The Downieville Classic cross-country mountain bike race is one of the last remaining point-to-point races in the United States.
As a tribute to the mountains, big trees, fresh mountain air and the hard men that carved these trails through the river canyons in search of gold and prosperity, the 29-mile course follows a rugged "Gold Rush" era route that departs the mountain town of Sierra City (elevation 4,100'), climbs to the crest of the Sierra Nevada (elevation 7,100'), and then plunges 5,200 vertical feet into downtown Downieville.
This quintessential mountain bike adventure begins with an 8 mile, 3,000' climb up the face of the Sierra Buttes, a metamorphic crown that stretches 8,600' towards the wide-open sky known as the "Trail of Tears". This legendary climb starts with pavement, turns to dirt, and then gradually steepens and narrows to a loose, exposed, shale double-track. Race organizers do their best to make things more comfortable by providing an overhead water mister at the 2 mile point, and Clif Bar supported aid stations at the 4 and 7 mile markers. After cresting the saddle, the route follows a rolling jeep road to the east rim of Gold Valley and the top of "Baby Heads" - a fast, loose, rocky descent that is responsible for numerous flat tires, get-offs and lead changes. At the bottom of this anarchy awaits Gold Valley and the Pauley Creek crossing. This 30' wide crossing can be as deep as 3' during the race, often making it difficult to navigate across at high-speed. Once across, the route turns to single-track on the Pauley Creek Trail, a 17 mile creek side plunge that blends flowing turns and rolling jumps with jagged rocks and slippery roots. After descending 2,000' and crossing three foot-bridges, the trail climbs from the Pauley Creek Canyon to the Lavezzola Creek Canyon, and to the trailhead of the world famous Third Divide Trail.
Third Divide is known for its Star Wars like speeds, magic carpet tread, bermed corners and lofty airs. After a thrilling three miles, Third Divide Trail dumps out onto Lavezzola Road, which descends to the upper First Divide Trail, a 150 year-old water flume built to provide water to a nearby hydraulic mining site. This stretch of trail requires a ton of pedaling as it winds its way downstream through the Lavezzola Creek Canyon, across a saddle, and into the Pauley Creek Canyon to the long awaited streets of downtown Downieville for the finish.
The whole town (that's about 300 people) comes alive to celebrate their bike culture with events like the ritual bike jumping contest across the Downie River, beer and wine tasting, good food, games and contests. While there's a fee for bike racers, the festival is free and fun for all ages.
For more details about the race course, registration and festival visit http://www.downievilleclassic.com/