“What age group are you in?”
The question came from behind me on lower First Divide trail in the last few minutes of the Downieville Classic cross-country race. I knew I was in for a sprint one way or another.
“I’m not telling you,” was my coy response.
“Okay then, we’ll take it to the line,” said the chasing rider.
Cleaning the inside line and not cleaning the inside line. Photos by Daniel Kuhns
Every year I end up duking it out with someone in the final mile of pavement before the finish, and this year was no different. I accelerated full throttle into the final downhill section of First Divide before the pavement and glanced back. My chaser was still there. We approached the last speed-check turns on First Divide before town, but instead of riding the turns, I took a straight line over the rocks, turning inches before a giant boulder on the outside of the corner. I heard tires skidding and looked back to see my adversary piled into the giant boulder. I put my head down and disappeared. Turns out we weren’t in the same age group after all.
The next morning while warming up for the downhill run, my pedal suddenly gave up the ghost, with the pedal body separating from the spindle. After putting two giant holes in my rear tire two years ago only 100 meters into my downhill run, I saw flashbacks of a DNF playing out once again. In a minor case of panic, I rode straight to the Industry Nine van parked right near the start line. By the grace of Jah, Dave Thomas was there and had a spare set of SPD pedals. He saved the day and I ended up finishing second on the weekend in my class.
For the first time in a decade I did the Downieville Classic on a geared full-suspension bike, and full disclosure here, it was far more enjoyable. Some mocked me as the “Content 20 Speeder”, but I prefer ASS: the Anti-Single Speeder. Speaking of singlespeeds, perhaps the most astonishing and crazy performance of the weekend came from Steven Mills, the 2015 Downieville Classic all-mountain singlespeed champion. For whatever reason, Steven never took advantage of his early entry option and showed up out of the blue the day before the event wanting to race. Considering the Classic completely sold out this year, he was up the proverbial sh*t creek without a paddle.
No matter. On Saturday morning, Steve got on his rigid singlespeed, rode 12 miles from Downieville up to Sierra City and proceeded to ride the entire 28-mile cross-country course a half-hour ahead of the pro category start. Two hours later Steve made it to town. The pros never caught him. But it gets better. Steve decided he didn’t get enough of a workout on that 40-mile loop, so he did AN ENTIRE SECOND LAP. That’s right. Dude is mental. Why did he do this? Because he can. Good thing he didn’t race this year. He would have embarrassed every other singlespeeder, not to mention more than half of the pro class.
Another standout singlespeed performance came from Allie Donovan, the only female singlespeeder in the Classic this year. Her time of 2 hours, 43 minutes would have placed her eighth in the men’s singlespeed class. She wins all the podium prizes for that beast mode performance. Speaking of beast mode, pro rider Menso DeJong was first to the top of Packer Saddle and was leading on the downhill until he crashed hard, injuring his wrist. He still finished third — and to everyone’s surprise, injured himself badly enough that he couldn’t race the downhill on Sunday. How he was able to hold onto a third place on Saturday with such an injury is a testament to his toughness.
For the record Kelli Emmett and Colin Daw were this year’s all-mountain winners. You can check out full results here. Also a shout out to Mtbr contributor Leilani Bruntz who took first in the women’s expert under-30 field.
Each year there’s a “That Guy” award which goes out to the man (because women never seem to make a bigger ass of themselves than men do) who clearly drank too much and couldn’t maintain a shred of common sense. Previous winners included a guy who got tazed and arrested; a guy who dove head first off the very top of Durgan Bridge, broke his nose and back, then got arrested; and a guy who heckled the Sheriff by saying, “You’re not the Sheriff. I’M the Sheriff,” and almost got arrested.
Although I heard of no arrests this year, it seems there was an incident at La Cocina De Oro, the Mexican restaurant, sometime over the weekend. As the story was told to me, the meat prep cook arrived at 5 a.m. and discovered the front door wide open. Upon entering, an unidentified male (of course) was completely passed out on the ground with empty beer cans, spilled beer, and mud all around him. He was wearing red socks with no shoes, long sleeve shirt and long pants. That’s as far as the description I got goes. How he got into the restaurant is a mystery. This person’s identity is also mystery, as the prep cook picked him up and shooed him out of the establishment before asking for identification.