Marin riders once again headed to the rugged gold mining hills of California to compete at the 2012 edition of the Downieville Classic. Dubbed as the All Mountain World Championships, the event spans two days with a rugged, 29 mile point-to-point cross country race on Saturday and a 17 mile downhill on Sunday. Riders from around the globe have come to challenge the event’s technical courses, which includes loose jeep trails, rocky stream crossings and high-speed sections of singletrack that hang off the side the a river canyon, ushering riders though the trees at over 30mph.
More than a simple racecourse, the Downieville Classic is held on a series of trails in the Sierra Mountain Range that is maintained by the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. The event also serves as a fundraiser for the organization for preserving and maintaining the trails for riders to enjoy. Riders looking to sample some of the world’s most epic singletrack can stop in to Yuba Expeditions for maps or shuttled rides to one of the many trail heads in the mountain range.
For the event, new Marin Factory rider Bryan Alders made the trip from Colorado to join up with team Lost Coast Brewery riders Brian Astell, Matt Whittler and Trevor Pratt to contest the Pro Men’s All Mountain competition, where riders must compete on the same bike for both the DH and the XC race. Alders chose the Mount Vision XM to tackle the rocky terrain while Astell went for the low weight and nimbleness of the Team CXR 29er fitted with high-volume WTB Weirwolf LT tires to help soften the impacts on the trail.
In the opening day’s XC event, Bryan Alders rode to a superb 10th place with Astell taking 23rd after having a quick pit stop to correct a mechanical issue. Moving into Sunday’s DH race the Marin riders attacked the DH course aboard the same bikes. Astell put his east coast bike handling skills to good use- making it down the 17 mile course in 25th, posting the fastest time on a hardtail and securing an overall placing of 16th. Alders, raced the DH without a practice run but still found a quick enough line down the hill to finish just behind Astell in 27th place, securing 9th overall in the two day event.
Representing the NorCal High School League and Marin, junior rider Matt Erbentraut blazed the weekend’s events with a first in the Junior Men’s XC and a 4th in the DH after getting a flat on the rocky course. The two placings were good enough to keep Matt on the podium with a 3rd overall for the weekend.
Marin Rider Bryan Alders wrote a write up on the weekend’s activities:
Downieville is a small town tucked away deep in the hills of Northern California. It was originally a gold rush town but has since transformed into a world-class mountain bike destination. Every summer Downieville hosts the infamous Downieville Classic. This event consists of two races, Cross Country and Downhill with a combined result in the ‘All Mountain’ category.
The Cross Country race is a unique point-to-point format. Riders are shuttled over 15 miles up the road allowing them to start about 2,000 ft. higher than they finish. On Saturday at 9:30am the Cross Country race began. We started the 3,000 ft. climb at a blistering pace and the front group was quickly down to just about 10 riders. Over the next eight miles of climbing the group slowly broke apart, with some riders moving forward and some moving back. My heart rate was well over 180 BPM and I was doing everything I could to just maintain my position. Finally, after just over an hour, I crested the top (elevation 7,100 ft.) of the climb. It was now time for the fun part, 21 miles of mostly downhill.
Some of the most fun singletrack I have ever ridden makes remaining part of the race. The top section (‘Baby Heads’) consists of high speeds, loose rocks and some stream crossings. The trail then enters Pauley Creek, which is mostly dense forest and more technical terrain with jagged rock gardens, tight switchbacks, and steep drop offs. A short climb in the middle takes you to the top of Third Divide. The trail now opens up. As speeds reach over 30 MPH now is not the time to think about the ‘what-ifs’ I keep off the brakes as much as possible and just let the Mount Vision soak up the trail. There is not a more perfect bike for this part of the race.
With roughly 7 miles of racing left the trail flattens out again. I have maintained my position through the downhill and escaped the technical trails and high speeds unscathed with no mechanical issues. My heart rate starts to climb again and the legs are loading up with lactic acid. I keep it steady for the next 6 miles. I’m now within a mile of the finish and I see a rider just up ahead, but another rider has gained on me and has passed me on the last short climb. I put my head down and do everything possible to hold his wheel. As we pop out of the trees into the back roads of Downieville I sit behind him saving every bit of energy I have left for what will be a sprint finish. With just meters to go I sprint around him and I squeeze into the finish in 10th place, just 1 second behind the rider in 9th. There aren’t many cross-country races more exciting than that.
Sunday was the downhill race. This time riders are shuttled all the way to the top of Packer Saddle (7,100 ft.) and the race is a 21 mile downhill. Only one part of the course is different from the previous day’s downhill. Today riders tackle the Butcher Ranch trail. With even higher speeds, more technical rock gardens and looser dirt this trail is not for the timid. Riders go off in 1 minute intervals giving everyone room on the trail to ride at their own speeds. Unfortunately for me this also let me ease up in places I probably shouldn’t have. I crossed the line in 27th place. Needless to say I haven’t done much downhill racing but I learned a lot in this race. With only seconds making the difference in how you place, every climb has to be a sprint and all chances have to be taken on the downhills. I finished out the weekend ranked 9th in time but 16th in points for the combined ‘All Mountain’ category. A result I’m plenty satisfied with.
Other weekend activities included the ‘Big Air River Jump’, the cruiser bike ‘Log Pull’ live music and vendor expo. There aren’t many races more fun than the Downieville Classic!