A trio of challenging off-road bike events that raise funds for trails and local employment
By Kurt Gensheimer
Photos courtesy of Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship
For cyclists in search of the ultimate off-road challenge, the Lost Sierra Triple Crown should be on your short list. Consisting of the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, the Downieville Classic cross-country mountain bike race and Grinduro – a mashup of a gravel grinder and a mountain bike enduro event – the Lost Sierra Triple Crown rewards the most well-rounded riders who are as fit as they are skilled.
In its second year, the Lost Sierra Triple Crown has more than doubled the number of riders vying for an actual steel crown that’s laser cut and fabricated by Terrence Martin of Jagged Edge Metal Art. Dreamed up by the folks at the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS), a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to building, preserving and maintaining trails in Sierra and Plumas counties through employing local folks, the Lost Sierra Triple Crown is as much a fundraiser for trails as it is bragging rights for the wearer of the crown.
Celebrating its fourth year, the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder taking place on June 3, has quickly earned a reputation for being one of the most challenging off-road events in the West, offering riders 30-, 60- and 100-mile route options rich with gorgeous alpine meadows, rushing creeks, vibrant wildflowers and picture perfect dirt roads in an unspoiled corner of California. Starting and finishing on the shore of Lake Davis only a few miles north of Portola, Lost and Found continues to grow in size each year thanks to the combination of serious challenge and serious fun.
The SBTS has a lot of experience balancing challenge and fun thanks to the Downieville Classic, celebrating its 22nd running this August 3-6. With an international reputation for rocky ruggedness and a soul crushing climb known as the “Trail of Tears” over the shoulder of the Sierra Buttes, the 27-mile Downieville Classic cross-country event rewards riders with more than 5,500 feet of descending trails, finishing in the historic Gold Rush town the event is named after. As one of the last point-to-point mountain bike races left in America, the Downieville Classic is a true test of rider skill and fitness.
In only its third year, Grinduro has already earned “Event of the Year” by the Design and Innovation Awards, thanks in part to an event format that perfectly blends a fun, relaxed day on the bike with a bit of competitive spirit. Covering 60 miles and nearly 8,000 feet of climbing, the Grinduro course is a challenging yet beautiful ride from Quincy deep into the Lost Sierra, heading out to the idyllic hamlet of Taylorsville, then back over Mount Hough, finishing with a six-mile descent on Mount Hough trail, a fast and flowing singletrack constructed by SBTS in 2015.
Riders who persevere in all three events must have equal parts fitness and bike handling skills, as well as bikes that are capable of holding up to rocky, high speed descending – especially for the Downieville Classic. As far as bike selection, most riders choose a cyclocross bike with 35c tires for Lost and Found, a medium travel full suspension bike with durable tires for the Classic and either a lightweight hardtail mountain bike or a cyclocross bike with 40c tires for Grinduro. Riders competing in the Triple Crown can run a different bike for each event if they wish. Unfortunately, for those who haven’t registered yet, Grinduro is already sold out for 2017, filling capacity in less than 12 hours. But riders can still participate in Lost and Found and the Classic this year in preparation for doing the full Triple Crown next year.
Raising Funds for Trails
All three events in the Lost Sierra Triple Crown are showcases for three unique zones in the Lost Sierra; areas that rely on a recreation-based economy to survive. Since its founding in 2003, the SBTS has built hundreds of miles of new trail while maintaining historic trails and doing important environmental preservation work to balance conservation with recreation. The Triple Crown highlights all the important work SBTS does by using the very trails that have made this corner of the Sierra Nevada one of the most legendary parts of America for off-road cycling as well as hiking, horseback riding and even motorized use. When it comes to trails, SBTS does not discriminate, working on all kinds of trails for every type of trail user.
Proceeds from all three events go directly back to SBTS to help fund for trails development while providing local Sierra and Plumas county residents with good-paying jobs that can support a family. With nearly 25 employees and a payroll approaching $500,000 annually, SBTS has become an integral part of the community where it operates, and the Triple Crown brings money to local businesses and vital tax revenue to Sierra and Plumas counties.
