Santa Cruz Super Enduro


By Andrew Juiliano

Aug. 8, 2013—Redwood covered ridges rise from the fog hanging over the Monterey Bay, and atop the Coast Range sits Soquel Demonstration Forest, mountain-bike mecca and site of the 2013 Santa Cruz Super Enduro (Oct. 11-13).

Last year’s inaugural event drew competitors from across the West to the smorgasbord of trails beneath the redwood canopies of the Santa Cruz Mountains. This year will be way bigger.

Event director Steven Gemelos says he hopes the final venue of the five-race California Enduro Series will offer riders a great sampling of Santa Cruz County trails and local mountain bike culture.

“We want to showcase the world-class riding opportunities in Demo Forest,” Gemelos says. “I want people to go home and say, ‘That’s the best weekend I ever spent on my bike.”

What is Enduro?

Enduro is a new mountain bike race format gaining popularity in the US off-road cycling scene. The events demand a blend of cross-country fitness and downhill bike-handling skills to reward the best all-around rider.

Modeled after auto rally racing, the format combines timed “special stages” with untimed “transfer stages.” Riders pedal up the hill to the start of the tracks without the clock running. The primarily downhill sections of the course are clocked, and count towards the overall time for the event.

The lowest combination of special stage times for the entire event wins.

2013 Brings Barbeque, Beer and Pixie Bikes…Racing Too!

The inaugural Santa Cruz Super Enduro ran in conjunction with the 2012 Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival—a near-legendary annual gathering of off-road cyclists in Aptos.

For 2013, the Enduro race, organized by the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, runs independently from the Mountain Bike Fest, and features a different race route than last year’s. Instead of the 2,300-foot climb from the entrance of Nisene Marks State Park to the summit at the top of Aptos Creek Road, the course begins at the entrance to Demo Forest on the madrone-and oak-covered ridgetop of Santa Rosalia Mountain.

Though shortened, the 18-mile pro and expert course still offers 4,600 feet of climbing. The Sulphur Springs Road transfer climb averages a gradient of nearly 12 percent. The suffering of three climbs up the fireroad rewards riders with an inversly proportional fun factor on the steep single-track decent.

Organizers incorporate the Sawpit Trail in the 2013 race course, which takes riders through a swooping green tunnel of ridgeline single track before plunging down the “waterfall” section. A misplaced front tire can send riders into numerous basketball-sized chunks of sandstone and on a cascade of their own down the off-camber rock garden.

The course also incudes Braille Trail, keeping the race stages steep with rock- and root-chutes sprinkled along an overgrown logging skid trail. Flying into these rough sections off the numerous moss-covered jumps offers faster lines for the daring racer.

$80 covers the race entry fee and an additional $20 tacks on two nights of camping, three meals, beer and a movie screening. Non-racers enjoy the same weekend-long festivities for $30.

This year’s race is headquartered at Camp Loma, a former 4H Club getaway that serves as the base for registration, camping and a weekend of activities. Should the kegs, barbque and movie screening not adequetly satisfy appetites for entertainment, organizers are in discussion about a pixie bike race—an event featuring grownups on children's bikes, fueled by adult beverages.

On Sunday, trail work sessions will take place and organizers hope to put some serious volunteer hours into the new Flow Trail project along Tractor Trail. Volunteers will be rewarded for their hand calluses and dust-caked faces with beer, lunch and shuttle rides to the top of the mountain.

Past Success Fosters Growth and Partnership
The 2012 event marked the first legally sanctioned mountain bike race in Demo Forest and laid the foundation for this year’s race. CAL Fire—the land managers of Demo Forest—deemed the experiment a success. In fact, CAL Fire named the Santa Cruz Super Enduro as a “highlight” of 2012 in the agency’s annual report. Positive reaction to last year’s event prompted CAL Fire to increase the number of permitted riders from 50 in 2012 to 200 for this year’s race.

Now quadruple the size, the Super Enduro must prove that the beer-swigging, pixie-biking Enduro race scene can bring responsible recreating and enviromental stewardship to the redwood mountaintops of Santa Cruz County.

Register for the race at the Santa Cruz Super Enduro website.