Report by: Syd Schulz
Downieville, California is a small mountain town that loves its bikes. Once a year the place turns itself inside out for the Downieville Classic, a 5 day bike festival and all-mountain race.
The tone of the race is set at registration with the distribution of armbands that says "I can drink good beer." Of course, Downieville attracts a lot of top athletes looking for blood, glory, etc, but the average racer comes here to rip some sweet singletrack, drink New Belgium and cheer rowdily at the number of bizarre side events that make Downieville Downieville. My personal favorites are the lake jump (exactly what it sounds like, people jumping bikes into a lake) and the log pull (contestants drag a large log behind a cruiser bike and chug a beer at the finish). D-ville knows how to throw down.
The atmosphere is best summed up by the t-shirt sported proudly by the waitress in the local taco-and-beer joint: "Downieville--a small town of drinkers with a mountain biking problem."
But it's not all fun and games and beer. Downieville doesn't get to call itself All-Mountain World Championships for nothing. These trails are rough--I have perfect imprints of my brake levers on both thighs to prove this point. Rocks, gullies, waterfalls, steep drops, long, hot climbs and more rocks. The scenery is gorgeous but it's rough on the body and the bike.
The racing is spread over two days--Saturday's 29 mile cross country race draws around 800 participants. The brave few (okay, 200) return on Sunday for the downhill stage. The catch is that you have to ride the same bike, so if you were speeding up the climb on Day 1 on a light hardtail, well, you're probably about to get a pummeling. Did I mention that it's kind of rocky?
Carl Decker (Giant) trounced competition two days in a row to clinch the All-Mountain World Champion title. Adam Craig (Giant) and Macky Franklin (ORBEA-TUFF SHED) rounded out the podium on Saturday trailing Decker by three and five minutes respectively. On Sunday, Jason Moeschler (WTB) and Aaron Bradford claimed second and third. In the overall, Craig pulled second and Moeschler narrowly edged out Franklin for third.
"It was a real mountain bike course," Franklin said. "It required the endurance of an XC-racer and the technical skills all mountain bikers should have."
On the women's side Kelli Emmett (Giant) also pulled off the twofer, proving that handlebar mustaches are not, as one might have thought after watching the men's race, a pre-requisite for all-mountain dominance. Rosara Joseph and Helene Drumm finished second and third in the cross country and Lizzy English and Erin Alders snagged the podium spots in the DH and the overall.
After the race, everyone rushed to plunge into the icy river water, splashing about, beer in hand, and soothing aching muscles, bonks and bruises. Hard to beat that for recovery. In fact, Downieville's pretty hard to beat in general. Great people, great trials, great party--this race has something for everybody (except, perhaps, those suckers riding hardtails).
Full results available at: http://downievilleclassic.com