The Downieville Classic

August 20 — 2018 | Downieville, CA

*Morgan is the first member of the Juliana Junior Team. She has been racing mountain bikes in the NorCal High School Cycling League circuit for the last two years. Her commitment to the growth of the sport and unbeatable team spirit led her coach to nominate her to join the Juliana team for the 2018 Summer season. Morgan is entering her senior year of high school, where she plans to continue racing and looking for opportunities to race on a university team in the coming years.*

It’s hard to believe that less than two years ago, mountain biking was only something cool my brother did, and now I am a Junior Rider on the Juliana Free Agent team. I normally race XC during the winter and spring months and Enduro in the summer and fall, but this year I decided to do a race that combines XC and Downhill.

Creek? Check. Practice Run? Check. Race Day? Bring it on!

The Downieville Classic All-Mountain is a long, demanding, two-day race in the small, but quaint town of Downieville, California.  This point-to-point race in the rugged Sierra Nevadas is considered by many to be one of the longest and most challenging races in the United States.  The All-Mountain course combines a 29-mile cross country course, complete with a solid 8-mile uphill grind on Day 1, and a downhill course, dropping 5,000 feet in a mere 15-mile course on Day 2. The kicker is that racers have to ride the exact same bike for both days of the race, and in order to race the downhill, you must complete the cross country.

The race atmosphere is not something new for me, but Downieville is something else entirely. Flooded with vendors, race organizers and a crew of workers, this sleepy, unassuming town transformed into a lively and exciting festival in the Sierras. The first morning of the race, the start was full of top athletes, and my nerves were high.  During the final section, in order to keep pedaling at a steady pace, I kept telling myself, “just a little further – you’re almost there” only to discover how much further I had to go.  I finished humbled, proud, and ready for the downhill!

There's no race like Downieville, there is no team like the Juliana Team.

Unlike any other downhill course I have raced, Downieville is 15 grueling miles of a variety of terrain, including deep and dusty switchbacks, baby-head rocks, slippery rocks in creek crossings, and the notoriously rocky waterfall section. Finding motivation to push through steep uphills got harder and harder, but I proved to myself that I could push through the technical and challenging obstacles through the finish line. This race demanded endurance, skills, a strong mental game, and a positive attitude.  I finished feeling accomplished.

After completing the Downieville Classic All-Mountain, as I stood on the podium, I was full of pride, confidence, and personal reflection.  I learned that you can prepare all you want for a race — be in perfect shape, have all your lines picked out on the course, and have your bike in tip-top condition (with new tires and everything), but what really gets you up and down the mountain is your end goal, focus, mental game, and attitude. Before I even officially started the race, I had some negative self-talk in my head, my mental game wasn’t strong from my practice runs, but my countless hours of preparation turned my ride around and I raced faster and harder than I thought possible.

Bigger than the podium was a finish as the only All-Mountain racer in her category, but the top of the podium certainly isn't a bad view!

I also realized that just racing something as challenging as the Classic is a huge testament to how strong and capable you are as an athlete.  Taking on something so extremely difficult shows that you’re tough and willing to accept a challenge.  I was one out of two girls who raced the cross country and the only girl in my category for the downhill - evidence that there is still only a small number of women that mountain bike.  It was a very cool experience to represent the small number of young women mountain bikers at such a momentous race.

The Downieville Classic closes out my 2018 summer race season racing with the Juliana Free Agents, a team that taught me new skills, bike maintenance, and how to have more confidence in myself while riding and also in my daily life. What these women represent is so inspiring and so cool!  They really are awesome role models and riding alongside them has been such an honor (and so much fun!), and I cannot wait to ride with them again. Until then, I will be finishing up the California Enduro Series, racing on the NorCal High School Mountain Bike circuit, and trying to wrangle some girls to race beside me next year!

We would race every day if it was with these two! Awesome race Clare and Britt


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