If there is a good way to beat yourself up on a mountain bike, I'm in. The Downieville Classic is a perfect way to achieve that level of blown-out, dead-legged, dirt-covered, "please-get-me-a-beer" bliss. The race weekend is a perfect spot on the annual calendar that I have had the pleasure and pain of attending. I've never come back disappointed and can't wait for next year. Here's why:
The Downieville classic is staged in the rising range above the Yuba river which drove the gold mining town. Over the course of the race, terrain varies from pavement, hardpack, loose shale, boulder fields, deep cool creek crossings, loamy wooded sections and finally to ever present powdery dust. By the height of the summer + the additional pummeling by hundreds of riders the course is a giant hazard.
The road in
Intensive preparation of my bike with a fresh set of tires and pads + the rations and beer needed to sustain me through the weekend is usually a time consuming affair, but recommended as Downieville can bring out the worst in equipment. Here a picture of a fresh - and soon to be trashed - bike enroute.
I approach my stay in Downieville on race weekend with a sleeping bag and the expectation of car camping. This year I had the happy fortune of staying with the Wilderness Trail bikes crew. Legends like Mark Weir rolled through, e-bikes were rallied, barbecue was consumed in quantity, Jell-O shots were made, and bears plundered the nearby apple trees. Perfect.
From the bay area, Downieville is approximately 4 1/2 hours. Trails are ride-=able from May to November and shuttle services are recommended. Yuba Expeditions is the way to go for transit to elevation and complete shop needs.
Downieville was once a hub of gold mining activity and holds the infamous title of the only town in the US to hang a woman. Present day is it a town of 150 with a few sleepy streets, a beautiful stretch of the Yuba river, and friendly and quirky locals who thankfully embrace a 5000 person takeover of the town for a solid 5 days. Race weekend is bustling and often full of amusing debauchery but on any other weekend it is a sleepy, terrific place.
A broken collarbone 11 weeks before Downieville and mediocre training made for an interesting race. Lessons learned include always fuel sufficiently the night before, train more, train more, train more. Overall tho, any pain or bonk was well worth the descent...
Giant shout out to the fine people of Wilderness Trail Bikes, especially Heather McFadden, Bryan Collins, Clayton Wangbichler for fresh flawless tires, tacos, and Jell-o shiots. You guys are rad ad appreciate you having me over at the "Lodge"