25th Annual Downieville Classic Canceled

Email sent to racers May 7th.

With great sadness the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship announces the cancelation of the 25th Annual Downieville Classic. Although the decision to cancel was agonizing due to the impact on racers, the volunteers, staff and the community, the decision was necessary. After sitting down with the Sierra County Public Health Officer, the Board of Supervisors and Sheriff, for the safety of the community, SBTS agreed there is no way a large gathering can happen in Downieville this year. 

Downtown Downieville sign: Visitors, kindly distance from our communities

Sierra County is among the only counties in California with currently zero reported cases of COVID-19. With about 3,000 residents, the aging population has limited medical resources and is highly vulnerable to a viral outbreak. SBTS and its bike shop Yuba Expeditions invest immeasurable love into Downieville, and we don't want our operations or guests to be responsible for potentially introducing the virus. In addition to canceling the 2020 Downieville Classic, Yuba Expeditions in Downieville will be closed until further notice. At this time, we urge you to please not visit Downieville or other Lost Sierra mountain communities until government officials say it is safe to do so.

Yuba Expeditions closed

This announcement follows the cancelation of our 2020 Lost and Found Gravel Grinder. The overall positive support from Lost and Found registrants upon receiving the bad news was humbling for our staff. We hope Downieville Classic racers, partners, locals and volunteers will be equally understanding. Make no mistake: SBTS would not exist without you, and we are forever grateful for your support through this punishing pandemic time. Race registration fees enable SBTS to keep building new trails and make sure the Downieville region of the Tahoe National Forest stays open. During registration every racer acknowledged our policy of no refunds for event cancelations, and we greatly appreciate racer understanding in SBTS retaining your entry fee, as it helps keep SBTS alive as a trail building organization. 

As we did with Lost and Found, all 2020 Downieville Classic registered racers will get priority registration for the 2021 Downieville Classic. This means being able to register before the official registration opening date for this traditionally sold out event, and receive a 25 percent discount on 2021 registration fees. We realize this might not make some folks fully satisfied, especially as COVID-19 is not treating everyone’s finances equally. Yet, we are doing what we can to make this as whole as possible by offering a discount and preventing having to put down our chainsaws and McLeods for good.

We listened to every piece of feedback from Lost and Found registrants about how we could have communicated the bad news better. People who inquired wanted to understand race economics a bit more. Fundamentally, SBTS annually offers three race events from which the net proceeds pay for essential operations of trail stewardship work. Seventeen years ago, the Board of our newly formed Stewardship committed to the work of hosting highly enjoyable bike races as a funding source for costs not covered in trail project grants. Environmental impact studies, trail projects pre-research, coalition building, grant applications, office space, communications, vehicles, equipment, multiple insurance policies and more - these costs are spent during the on-average five years of professional behind-the-scenes work before dirt is even moved on a project. Race registration fees are used across all months as an integral driver of the year-round operation necessary to make a comprehensive trail system possible.

Building Mt. Hough Trail

The Stewardship exists to attract families, friends and outdoor recreation enthusiasts to the magic of the Lost Sierra. SBTS is a 501c3 non-profit and through our professional trail work, race events, volunteer Trail Daze, bike shops and shuttle trips, the organization spurs millions in annual spending for the economies of Plumas and Sierra Counties. Since launching in 2003, SBTS has built nearly 100 miles of new trail, maintained more than 1,100 miles of existing trail and logged over 90,000 hours of volunteer labor.

Long-time Downieville die-hards will remember 2003 when the area’s trails were threatened with TRAIL CLOSED signs due to lack of federal maintenance funding. That year saw our first grant to buy a chainsaw to get the work done and remove those Trail Closed signs. We do not want to see trails closed again, so we’re reframing the Stewardship under the no-gathering orders. We’ve reduced staff, cut all non-essential expenses and developed COVID-safe trail work procedures approved this week by US Forest Service and Plumas and Sierra County officials to get the SBTS professional trail crew working again in early May. The 2020 focus includes:

Trail Closed sign on trail
  1. Maintain our core infrastructure. The team includes motivated mission-focused individuals, equipment, a fleet of vehicles, occupancy leases and insurance. We have cut costs, are reallocating assets (e.g., turning shuttle vans into separate trail crew work vehicles) and will continue working hard to keep our core intact. 
  2. Build and maintain trails under our current agreements. Federal and state trails grants require ‘grantees’ to match government payments which we do primarily with volunteer work hours. Without volunteer work days, we are drawing more from our general fund to meet grant match requirements by rehiring staff and recruiting new trail crew members to get the trail work done under safe trail work procedures. Many of our race event partners are pivoting their financial support to help us put people back to work again.    
  3. Continue building Connected Communities. We will continue our partnership with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to keep the Lost Sierra Trails Master Plan and Connected Communities planning project moving forward. This is what SBTS is all about and will result in 300 miles of new trails connecting 15 mountain communities together - a truly world-class trail system expansion for all to enjoy.

We can't say it enough; SBTS would not exist without you. You are supporting a community of like-minded, hardworking people who love to play outside on magical ribbons of dirt. Thank you for your understanding. Your trips to the Lost Sierra support so many small businesses who greatly appreciate your patronage. And we plan to keep creating more #dirtmagic for everyone to enjoy.

View of the river with people
Photo: Ken Etzel

Once this storm passes, we are optimistic that we will all gather together next year to enjoy our events and the company of many who have supported them for years. No one knows what public safety restrictions will be on future bike race events, but you have our commitment to making the next Downieville Classic the greatest 25th Anniversary celebration and party on two wheels. 

In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns about this decision, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@sierratrails.org. We’re here to listen and do the best we can. 

Greg Williams - Executive Director

Greg Carter, Rob Bixler, Jesse Passafiume, Debbie Bonovich, and Rick Stock - Board of Directors