The city of Portola turned out with members of city council as well as the city manager at the Clover Valley aid station on June 3, offering refreshment to riders passing by. Council member Bill Powers hands out Clif bars and water to riders, with City Manager Robert Meacher, left, directing incoming riders to the stop. Photo submitted

Thousands visit area for Gravel Grinder

Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship volunteers sell merchandise at the 2017 Lost and Found Gravel Grinder held June 2-4. From left, Barbara Hill, Kelly Keiser and Teal Stetson. Photo by Lauren Westmoreland

The 2017 Lost and Found Gravel Grinder bike race has come and gone, with thousands of attendees exploring Lake Davis and the Lost Sierra during the event.

The Gravel Grinder was held June 2 through 4, with race day June 3, and boasted 1,000 bicycle riders looping around the route designated by the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. A cloudy day gave racers a welcome break from riding in the blazing sun, according to many participants.

The longest route was 100 miles with 7,000 feet of elevation gain and was 80 percent dirt. Also available were two shorter course options, 30 miles and 60 miles.

The 100-mile route started at Lake Davis, located 15 minutes north of Portola, and took racers on a rolling tour around the lake, up into the surrounding mountains and then sent them through some of the most beautiful and empty alpine valleys California has to offer.

At the start/finish line near Lake Davis at Coot Bay, vendors such as SBTS, the Brewing Lair, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and more set up booths to cater to the racers, with many grabbing SBTS gear such as socks, tees and baseball caps.

“This is a magical event,” said Teal Stetson-Lee, a volunteer with SBTS. “There’s a good culture, a great crew, and above all a great partnership with the National Forest Service.”

The Forest Service also hosted a booth, with Mary Kliejunas and Courtney Wood sharing information about fire prevention, outdoor activities and the beauty of the Lost Sierra with interested attendees. “We are so happy to be in partnership with such a great event,” said Wood.

Mary Kliejunas, left, and Courtney Wood represent the National Forest Service with informative pamphlets, tips on fire safety and smiles for all. Photo by Lauren Westmoreland

The event was timed professionally by Synergy Race Timing, with Eric and Jennifer Bauer behind the table marking times for each rider. “We have been a part of this event since its inception,” said Eric Bauer. “It’s a great event and a beautiful setting.”

The Plumas Amateur Radio Club also attended, providing “net control,” as local ham operator Zach Revene called it.

“We are a part of the chain of command for incident control. We are here in conjunction with Beckwourth FD, Graeagle FD, Portola Volunteer Fire Department, as well as Eastern Plumas Healthcare  first responders to assist with communication and control of any incidents that may occur that has to do with safety during the event,” PARC member Larry Trotter added.

As Trotter described the ham radio communications process, a call came in regarding a rider that had made a wrong turn near the Clover Valley aid station, and efforts to find the lost rider began. There were a few such incidents over the course of the race weekend, but according to Trotter, nothing too serious.

The city of Portola participated in the event, with council members and City Manager Robert Meacher assisting riders at the Clover Valley aid station as they came through, desperately in need of an energy-packed snack such as sponsor-donated Clif bars, and some rehydration.

“It was a wonderful time,” said mayor pro-tem Pat Morton, who was at the aid station. “I really enjoyed meeting the riders and finding out that they were attending from all over the place.”

Many riders elected to stay and play at higher elevations during the weekend, with some trickling into Portola to attend the barbecue at the City Park on the evening of June 3, where Portola Volunteer Fire Department crews grilled burgers and hot dogs over an open flame and the Eastern Plumas Chamber of Commerce sold alcoholic beverages.

Some also elected to grab a quick pancake breakfast from Portola Fire at the park on the morning of June 4, with the multitude of riders and attendees attempting to hit the road home as early as possible, as many riders came from as far away as Oregon and beyond.

With no shortage of talent and athleticism on display, Katerina Nash took first place in the Pro Women category, with Carl Decker repeating his 2016 victory for first in Pro Men.

The race exposed the riders and spectators to the beauty of the Lost Sierra, with many attendees planning on returning for the next event. The Lost and Found Gravel Grinder is one of three races in the Lost Sierra Triple Crown series. The next race in the series is the Downieville Classic on Aug. 5, and the Grinduro in Quincy on Oct. 7, with the ultimate winner receiving a metal crown.

“After a few friends took on the challenge of doing all three events last year, we thought it would be really fun to make the Lost Sierra Triple Crown an official event,” said Greg Williams, executive director of  SBTS. “We believe the Triple Crown will be the ultimate test of a true backcountry rider, because if you’ve ever ridden in the Lost Sierra or done one of our events, you know that there’s no hiding; you have to be super fit and extremely skilled to prevail.”

For those that may be interested in participating in the remaining two races, visit lostandfoundbikeride.com. The site also provides a full listing of riders, times and the many sponsors that come together to put on this event annually.