Epic

Racers experienced many different terrain types in the Epic, including a sandy lakebed trail through driftwood left by the rough winter.

Mother Lode Epic

Half way through the final stage, racers were still charging hard and smiling.

Mother Lode Epic

Epic smiles for epic miles from Jill Barry.

Mother Lode Epic

Wood fired pizza and beer awaited racers at the lakeside finish.

Mother Lode Epic

Racers sharing stories and a beer.

Mother Lode Epic

Jim Pavlichek needed a nap before finishing his pizza.

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

Mother Lode Epic

As results were being tabulated, racers were treated to an unannounced giveaway of a Santa Cruz Tallboy C. Jeff Barker was beyond stoked to win.

Mother Lode Epic

The lucky winner. Anything can happen at the Epic!

Mother Lode Epic

Next year, maybe someone will use that tow line on the boat transfer?

Mother Lode Epic

It took contributions from these great sponsors and loads of effort from over 60 volunteers to make this day happen.

Final Results

Pro Men
1st – Cody Schwartz – Cycling Development / Scott USA
2nd – Ron Shevock – Folsom Bike / POC / Kappius
3rd – Kell McKenzie – King Kog

Pro Women
1st – Julie Baker
2nd – Tracie Nelson – Arts Cyclery
3rd – Sara Heuston – Roseville Cyclery

Singlespeed
1st – Jeff Scott – Data Driven Athlete
2nd – Adam Koch – Kinetic Cycles
3rd – Joe Mckeen – Chainbreakers Cycling

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Mtbr

Mtbr.com is a site by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We are the best online resource for information for mountain bikers of all abilities, ages and interests.


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