Downieville, California. Deep in the heart of Gold Country. More than 150 years ago, the area was swarming with prospectors looking for gold. This past weekend, Downieville hearkened back to its pioneer days as a boom town, but instead of miners, drifters, and ladies of the evening lounging on the wooden boardwalks and hitching posts, mountain bikers of every age, size, color, and ability were in town looking to strike it rich in the 11th annual Downieville Classic -- uh, figuratively that is.
The Downieville Classic is actually three races: a downhill race, a point-to-point cross-country epic, and a combined downhill/cross-country competition just for the pros. Make no mistake, this is the most challenging set of mountain bike race courses on the West Coast, comparable with Snowshoe, West Virginia (when it's wet) or one of the high-altitude Colorado courses.
At 15 miles long, the downhill course is the longest in the country. Dropping 4700 feet, it has serious downhill chops, but it's length and more than 700 feet of climbing make it more like a Super D course than a traditional downhill course. The cross-country course climbs 3000 feet in 8 miles then hooks up with the downhill course for the plunge down to Downieville.
A lone rider struggles with pain management while climbing up to Blue Point on the cross-country course.