New course and crazy weather for Grinduro
From wildfires to wild weather, Mother Nature left her mark on the fifth annual Grinduro off-road bicycling event held at the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds on Sept. 28.
Nearly 1,000 participants from around the world, including Japan, the United Kingdom and Canada, gathered in Quincy to tackle a challenging and beautiful off-road route on the slopes of Mount Hough and Grizzly Ridge.
With 8,500 vertical feet of climbing over 60 miles, this year’s Grinduro course covered a lot of new territory. The Walker Fire ignited Sept. 4, burning more than 54,000 acres, some of it in the vicinity of the original Grinduro course. Thanks to the support of the Mount Hough Ranger District of the Plumas National Forest, local event producers from the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS) were able to reroute the course only a few weeks before the event.
SBTS Executive Director Greg Williams and SBTS kindred spirit Marc Cosbey set out on their dirt bikes for a couple days to redesign the course, keeping it away from the burn area.
With four timed segments over the 60-mile course, riders could talk with each other and casually ride most of the route, only having to race during the four segments which lasted between eight and 15 minutes each.
The first segment was a short but steep climb up Mount Hough Road; the second segment was called the Pine Creek Plunge, a “face melter” downhill from Brady’s Camp toward Highway 70 on a high speed dirt road. The third segment was mixed climbing and downhill while the fourth segment, called “Smokechaser,” was named in honor of the firefighters who battled the Walker Fire and the blazing 4.25 miles of singletrack downhill from the top of Mount Hough to Rhinehart Meadow.
The last minute change was a blessing, as feedback from riders was very positive. “I like this year’s course way better,” said Quincy resident Dana Ludington. “It had more mountain riding, more rough roads and trail true to the Quincy spirit.”
Ludington has not only been a past Grinduro champion, but she is also a teacher at Quincy High School and spearheaded the formation of the middle and high school Lost Sierra Composite Mountain Bike team. Grinduro was a huge fundraiser for the team.
Students washed bikes for racers on Saturday afternoon, sold baked goods and event sponsor Giro donated proceeds from their bandana printing booth, expected to total a couple thousand dollars for the team.
The giving spirit seemed to be in the air at Grinduro, as another event sponsor, Cannondale, donated $1,400 to SBTS with proceeds from their booth over the weekend.
Mother Nature kept matters interesting on event day, mixed with rain, snow, sleet, graupel (also called soft hail or snow pellets), and even a little bit of sunshine. Because of the high speeds of Segment Two and its elevation above 7,000 feet on top of Grizzly Ridge, several riders were battling hypothermia.
Meanwhile, on top of Mount Hough at the start of Segment Four, pea sized graupel came down and left a coating of white everywhere. Thankfully hot cocoa, tea and bacon wrapped pickles heated up on the grill kept riders warm and happy before their final descent back to the fairgrounds.
“It was just enough weather to make things interesting and memorable, but not enough weather to make it too memorable if you know what I mean,” said Greg Williams, SBTS executive director. “Mother Nature was looking out for us.”
Grinduro is one of the most popular “gravel grinder” cycling events in the world right now, and it is also an important fundraiser for SBTS. A portion of the proceeds from the event go back to SBTS, helping build and maintain more motorized and non-motorized multi-use trails in the Lost Sierra, to bolster the economy through recreation and provide important jobs for locals.
More information about SBTS and what they call “Dirt Magic’’ through connecting Lost Sierra communities by trail with a Master Trails Plan can be found at sierratrails.org.