The 2nd annual Santa Cruz Bicycles Mother Lode Epic was held this past weekend on trails just outside of Folsom, CA. Inspired by the path taken by pioneers when gold was discovered in Coloma, CA, the route features four eight-mile stages following the South Fork of the American River from Coloma to Folsom Lake. Where riders hop on a boat to the other side before finishing the last stage and ending near Folsom. This year, the course also featured three special sections where riders could earn a chance to win special prizes: The “Shimano Speed Trap” on stage two, and a “Reserve Rock Garden” on stages three and four.
After riders completed stage one, which covered 1300ft of vertical gain in eight miles, the route took riders into Cronan Ranch, where Stage 2 presented the Shimano Speed Trap. Riders started this stage in fifteen-second intervals, giving them the chance to let it all go coming down the West Ridge Trail where organizers had a Lidar gun-tracking their speed. Joey Smith (Mikes Bikes) was the fastest male at 36mph and Stacy Gillis (Eliel Factory Team) was the fastest female at 30mph. Each of them won a brand new set of Shimano XT brakes because clearly, they need them!
Stage two was a 1600ft overall descent down to where the South Fork American River becomes Folsom Lake at Salmon Falls Road. With high-speed descents and plenty of singletrack, it’s a favorite stage for some. The final downhill is fast and rocky with great views of the river opening up into the lake before riders reach the midway point. At this point, riders are 16 miles deep and have the chance to recover at the first fully stocked aid station. Some riders made the choice to go jump in the river and get a proper cooling off since temps were into the 90’s by late morning.
Stage 3 featured the first “Reserve Rock Garden.” Riders who clean this tricky section of the rocky climb that opens the stage earned their spot in a special drawing for a set of Santa Cruz Reserve carbon wheels. After clearing this section they’re out for eight miles of Stage three which is a favorite trail for locals. Darrington Trail, or Salmon Falls Trail as its 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 until it connects to Peninsula Campground. A skilled rider can pull back a lot of time at this stage but pushing too hard can bite. Some riders flatted on the sharp rocks or ended up sitting on the side of the trail, cramped on the final climb.
Awaiting riders at the end of stage three was a mile long transfer on the paved park roads, downhill to the launch ramp where an aid station oasis awaited on the beach. Operated by the Sloppy Moose Running Club, this aid station is a life saver for many. With bacon-wrapped pickles, electrolyte snow cones, margaritas and a DJ spinning vinyl this spot is hard to leave. To leave, however, means your bike goes on a boat and you jump on a ski boat for the one mile trip across Folsom Lake.
With two Fox Transfer dropper seatposts up for grabs, riders were encouraged to make the most of their transfer. Many took the tow rope for a pull on the wakeboard, but one participant was the standout as he SWAM the one-mile lake transfer after already racing for twenty-four miles!
Stage four featured the flowing trails on the Granite Bay side of the lake. They’re familiar to many, but at this point in the race, riders notice the deceiving amount of climbing on the gently rolling hills.
Riders were also faced with the second “Reserve Rock Garden” towards the beginning of the stage. This one had a faster run-in, but the top fifteen feet was the trickiest and caught many riders off balance.
Once riders made it to the finish, fresh made pizza and beer from Mraz Brewing Company were welcome sights. Riders sprawled out on the shaded grass and swapped stories of their epic day. With the stage format of the race, the riders who finish early aren’t necessarily the fastest. Quite a few played a “rest long and recover” strategy in between stages and recorded strong times on the last stage.
While results were still pending, stage winners were recognized as well as the Shimano Speed Trap and Reserve Rock Garden winners. Also up for grabs to riders who completed all four stages was a Fox 34 Step-Cast fork.
“It’s hard to make a long mountain bike race fun but Clipped In Races, sponsors and volunteers did it right and made a long hot race as fun as possible. SW Photography did a great job running all over the gold country capturing the race. – Mike Lyster – 4th place Sport 41-44.
“Great event, super challenging and fun. Super Pro event planning and execution.” – Justin Chappell – Fox Transfer winner.
“What a race! All smiles here at the beginning, but the heat was punishing, and I wanted to get a ride home after Stage 1. I pushed on, but in survival mode to keep cramps and chills to a minimum. Running a 32/19 allowed me to ride conservative enough to not fall apart. That and pickle juice. Nabbed 2nd SS in the end. Kudos to all who raced, and especially to [Clipped In Races] and all their crew for another “Epic” event.” – Adam Koch – 2nd SS
“Pretty cool XC Enduro format race. Shuttle to start. 4 stages one boat ride pizza and beer.” – Osvaldo Olmos – Pro Men Winner
1st – Osvaldo Olmos – SRAM
2nd – Landon Farnworth – Cycling Development / Scott
3rd – Mark Gibson – ACME Bikes, San Rafael
Expert Men 18-
1st – Kurt Mallari – Folsom Bulldog Cycling
2nd – Logan Macarthy – Chico Cycling Team p/b Amain Cycling
3rd – James Karr
1st – Kell McKenzie – King Kog
2nd – Adam Koch – Kinetic Cycles
3rd – DC Hays – Kinetic Cycles
1st – Libby Conlin – Kinetic Cycles
Expert Men 19-34
1st – Chaz Halbert – Phoenix Cycling Systems
2nd – Eric Stocker
3rd – Chris Stehula – Boost Swimming
Expert Men 35-40
1st – Samuel Guzman – Rhythm Racing / Mraz Brewing
2nd – Joe Gulden – Team Roaring Mouse
3rd – Chad Arkoff – Team Roaring Mouse
Expert Men 41-44
1st – Eric Hill
2nd – Steve Shigemoto – Chain Breakers Cycling / Folsom Cyclery
3rd – Jeffery Stillwell – Rhythm Racing / Mraz Brewing
Expert Men 45-50
1st – Matt Miednagel – Team Mateodor
2nd – Mark Ferry – Cycling Development
3rd – Chris Maier – Mike The Poolman
Expert Men 51+
1st – KuDave Desrosiers – Leadout Racing
2nd – Rod Halbert – Phoenix Cycling Systems
3rd – Brian Joder – Bicycling Events – River Rat
Expert Men 19-34
1st – Ashley Albor
Expert Men 35+
1st – Jessie Oppenheimer
2nd – Marila Alvares – Dirt Birds
3rd – Stacy Gillis – Eliel Factory Team