Chris McGovern and the Birth of Lost and Found

Chris is also an award-winning frame builder, winning Best Cyclocross Bike at the 2019 North American Handmade Bike Show.

Chris McGovern’s involvement with the Stewardship has taken many shapes over the years, from event participant and volunteer to being a long-time SBTS member and a frame builder in this year’s Builders for Builders fundraiser. But Chris’ involvement with SBTS has its roots way back in the early 1990s when Chris was a teenager in Nevada City, attending the same high school as Greg Williams, SBTS Executive Director.

“It’s not like we were buddies in high school,” said Chris. “I was a freshman when he was a senior, but he rode bikes and so did I, so I knew him. I watched Greg’s path in the bike world go from crazy naked mountain biker to Downieville Classic to maintaining trails, to the Stewardship, to changing communities. I have always admired people who say that are going to do something and they do it.  It’s so simple yet so rare these days. I have always wanted to be a piece of that environment, or as SBTS calls it, the Tribe.”

The only problem for Chris was that he was a “roadie” and didn’t ever really fit in. At the time, the Downieville Classic was the only SBTS event. Yuba Expeditions and mountain bike shuttling defined what Chris thought was the core of the Stewardship, and it was just never his scene. Chris always paid his membership fees and if he was in town during the Classic, he would volunteer.

Then an expansion started to occur within SBTS and Chris was spending more long days on dirt on riding cyclocross bikes. Considering there are so many dirt roads near his home in Nevada City, riding on gravel wasn’t uncommon, but gravel riding just hadn’t become a “thing” yet.

A buddy of Chris was putting on a gravel event in Beaver, Utah, so he went and checked it out.

“My mind was blown; a challenging event in a beautiful place with cool people,” said Chris. “I thought we could do something similar in Nevada City, riding to Downieville off-road. I asked my friend if he would come out from Utah and help, but he said no. He said that without his loyal volunteers in his hometown, the event couldn’t happen. The very second he said that, I thought of Greg and the Stewardship.”

Chris reached out to Greg and SBTS and pitched the idea of a gravel event, but at first it was received with a lukewarm response. Chris felt like he was at a dead-end road, so he decided to do a little more leg work – literally and figuratively – so he started riding dirt roads to figure out potential routes and better sell the event concept.

Chris on the reconnaissance ride to find the original route for the first Lost and Found. Brrrr!!!

“After a few weeks I had kinda forgotten about the whole thing when Greg called, and much to my surprise, agreed to the event,” said Chris. “Mind you, it was October, so we had to get out there and figure a course quickly. Greg and Mike Ferrentino had spent a bunch of time on their dirt bikes scouting potential routes north of Portola near Lake Davis. I rallied Jared Kessler, Kenny Burt and Cameron Falconer and we took to the dirt. It was cold, Jared was incredibly unprepared and we started way late. We froze our asses off. We finished in the dark. Cam actually told me to leave him to die at one point. Greg was generous enough to sag for us on moto so we didn’t die. When we rolled into Coot Bay frozen and exhausted, the Lost and Found was born.”

The Lost and Found post-ride party in Portola.

Since that first ride, Chris has remained fully involved in the evolution of Lost and Found, making himself available for whatever needed to be done. Since its beginning in 2014 as a 200-person event to this year’s projected 1,600 riders, the Lost and Found has become one of the biggest events the Portola community has all year and a huge fundraiser for trails and SBTS.

“All of this was executed by the power of the Stewardship,” said Chris. “There were so many challenges – and there continue to be challenges – that would have stopped most organizations in their tracks, but the Stewardship soldiers on.  Every single person rolls up their sleeves and charges. It is a sight to behold, and I hope the folks who come up for any Stewardship events feels the power of the Tribe.”

Chris didn’t know at this age, the impact he would make on people and the Lost Sierra.

But everything starts with a good idea, and Lost and Found wouldn’t have been born without Chris’ idea and desire to do a gravel event in the Lost Sierra.