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Event coordinators such as founder Chris McGovern plot out a new route each year, with the 2019 route touted as one of the best yet.

The birth of the Lost and Found

Chris McGovern strikes a pose with his bike, proudly representing his love of the Lost Sierra and his commitment to SBTS, leading up to the 2019 Lost and Found Gravel Grinder on Saturday, June 1, with the start and finish in the city of Portola. Photos by Patrick Cavender

Chris McGovern’s involvement with the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS) has taken many shapes over the years, from event participant and volunteer to long-time SBTS member and frame builder in this year’s Builders for Builders fundraiser.

McGovern’s involvement with SBTS has its roots way back in the early 1990s when McGovern was a teenager in Nevada City, attending the same high school as Greg Williams, SBTS executive director.

“It’s not like we were buddies in high school,” said McGovern. “I was a freshman when he was a senior, but he rode bikes and so did I, so I knew him. I watched Greg’s path in the bike world go from crazy naked mountain biker to Downieville Classic to maintaining trails, to the Stewardship, to changing communities. I have always admired people who say that are going to do something and they do it. It’s so simple yet so rare these days. I have always wanted to be a piece of that environment, or as SBTS calls it, the ‘Tribe.’”

The only problem for McGovern was that he was a “roadie” and didn’t ever really fit in. At the time, the Downieville Classic was the only SBTS event. Yuba Expeditions and mountain bike shuttling defined what McGovern thought was the core of the Stewardship, and it was just never his scene. McGovern always paid his membership fees and if he was in town during the Classic, he would volunteer.

Then an expansion started to occur within SBTS, and McGovern was spending more long days on dirt riding cyclocross bikes. Considering there are so many dirt roads near his home in Nevada City, riding on gravel wasn’t uncommon, but gravel riding just hadn’t become a “thing” yet.

A buddy of McGovern was putting on a gravel event in Beaver, Utah, so he went and checked it out. “My mind was blown; a challenging event in a beautiful place with cool people,” said McGovern. “I thought we could do something similar in Nevada City, riding to Downieville off-road. I asked my friend if he would come out from Utah and help, but he said no. He said that without his loyal volunteers in his hometown, the event couldn’t happen. The very second he said that, I thought of Greg and the Stewardship.”

McGovern reached out to Greg and SBTS and pitched the idea of a gravel event, but at first, it was received with a lukewarm response. McGovern felt like he was at a dead-end road, so he decided to do a little more leg work — literally and figuratively — so he started riding dirt roads to figure out potential routes and better sell the event concept.

“After a few weeks I had kinda forgotten about the whole thing when Greg called, and much to my surprise, agreed to the event,” said McGovern.

“Mind you, it was October, so we had to get out there and figure a course quickly. Greg and Mike Ferrentino had spent a bunch of time on their dirt bikes scouting potential routes north of Portola near Lake Davis. I rallied Jared Kessler, Kenny Burt and Cameron Falconer and we took to the dirt. It was cold, Jared was incredibly unprepared and we started way late. We froze our asses off. We finished in the dark. Cam actually told me to leave him to die at one point. Greg was generous enough to sag for us on moto so we didn’t die. When we rolled into Coot Bay frozen and exhausted, the Lost and Found was born.”

Since that first ride, McGovern has remained fully involved in the evolution of Lost and Found, making himself available for whatever needed to be done. Since its beginning in 2014 as a 200-person event to this year’s projected 1,600 riders, the Lost and Found has become one of the biggest events the Portola community has all year and a huge fundraiser for trails and SBTS.

“All of this was executed by the power of the Stewardship,” said McGovern. “There were so many challenges — and there continue to be challenges — that would have stopped most organizations in their tracks, but the Stewardship soldiers on.

“Every single person rolls up their sleeves and charges. It is a sight to behold, and I hope the folks who come up for any Stewardship events feels the power of the Tribe.”

McGovern didn’t know at this age, the impact he would make on people and the Lost Sierra. But everything starts with a good idea, and Lost and Found wouldn’t have been born without McGovern’s idea and desire to do a gravel event in the Lost Sierra.

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