Downieville, sitting peacefully at the fork of the North Yuba and Downie rivers, was once a prosperous gold mining town with a whopping population of 5,000. You wouldn’t be able to tell at first glance, but the humble one street town is a mountain bike paradise to locals and outsiders alike.
Every summer the Downieville Classic mountain bike race is open to 800 registrants and sells out every year. Of those 800 spots, 200 are reserved for the infamous “All Mountain World Championships”. This prestigious and grueling races consists of a cross country race on Saturday, followed by a downhill race on Sunday. Trust me, Downieville pushes the limits of what is considered a traditional cross country or downhill race. Over the course of a combined 45+ miles over two days, to even reach the finish line riders must avoid the seemingly inevitable crash, flat tire, broken chain, or bonk.
This past weekend I was able to pre ride the trails before the race, which is next month. In this pre race article, let’s take a short look at some of the best trails in California.
The point to point cross country race begins with an 8 mile, 3000 foot climb to the top of the mountain. This is nicknamed the “Trail of Tears”, a very accurate title. Riders must climb a steep, rocky double track with practically no easy parts. This one is the first of many tests along the route.
The first descent on single track is the Sunrise Trail. This is pretty standard as far as single track goes. Flowy, twisty, but do not be fooled. The worst is yet to come.
Next racers will follow a fire road to a trail called Baby Heads. Baby Heads is named after the rocks that make up the trail. The trail is wide, but there is practically no obvious line. The trail requires riders to plow through rocks, hoping for the best. Skilled riders will be able to hop from line to line, but beginners will find the task daunting. Fun to ride, but one hell of a challenge during a race.
A few creek crossings, bridges, and millions of rocks follow down the Pauley Creek Trail all the way to the more open trails in the forest.
Third Divide Trail is in the forest and is blazing fast. There are rocks, but once you know what is coming you can jump through rock gardens and rail your way down the trail. This trail at the end of the the course will really test riders ability to stay alert after tons of hard riding.
First Divide Trail brings you all the way to the finish, but it is no easy task. The trail features many flat and slight uphills, coupled with an exposed section of trail along a cliff. This followed by a sprint into town will take a racer’s last bit of energy.
The downhill race features one of the most popular trails, Butcher Ranch Trail. Butcher has it all. Fast, flowy, and rocky. Once riders open up and find their max speed, they will be challenged with such features as a gulley crossing and wet, slippery rock faces.
This is going to be my toughest race to date, and I can’t wait! After reading this overview, you owe it to yourself to check out the trails in Downieville!