CYCLING: Lost and Found Gravel Grinder combines challenging course with beautiful views
Special to The Union
Lost and Found
To participate, volunteer or learn more about the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, visit http://www.lostandfoundbikeride.com.
There are cowbells and cheering spectators, riders with smiling faces and trembling legs, some just finishing their races and others on the way to complete their 100 miles. There are majestic views, brutal climbs, sheer cliffs overlooking valleys in full bloom and bright blue lakes.
Welcome to the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, which will be holding its fourth annual event June 3.
Started in 2014, the Lost and Found gravel race encompasses all of the best aspects of mountain riding: beautiful views, a tough course and an all-weekend party. It was founded by Chris McGovern, a Nevada City resident and owner of McGovern Cycles. McGovern said his inspiration for the race came from Burke Swindlehurst, who puts on the Crusher In The Tushar (gravel race) in the Tushar Mountains in Utah.
“I just thought to myself, Burke is doing this and he’s having to drive from Salt Lake City to find these epic routes, while I can ride to Oregon on dirt roads from my front door,” McGovern said. “We need to have a race here (in California).”
McGovern went to Swindlehurst asking for help in the creation of a California Crusher In The Tushar.
“(Swindlehurst) said it was work, that it could never be duplicated, that his volunteers make the race and he could never find that quality of volunteers anywhere else in the world,” said McGovern. “As soon as he said the volunteers make the race I immediately thought of Greg Williams and the Sierra Buttes Stewardship.”
The Stewardship is an organization that preserves and creates recreation trail areas in the Tahoe and Plumas National Forest of the Lost Sierra. With its approval and help from Williams and Chris Feucht, the President of the Stewardship’s board at that time and current director of the famous Downieville Classic race, McGovern began the creation of the Lost and Found race.
“By then, (the Stewardship had) been doing the Downieville Classic for close to 18-19 years, so it’d been an extremely successful mountain bike race,” said Feucht, who was a key part in the creation of the Lost and Found race. “We’d been doing a running race, but we’d discontinued that because of environmental issues, and we wanted to do another event. (Lost and Found) was something I was totally gung ho about because I was already riding gravel bikes … and then the board completely agreed to it.”
McGovern knew the course was going to be centered around Lake Davis, a remote lake around two hours north of Nevada City, but hadn’t decided on the course length or exact location.
“We rode about 70 miles of what we thought was the original loop,” he said. “Then we ended up tweaking it and refined it to what it has been for the past three events.”
Gravel racing, although not as well known in some crowds, is one of the most fun and difficult types of racing. It combines the best parts of road and mountain bike riding. Paved roads meet gravel fireroads, creating an often-long course with incredible amounts of climbing. Riders race mainly on cyclocross bikes — which are built like road bikes with mountain bike tires — though some brave the courses on mountain or road bikes. Some of the toughest races in the nation are gravel courses, testing riders of all levels with rocky descents and brutal climbs.
Although the Lost and Found race doesn’t have as much elevation gain or distance as some of the other races, it makes up for it with several brutal climbs.
“There’s a lot of pedalling,” said McGovern. “I think the difference between our race and the Rebecca’s Private Idaho or the Crusher In The Tushar is that while you’re descending for days in those races, in ours there’s never any relief on the downhill. You’re always pedalling, always in a valley or on a climb.”
This level of difficulty has drawn riders from across the country to race in the Lost and Found. Many participate in the 100 mile course, which is known for its gorgeous views and painful final climb. Riders meander through valleys and across mountain ranges, pushing themselves to their limits.
“The further you progress north on that course, the more it changes — changes climate, changes topography, changes, changes, changes,” said McGovern, who has raced the Lost and Found in past years.
Feucht, who had also participated in the race, added, “It’s a really beautiful area. Tough climbs, technical descents and then you hit these valleys. Mountains, and then valleys (that are) pan flat … and you can see for miles. And, at that time of year, it’s a beautiful area. There are mountain meadows, valleys in full bloom. It’s beautiful and green and lush and a unique eastern Sierra topology that you don’t really get anywhere else.”
For the less advanced, 60- and 30-mile courses are offered as well, with no less beautiful views or challenging routes.
“We try to make it a family event,” said Feucht. “We have the shorter courses for that reason. Now there are kids in the early teens, pre-tweens, doing these with their parents.”
McGovern and Feucht also made Lost and Found an all-weekend event, centering the race around riding, cooking and celebrating. Cyclists can camp on Lake Davis and have fun before and after the race.
“Everything that the Stewardship does, we try to make an all-inclusive party in the mountains, riding and racing your bike,” said Feucht.
McGovern added with a smile, “Hanging out and camping, making friends, enjoying yourself.”
In that way, the Lost and Found race is unique. With its fun and challenging course, friendly racers and spectators and a fantastic atmosphere the Lost and Found sets itself apart from other races.
To participate or volunteer in the Lost and Found race, sign up at http://www.lostandfoundbikeride.com.
Mina Ricci is a member of the Nevada Union Mountain Bike Team and a Nevada County resident. She is a regular contributor to The Union.
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