Lost & Found
Emily Kachorek, the Sacramento-based pro cyclocross racer and co-owner of Squid Bikes, brings us the following account of her experience with her team at the Lost and Found gravel grinder in Portola, California. All photos are courtesy of Angel Perez unless otherwise noted.
Lost and Found isn’t your typical gravel grinder, it's a gravel grinder done Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship style. Following the wettest and snowiest winter on record, this year's event was far from the fast-rolling, graded farm roads that many people expect from a gravel race. Drafting was not much of an option—rain ruts, loose rocks and sandy turns forced you to keep your head up and wits about you. Technical climbs rode more like single track than fire road, and high elevation views of June snow-capped peaks pleaded with you to stop and enjoy the moment. I would imagine that a few of this year's 1,000 participants may have wondered if the name "Lost and Found" was just a bad joke at some point during their two- (or nine-) hour journey.
If you are familiar with California’s famed Downieville trail system and mountain bike race, you are probably familiar with the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. They are responsible for restoring, maintaining, and building all the wonderful trails in the greater Downieville and Lakes Basin area. This year's Lost and Found, now in its fourth year, required a completely new route thanks to Mother Nature's wild winter. The new route covered 93 miles (150 km) and 6,500 feet (1980 meters) of elevation gain which was almost equally divided between four climbs and was comprised of 65% dirt. Additionally, there were two shorter, 57-mile (92 km), and 25-mile (40 km) options to make sure everyone had a challenging and fun outing.
Photo credit: Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship
Having been to the past three years of the event, I was excited to bring the entire Squid Squad out to Lake Davis. Wednesday afternoon our Pro Squad arrived, Anthony Clark from Western Massachusetts and Sammi Runnels from Austin, Texas. We built bikes, went for an evening river shred, and discussed and organized the supplies for Friday evening's Race Day Rattlecan. By Thursday morning we had the Squid Van loaded with four days of camping, bike racing, and painting supplies. We secured a lovely spot right on Lake Davis and explored the singletrack that loops around the lake until the sun disappeared over the nearby 8,000-foot peaks.
The Stewardship knows how to create a rugged and beautiful off-road adventure, but they also throw a bike party that is seamlessly rolled in with leg and lung busting efforts. Festivities started Friday afternoon on the shores on Lake Davis with an expo area, beer tent, snacks, and packet pick-up. Last year we painted my Dreamsicle-themed bike for our first iteration of our Race Day Rattlecan, and this year our plan was to paint a bike for Sammi.
One of our friends said it perfectly: A Race Day Rattlecan “Is the ‘Iron Chef’ of bike racing. A little desperation. A little creativity.” Event participants and their families get to see the whole process of spray painting a bike, ask questions, and even try their hand with Spray.Bike spray paint. We decided to keep this year's paint job "fast and dirty" and incorporated a piece of found trash as the masking we used for creating a polka dot pattern.
We left the frame with a nice matte finish and master mechanic and Squid co-owner, Chris Namba, built the bike that night back at the campsite under a Coleman lantern. By 10pm the bike was built. Sammi took it for a test ride around the campground and we were ready for the following day's adventure.
The race started with a few miles of paved road but then quickly started up a well-graded dirt climb. Anthony took off with the lead men's group and Sammi and I worked in with the solid group of pro women that included multiple National Champions and Olympians. Like almost everyone, flats slowed us all down, knocking Anthony of out the lead group back to 8th and me back to 5th. After a few flats, Sammi opted for the party pace, showing off her new bike, and stopping to enjoy the views.
After we cleaned dirt out of, well, everything, we meet up to enjoy the sunset over the lake, recount the day's high points, misadventures, and to wash down some of that Sierra Nevada dirt with beer, tacos, and campfire s'mores. It seems that with every hour I spend in the Lost Sierra I fall more in love with its beauty and the people who are drawn to it.