“Events like the Triple Crown are a great way to show off all the work we’ve been doing to build a sustainable, recreation-based future in one of California’s most economically depressed areas,” said Greg Williams, SBTS executive director and co-founder. “Based on the attendance, it seems a lot of folks appreciate not only the trails we’re building, but also our love for good music, camping in beautiful places and having a great time in the outdoors with friends and family.”
The latest success story for SBTS can be found in Quincy, more specifically on Mount Hough. Through a partnership with Plumas National Forest, Mount Hough Ranger District, SBTS is in the midst of a trails renaissance. Between Mount Hough and the South Park trails network, more than 50 miles of singletrack already exist, and within the next 10 years, more than 100 miles of multi-use singletrack will be accessible only a couple miles from downtown Quincy.
“Quincy has always been known primarily as a logging town, not a destination for outdoor recreation,” said Williams. “But thanks to events like Grinduro, the word about Quincy’s trails is spreading, and as a result, locals are seeing more and more vehicles rolling through town with bikes on racks. Businesses that used to remain closed on weekends are starting to stay open in order to attract visitors.”
What’s more, younger folks who put a priority on recreation and healthy living are moving to Quincy to escape the madness and urban sprawl of bigger cities. Not only is it important for a town like Quincy to attract visitors to keep the economy healthy, but it’s equally important to attract the younger generation to lay down roots and raise families there.
Thanks to high visibility events like the Downieville Classic, Lost and Found and Grinduro, the Lost Sierra Triple Crown attracts visitors from around the globe, growing the region’s exposure for world-class recreation. Not only do the events raise money to build and maintain trails that drive a growing economic engine, but they also serve as a way to show off all the hard work SBTS does to keep this magical little corner of the Sierra Nevada thriving into the next generation.
California Assembly Bill to Create Office of Outdoor Recreation
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, recreation is an economic powerhouse in the United States, representing $887 billion in consumer spending, employing 7.6 million people. California represents $85.4 billion, 732,000 jobs and a whopping $6.7 billion in state and local tax revenue. Despite these incredible numbers, there still isn’t an official state office that oversees and fosters this massive source of tax revenue. But Assembly Bill 907 introduced into the California Legislature in March proposes the creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation and Public Lands Enhancement within the Governor’s office of Business Development, promoting both economic and jobs development in California’s outdoor recreation sector.
Authored by State Assembly Member, Eduardo Garcia, the office will monitor and coordinate sustainable recreation policies at federal, state and local levels and collaborate with Visit California, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit to promote the state’s multitude of outdoor activities while serving as California’s central point of contact for the national outdoor recreation industry. It will also interface with government agencies managing natural resources for outdoor recreation and promote sustainable use and enhanced stewardship.
The office will be dedicated to promoting active, healthy lifestyles and quality of life for all Californians by minimizing socioeconomic barriers to outdoor recreation opportunities. It will also create incentives and work collaboratively with private landowners and land trusts to find opportunities that improve balance between enhanced recreation and public access while preserving wildlife values.
In the last couple of years, Washington, Utah and Colorado have created their own Offices of Outdoor Recreation, with Montana and Oregon close behind. Outdoor recreation is especially important to rural mountain communities that rely on tourism and visitors who spend money to keep their economy vibrant. This bill also comes at a particularly important time when the federal government is considering a shift of some public lands, making it even more important to have an official state office communicating recreation interests between local, state, federal and private entities.
AB 907 was heard by the State Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and advanced to an appropriations committee where it now sits. A number of organizations have already publicly shown support for AB 907 including the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), Watershed Conservation Authority, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Sierra Business Council, Winter Wildlands Alliance, National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) and several land management agencies including Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Open Space Authority of Santa Clara Valley, Sonoma County Regional Parks and the East Bay Regional Park District. —KG