Max Gerston had never ridden the Tecate Enduro before, but you never would have guessed that by the way he rode at the iconic and popular 2023 Los Ancianos Tecate Enduro off-road race. Gerston never let up on the relentless three loops of Tecate single-track trail and took the win at the 2023 event with more than seven minutes to spare.
Words and Photography by Mary Rinell
The annual Tecate Enduro, hosted by the Los Ancianos Motorcycle Club, made its annual trek to the Rancho Santa Veronica compound in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, and more than 300 participants enjoyed some of the best single-track conditions the race has seen in its 60-plus years, mainly due to heavy rain days earlier in the week that made the course ideal. The Los Ancianos Vice President Matteo Paxson said it’s usually only once every five to seven years the location receives this sort of rainfall, so to have it happen two days prior to the race was tremendously fortunate.
The result was chocolate dirt come race day. To call it “hero dirt” would not be an understatement. These are the types of conditions racers dream about. Three loops covered a total 86 miles, with the third loop offering the most technical and demanding sections. Pro riders finished in a little over four hours, but to put a better perspective on the level of difficulty, average seat time for the A/B-only event was just over six hours. A total of 167 riders completed all three loops while the last man standing came in at just under nine hours.
The Tecate Enduro lineup saw some new names in the Pro class this year, with Arizona natives Max Gerston and Ryan Wells showing up to try their hand on the Northern Baja terrain. Adding to that was GasGas Factory racer Giacomo Redondi, who typically races very different formats and landscapes at the National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) and West Hare Scrambles (WHS).
“It’s always good to try something new,” Redondi said at the halfway point. “I’ve heard this race has some difficulty, and that is what I am here for. The first two loops have been very windy and fast, so I am looking forward to some more technical track in loop three.”
Fortunately for Redondi, that is exactly what the test provided. Test number three launched them into upright stacked tires, a rusty car jump, some muddy water-logged berms, flat tires, and then shot them out back into the tight manzanita-lined Mexican hills. There were 30 more miles of hill climbs riddled with slick rocks from the recent rain and technical rock features, including huge boulders the racers had to maneuver their bikes through. Towards the end of the course (once the riders were good and tired), they had to enter a dilapidated, roofless building, making their way up groups of steps, through doorways and hairpin turns, only to drop down yet another narrow and fairly steep decline before opening back up again for the final mile to the finish line.
After an impressive four hours of seat time, the newcomer Gerston, owner of Max Off-Road Training, was the first to finish this year’s Tecate Enduro, leading by a respectable 07:07.
“My plan was to ride smooth, pace myself properly, minimize mistakes, learn the terrain quickly since I’ve never been here before, and build throughout the day,” Gerston said. “One thing about this race is that because of the long tests, it is fatiguing on your body, but it is also mentally fatiguing. So, being able to stay focused for long periods of time is valuable. I just rode my own race. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own head and think about all the good racers that are here. So instead, I just focused on the next turn, then the one after that, and kept that mentality going throughout the day.”
Only 35 seconds separated second-place finisher JCR Honda’s Preston Campbell from Redondi in third-place aboard his factory GasGas. Preston is a familiar face at Tecate, as both he and his dad, Johnny, have raced Tecate in years past. He narrowly claimed runner-up honors.
“The Tecate Enduro is one of my favorite events, and it is always nice to end the year off down in Baja for some fun!” Campbell said. “The conditions were absolutely perfect, and the dirt was amazing, full traction. The race was long and technical, so I planned accordingly. I tried to ride smooth and not make any mistakes. At the end of the day, I felt like I did that well. Test three, I struggled a little bit but was able to push to the end. I’m pumped on my second-place finish.”
On the flip side, any midpack racer offered a much different race report than the pros, as the soft dirt continued to get dug out from the hundreds of bikes attempting to make their way up canyons and through rocky washes. Casual banter around the post-race taco tables offered the general consensus that loop three was extremely gnarly, with the two most challenging sections being what the Los Ancianos had named “Skid Plate” and “Stone Hedge.”
Senior-class racer Eric Schettler said, “Skid Plate was this huge canyon we went up that was basically a wash which had lots of vegetation and boulders. We traversed the creek a few times, running into these very rocky step-ups that had gotten dug out with huge holes from the bikes trying to get up them. But generally, the third loop had technical rock features, like giant slabs you’d ride across that had wet dirt drug across them, so the normally grippy granite was now very slick.”
“My favorite loop for sure was loop three,” winner Gerston said. “It was gnarly, it was rocky, it was like an old-school enduro. There were big rocky canyons that we went up, and then it had some technical feature-based obstacles up through the rocky hills. It just kept you guessing and kept you learning and figuring it out the whole time. I was never just like, ‘I’m riding and it’s easy,’ you were always problem-solving, so naturally, I liked that challenge a lot.”
The top-finishing non-pro rider was Albaro Ortiz who was ninth overall in the Open class.
The top Vet racer was William Zak, who rounded out the top 10 overall.
Clint Bornholdt won the Senior division, while Ira Vick nailed the Super Senior victory.
Brad Rosbach took the two-loop Sportsman victory by approximately 30 seconds over class runner-up Jake Gage.
Reed Haberer captured the Masters-class win and Emma Keiser brought home the number-one trophy in the Women’s class.
Former NBA player Rik Smits was another notable entry, and at seven-feet four-inches, he was hard to miss. He and his son Derrik made the trek from Arizona to compete in their first Tecate Enduro. Smits finished a respectable 86th overall, eighth in the Super Senior class. Derrik was 107th overall and 41st in the Open class. CN
OVERALL (Top 10)
- Max Gertson (GasGas)
- Preston Campbell (Honda)
- Giacomo Redondi (GasGas)
- Ryan Wells (KTM)
- Brandon Prieto (Honda)
- Ryan Surratt (Honda)
- Clayton Hengeveld (Yamaha)
- Anson Maloney (KTM)
- Albaro Ortiz (KTM)
- William Zak (Husky)