Downtown Downieville sign: Visitors, kindly distance from our communities

25th Annual Downieville Classic Canceled

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. 

Yuba Expeditions closedSierra 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.

This announcement follows the cancelation of our 2020 Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, based in Portola. The overall positive support from Lost and Found racers, partners, locals and volunteers upon receiving the bad news was humbling for our staff. We hope people will be equally understanding about cancelling the Downieville Classic. Race registration fees enable SBTS to keep building new trails and make sure existing trails in the Tahoe and Plumas National Forests stay open. We greatly appreciate racer understanding in SBTS retaining entry fees, as it helps keep SBTS alive as a trail building organization. We are offering Downieville Classic racers priority registration as we did for Lost and Found racers which includes the ability to register before the official registration opening date for this traditionally sold-out event, and receive a 25 percent discount on 2021 registration fees. 

Trailworker in the winterFundamentally, 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.

Trail closed sign on trailLong-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:

  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.

The COVID-19 induced changes are major, but know that SBTS is taking the right steps to persevere through the pandemic and keep trails open. We’re sad we can’t currently provide the gatherings for trail work, trail usage and races SBTS supporters enjoy. 

River jumper in mid-air
Photo: Ken Etzel

We can’t say it enough; SBTS would not exist without you. 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, please do not hesitate to contact us at We’re here to listen and do the best we can. 

Greg WilliamsExecutive Director

Greg Carter, Rob Bixler, Jesse Passafiume, Debbie Bonovich, and Rick StockBoard of Directors