Downieville is a small town on route 49 in Northern California, gold rush country and holds a very interesting race, one that I have wanted to do for some time now. It's a stage race which is held over two days, Saturday is Cross Country day and Sunday is downhill day, the the rules say it must be on the same bike and with the same setup and weight.
The Downieville Downhill is reserved for All-Mountain racers only, which means riders will have to earn their start time by completing the point to point cross country the day before. Dropping 5,000 vertical feet in 15 miles from Packer Saddle Trail, Butcher Ranch Trail, Third Divide Trail and First Divide Trail. It's big It's bad and it's Beautiful.
On Saturday morning we met up with the guys at Santa Cruz, they were at the top of the street next to the finish line, ideally placed to show the new range of bikes and welcome back all the racers over the finish line to cool down underneath their sprinkler fed easy-up canopy.
Joe Graney was on hand and had the old jackal up and running, with it's beer can holder welded into it's top tube, resplendent in gold with a softride tri seat come chopper combo and a pair of Monster T's up front, he was in charge of events down at the river front and was on fine form.
They had a sweep going on among the Santa Cruz workforce to see who would rank highest in the race to make things interesting, not sure who won or if I would tell if I knew but you can bet the forfeit or prize would be worth it. Lizette had ridden the trails prior to the race and described their difficult nature and on closer inspection the realization of why Downieville has earned it's reputation dawned, not just for the ground conditions and difficult terrain but also the trying temeratures. Ian Davis head of wheel building at S/C was racing as one of the team and had a few problems but did well.
Will Ockelton looked bedraggled as he came over the line, problems with hydration and the severity of the terrain gave him a few cramps but he shook it of and finished well, I must admit struggling with the heat, the only saving grace was the cooling sensation achieved from continual movement through the trees. The sprinkling fire hose on main street bought a lot of relief and removed the dust clad sweet from riders, once showered a short walk in the sun while eating your way through the free meal which comes with every entry would have riders refreshed. Not as refreshed as the guys who did the river jump contest, landing in the cool river Downie may have been a heart stopper, some great tricks were sent from the small kicker by them all to the amusement of spectators and racers alike.
It was such a relaxed atmosphere and it reminded me of the old events in the 80's and early 90's like The Boltby Bash and the Mycycles Malvern Hills Classic.
Lots of manufacturers were there as well as Santa Cruz, Shimano sponsored the river Jump, Enve showed some new products and I talked to Chris King about some of their stuff and came away with somehard to source tackle, they were really helpful.
Sunday was downhill day, the second part of the all mountain race and if you survived Saturday it was your chance to put things right or extend your lead in the combined if you did well on the day before. If you signed up for both days a pre race check weigh in would make sure both parts of the race were completed on the same bike in the same spec. It's a 15 mile downhill full of loose twisting natural trails that spit you out onto main street, breathtaking in places and a very challenging trail both physically and mentally.
Downieville 2014 will be here in no time and I'll be there queuing up to sign on, hopefully it will be a bit cooler or I might find myself jumping into the river.
We need an event like this in the UK again, interesting, friendly and involving. Not just the xc laps round a field but something in the calendar to look forward to - another Classic.
For more details go to http://www.downievilleclassic.com/