A sold out group await the “go” for the start of the annual Downieville Classic in 2019. This year's event has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns. Photo courtesy Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship

Downieville Classic attracts a dedicated crowd

It was a huge weekend in the mountains for downhill and cross-country racers the first through the fourth of August. The 24th annual Downieville Classic drew visitors to the small mountain town and swelled the population tremendously.

How huge was it, you might ask. Sold out, “The all-mountain sells out in a matter of hours,” said Patrick Cavender of Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS), the hosts of the big event. The town of Downieville completely fills up. “People love it,” said Cavender. “It’s such a unique town, it’s a special place and everyone can feel it; it’s got some magic to it.”

Athletes come from across the United States to attend the event and even spots outside such as Denmark, British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario. In the U.S., the states of Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana, Texas, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico and Idaho were represented and one rider even came from Washington, D.C.

The Downieville Classic has received notoriety being named by Outside magazine as one of the top 10 bicycle festivals. America’s Best also listed the Downieville Classic in the top 10 mountain bike races.

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It is a sweet story of how the race transitioned to give all the proceeds to benefit the development of trail systems for recreation in the surrounding mountains.

The race started before SBTS was formed as Wild Coyote Adventures Coyote Classic about 24 years ago. Yuba Expeditions Bike Shop became interested in fixing up the trails. They needed equipment to do so and someone said, “Hey, you can apply for a grant to buy a chainsaw,” and that’s how it all started. That initial effort eventually evolved into the stewardship. The effort that grew out of a little bike shop in Downieville spilled over from trail development there onto Mt. Hough.

The Downieville Classic continued to grow and sprouted another fundraiser for the trails, Grinduro.

The most recent addition is the Lost and Found race. The youngest race, the first of the three that runs in June, is primarily on existing gravel roads around Lake Davis.

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But SBTS isn’t finished yet. “We are working on fundraising to develop a Beckwourth Trail system,” said Cavender. The planning phase is already completed. Anyone interested in getting involved can find details at sierratrails.org. To see the plans already in the works for Beckwourth go to sierratrails.org/dirt-magic.

The upcoming Grinduro is sold out, but spectators and volunteers can still get in on the action by going to Grinduro.com/California. The race takes place Saturday, Sept. 28, and is centered out of Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds in Quincy.

“The community is welcome to join in the fun at the fairgrounds and there will be live music on Saturday night,” said Cavender. Folks will start to arrive at the bike extravaganza festival Thursday, Sept. 26.

“Our mission is focused on creating and supporting mountain communities through the race,” said Cavender. “The idea is to bring people from the outside into the mountain communities.”

Mountain bike riders are not the only ones coming; hikers and other recreational travelers are recognizing our mountain beauty, too. “We use local vendors, we try to use as many locals as possible,” said Cavender.

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People are drawn to the area for bike events like Downieville Classic, Lost and Found and Grinduro. They are introduced to the trails during the festival, but then they come back later on their own for the trails.

Creating a recreational economy is what SBTS seems to have in mind. Many of the visitors are coming from the San Francisco Bay Area. “A lot of people have gone to Tahoe but when they come to the Plumas and Sierra mountains they experience what they are really looking for when they come to the mountains,” said Cavender. “There is so much to explore and find. People really love the mountain flavor up here, they really love the whole energy up here.” Well here’s to prosperity.

How huge was it?

Cross Country (Day one)

62 Pro men

17 Pro women

29 Expert Junior men 13-18

57 Expert men 30-

140 Expert men 31-40

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109 Expert men 41-50

44 Expert men 51-60

10 Expert men 61+

8 Expert junior women 13-18

9 Expert women 30-

22 Expert women 31-40

7 Expert women 41-50

1 Expert woman 51+

27 Single speed open

23 Sport junior men 13-18

29 Sport men 30

70 Sport men 31-40

56 Sport men 41-50

24 Sport men 51+

8 Sport women 30-

13 Sport women 31+

17 Beginner men 30-

22 Beginner men 31-40

41 Beginner men 41+

11 Beginner women open

A total of 856 riders

197 failed to start or finish

Downhill (day two)

50 Pro men

14 Pro women

16 Expert junior men 13-18

24 Expert men 30-

81 Expert men 31-40

50 Expert men 41-50

15 Expert men 51-60

2 Expert men 61+

2 Expert junior women 13-18

7 Expert women 30-

13 Expert women 31-40

3 Expert women 41-50

12 Single speed open

A total of 289

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38 either failed to start or finish

Completed both days

50 Pro men

14 Pro women

16 Expert junior 13-18

24 Expert men 30-

79 Expert men 31-40

50 Expert men 41-50

15 Expert men 51-60

2 Expert men 61+

2 Expert junior women 13-18

7 Expert women 30-

13 Expert women 31-40

3 Expert women 41-50

12 Single Speed open

Grand total of 287