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Downieville Classic Race Report and Pics

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |July 25, 2011 10:39 PM
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Carl Decker and Lizzy English Take All Mountain Titles

Written by: Jens Raz

Another great weekend in California came to a close Sunday afternoon in Downieville. Located in the mountains of Northern California, it is touted as the last true point to point cross country mountain-bike race in the nation. The highly technical course demands a rider with skill and fitness. The 2-day "All Mountain Championship” event consists of a cross country race and downhill race on the following day. The best-placed rider out of both days wins the hotly contested and coveted "All Mountain” category. The stats are impressive: The XC consists of 29 miles of "rugged” back country terrain with 4,400 feet of climbing and a whooping 5,600 feet of descending with elevations topping out at 7,100 feet above sea level.  Even more spectacular is the DH dropping roughly 5,000 vertical feet in 17 miles with only 1,000 feet of climbing. Unfortunately, this year due to a late snow laden winter, 6 miles of the XC course could not be used and about 4 miles of the downhill.

Getting the race ready took an enormous effort by the promoters. The event benefits the Sierra Buttes Trail Steward, and the whole community gets involved. As Debbie the Volunteer coordinator for the past 8 years put it:

             "About 200 volunteers who help from anywhere from 2 hours during the race weekend to some people who are involved with the volunteer efforts for months ahead in the planning!  This year the youngest volunteer was 7 years old, the youngest ever was 4!  Most of the youngsters/ teenagers work in the bike check area with a couple of adults who oversee the area.  We also have local business owners who volunteer when they have a few extra hours to pitch in!  There are families who have been coming for years, I have watched some of these "kids" grow up and are now racing. (makes me feel kind of old but in a good way!)  This is what SBTS is all about, now and for the future keeping the trails we have preserved and maintained and building/restoring trails to enhance the area. More information here:  http://www.sierratrails.org/

The course is manned mostly with motorcycles and EMT's, I am happy to say this year we had a few injuries but nothing too major and no ambulance or  Care Flight helicopter rides out!  By the way the Care Flight Helicopter staff also volunteer their time to be stationed at Empire Ranch, they really like mountain biking and it is a great way to be at the race!! "

Even with the recent snow storms, thanks to the temperatures in the upper 90s and these huge volunteer efforts the revised course proved to be extremely fast and challenging.  The great weather leading up the race dried out most of the trails with only a few mud pits ,reminiscent of Woodstock, left with a snow drift here and there.

The defending champions Carl Decker and Kelli Emmett (both with the Giant Factory Team) came ready to defend their titles. Carl racing on a 26.4 pound Anthem 29er set up for the all mountain abuse was challenged by a mix of contenders. Ranging from the Tasmanian XC Olympian Sid Taberlay, endurance powerhouse Alex Grant (Cannondale), Aaron Bradford (Family Cycling Center) the "2009 Pro Super D Champion” Mike West (Yeti / Fox Racing Shox) and a host of others came with their guns blazing.

Kelli Emmett and her Trance X Advanced SL main threat’s were Lizzy English (Ride Giant/Ride Northstar), Endurance specialist Cheryl Sornson (Team CF), Downhill Ace Joy Martin (Loeka Team) and more.

The mass start on Saturday Morning began with a 10 mile grueling and exposed climb to the 7,100’ summit from 4,200’. Carl the Giant battled with the Tasmanian Devil Sid early on and they crested the summit together. The battle continued with a multitude of the contenders within striking distance. Notably victims of terrain were the Tasmanian Devil himself, who flatted on the downhill twice but was still able to finish 4th. Also, the Utah rider Alex Grant (Cannondale) sitting in 3rd at the time had his podium shot denied by an ill timed flat with 2 miles to go but still finishing 7th for the day. Carl was able to extend his lead over second place Josh Carlson (Giant Bicycles) the Arborist from Australia by close to 4 minutes. The hard charging Mike West settled for 3rd.

The women’s race was dominated by the defending champ Kelli Emmett (Giant Bicycles). Kelli’s superior climbing legs had her finish 15 minutes before a suffering Lizzy English.

The day concluded with various activities. Unfortunately, another victim of the enormous snowfall was the world famous water bike jump. The currents were so strong that a "safe” landing would be difficult to do without David Hasselhoff and his cast of Baywatch mates. The log pull/beer chug was a nice replacement, albeit with not quite the same impact. The evening was capped off with another rocking show of the "The Saddle Tramps” and their eclectic and creative songwriting until late in the night.

The following day, a rested and hungry flock of 200 mountain-bikers gathered Sunday morning at the top of the XC climb to get ready for the Hallmark of the " All Mountain Championships”. Getting some flack the previous year for winning the Championship by his overpowering performance on the XC course, Decker came gunning to stamp his authority on the 13-mile DH run. Aaron Bradford though had other plans. The skilled descender took it to the defending champ by 5 seconds at 38.49 minutes. Third place was taken by Kenny Burt with another blazing time of 39.31. The top 3 riders averaged just about 20 mph on a very demanding course!

Men’s All Mountain:

1)  Carl Decker (Giant Bicycles)

2)  Aaron Bradford (Family Cycling Center)

3)  Sid Taberlay (Kenda-H2O Overdrive)

The Downhill race did not go so well for the best placed women’s racer. A broken chain cost Kelli valuable minutes and the top spot on the podium. Even so, Lizzy English more than made up for a tough Saturday and handily won the descent with 45:42.37. Cheryl Sornson came in second at 49:09 with Joy Martin coming shortly thereafter for 3rdplace

Women’s DH:

1. Lizzy English  45:42.3

2. Cheryl Sornson  49:01.4

3. Joy Martin 49:53.2

4. Laura Winberry 50:25.1

5. Carolynn romaine 51:31.5

6. Tina Brubaker 53:18.3

7. Josie Jacques-Maynes 53:24.8

8. Kelli Emmett 56:37.2

With a new points system adapted for 2011, this was enough to propel English into 1stplace overall

Women’s All Mountain

1)  LizzyEnglish (Ride Giant/Ride Northstar)

2)  Kelly Emmett (Giant Bicycles)

3)  Cheryl Sornson (Team CF)

 Click Here for more results from Downieville

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