BUILDING AN ENDURANCE SCENE

First up on the endurance race calendar in Southern California is the infamous 12 & 6 Hours of Temecula, put on by the equally infamous Jason and Heather Ranoa and their staff of SoCal Endurance.

Now in it’s 10th year of operation, this 12 hour series brings in a wide range of grass-root weekend warriors, regionally competitive racers, and legendary pros – which is one of the great aspects of this sport. There’s nothing quite like lining up next to Tinker Juarez, who regularly attends the series.

The venue is located on Vail Lake Resort in Temecula, which is a fully functioning campground with general store, water and electric hook-ups, hot showers, and of course, miles and miles of sweet, sweet single track.

RoE : Jason, we’re now entering the 10th season for the 12 Hours of Temecula, and it seems that there is no slowing down for this event. Did you ever imagine that the series would be where it is today back when you started?

Jason : I had no idea where this series would end up! When I started I knew that SoCal Needed a solid Endurance series and I wanted to put on a super fun sustaining race series. My wife and I have been racing our bikes for a long time and I wanted to make sure that this is a race series for racers, by racers! Great trails and a cool vibe. I am so excited that the 12 & 6 Hours Of Temecula has become so popular. Seeing all the smiles and accomplishments from people is awesome! When my family travels it has become a game of looking for our t-shirts on the backs of people across the States. You would be surprised where you see them. Plus the stories you hear from the racers and support crews are amazing. I love it!

There has been some talk on FaceBook about the new owners of Vail Lake and you being allowed to hold events there. Can you summarize what's happening for the future?

The new ownership at Vail Lake is awesome! I was very worried when the Water District bought the lake and surrounding property that we would be outta luck, and out of a venue. But after lots of meetings and hard work, Rancho Water has blessed us and allowed us to have our events into the future. They are very interested in extending the recreational experience and showing people a good time. Along with that, they have deeper pockets than the previous owners and are putting forth a great effort to improve the RV park and the surrounding areas. We are looking at putting in a full trail marking system and developing a map for all to use. It would include directions, difficulty levels, mileage, and overall information. The trails will be multi use and maintained. I think the relationship with the new land owners will help us maintain our use for many years to come and increase our experience at Vail Lake!

Are the land owners open to having new trails built?

New trails are a work in progress. There is a system in place to make sure the trails are built correctly and in places where they are allowed to be. Every new trail must be approved first!

Can you give us a idea of what racers can expect for 2015?

We have a ton of stuff happening for 2015. We have the new Southern California Enduro series kicking off in January. This series is in conjunction with Team Big Bear. Together we are putting on the only Enduro series in SoCal. With venues in Big Bear, Vail Lake, and more, you can expect this series to grow and expand all over SoCal. We are also incorporate a new chip timing system into all of our races. It is a very expensive high-end system with tons of capabilities. I am very excited to have this at our races. It is going to really solidify our races as the top in SoCal. As far as rules and tech changes go, we are keeping things at a minimum. There has been some category changes, and minor schematic changes. But in general nothing that will affect the racers too much.

IT'S ALL ABOUT FUN FOR JASON AND HEATHER RANOA.

Endurance races in general continue to gain in popularity. What do you feel needs to be done to keep it growing and headed in the right direction?

Well, it is hard to say. I think giving people a good product at an affordable price is the start. The most important factor is keeping a good vibe at the races. There are very few people who make a living at mountain biking. So most folks race to challenge themselves and make memories. By keeping a grassroots feel and pumping up the community attitude, it creates a great place for racers of all levels to enjoy! Just be nice and have a good time! I do think that there is room for innovation and exploration in to new styles of races in the future. I would let the cat out of the bag on some new race formats we've been working on, but that comes later when I get everything solidified. But you gotta keep things fresh. New courses and new ideas are key to longevity!

How have you seen endurance racing change over the years? 

The biggest change has been in 24 hour lap racing. It was a huge deal for a while, then it nearly died out. Now we are seeing a resurgence of 24 hour racing. The sad part is that USAC has already cancelled the 24 Hour Nationals for 2015. Basically the only endurance racing we have on a national level is MTB Marathon Nationals. But maybe that's a good thing. Put it back into the hands of the grassroots promoters who dont need USAC. Endurance racing has also swayed towards the 100 mile big loop races, which I really like. The only issue is they tend to be gravel grinder type races. Not very technical and often times on the verge not really being MTB'ing. But the are a few that really are MTB'ing and test the mettle of all racers. MTB endurance racing is on the upswing and the industry knows that the folks who support endurance racing are a very lucrative and wide array of individuals. So the industry wants to cater towards endurance events and racing. 

Not too long ago, you had riders that raced at an “endurance” pace and did well. Now it’s almost full XC pace for 12 hours. What do you think it takes to be at the top of a rider’s class?

To be at the top it takes alot more training and dedication. You can't just line up and gut it out anymore. Preparation and support are the keys to being an elite endurance racer. Even the non elite classes are getting really fast. One of our most competitive classes is the Salty Dogs. This is a 4 person category with an average age of 50. These guys are ripping, and they are coming into the race prepared and trained. I love it, because it really give you purpose and determination that you wouldn't have otherwise. It's hard to train just to stay fit. It really helps when you have purpose and a goal.

a racer in the canyon as the sun sets.

You also run SoCal Endurance teams. Tell us whats going on with those for this season.

This season we are focusing on the first rendition of the SoCal DEVO Team. It is a developmental team for hot new young racers to get training and help to transition to the next levels of racing MTB'ing. Alot of the riders are coming from the SoCal High School league. It is such a great organization and the talent coming out of the league is top notch. I just figured I'd step in and help make the kids faster and develop into elite racers. Of course fun and the love of MTB'ing is the top of the list for the SoCal DEVO Team!

We also have the SoCal Edurance Ladies Team as well. The goal for the ladies team is to encourage more women to try our sport. MTB'ing is not just a place for men. Women are excelling and enjoying racing more than ever. SoCal Endurance is here to help with that as much as possible. This year the ladies are focusing on the SoCal Endurance series and the SoCal Enduro's but they will also be travleing all over SoCal to participate in races of all types and disciplines!

Thanks Jason for all your hard work to build the series and the trails at Vail Lake. We look forward to kicking off the season at the first 12 hour race, January 31!

For a complete list of events, courses and race rules, visit the SoCal endurance website.

THE VAIL LAKE VENUE