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Will California’s Downieville Classic crown the best all-around mountain biker?

Lopes, Weir, Rockwell, Moeschler to battle in Sierras

By Fred Dreier

The 2008 Downieville Classic route

The 2008 Downieville Classic route

Photo: Map courtesy of the Downieville Classic

California’s Downieville Classic, which runs July 12-13, has earned a reputation for crowning North America’s best all-around mountain bike racer. The two-day stage race, titled the “All Mountain World Championships,” includes a lung-busting cross-country to challenge a rider’s fitness, as well as a painfully long enduro downhill — one of the toughest skills tests in the country.

“Our courses are the opposite of a NORBA race,” said race director Greg Williams. “You aren’t going to win this on a road bike. You better have a lot of travel and some thick tires.”

A field of top riders has turned up to challenge for the All Mountain title in 2008 — the deepest well of talent in the race’s 13-year history. Headlining the list of stars is California’s Brian Lopes, the four-time world four-cross champion. Lopes, 37, finished fifth at the 2008 worlds in Val di Sole, Italy, but showed his abilities as an all-mountain racer by winning the June 15 round of the MaxiAvalanche enduro downhill in Vallnord, Andorra.

Other top riders slated to race include former downhill greats Myles Rockwell and Jurgen Beneke, freeride pioneer Wade Simmons and Canadian Olympian Andreas Hestler.

But looking to defend their home turf will be Northern California’s Mark Weir and Jason Moeschler (both WTB-Santa Cruz), famed heroes of the Downieville race. Moeschler is a three-time defending All-Mountain champ, and Weir took the downhill and finished second in the All-mountain competition last year.

Saturday’s 29-mile, point-to-point cross-country race follows a rugged 3000-foot climb to the crest of the Sierra Nevadas before plunging 5200 rock-strewn feet into the heart of the small town. Sunday’s famed downhill course plunges 5000 feet over 17 miles and includes 1010 feet of climbing.

In addition to the top pros, Downnieville has attracted its largest-ever field of amateur and age-group riders. The race sold out its coveted 200 spots for the downhill race in just three minutes when registration opened on June 21 on active.com. The cross-country course, which allows for higher numbers, will see 700 riders tackle its rocky slope. The race only has 150 spots open for the All Mountain competition, all of which have been taken.

“I think we’re getting to the point where the race might be tapped out,” Williams said. “We have more people wanting to do the race than we have space on the trails.”

The big numbers come despite the area’s close proximity to a number of forest fires burning in Northern California. The largest of these fires, the Butte Fire just outside of Paradise, is roughly 50 miles to the east of Downieville.

Williams said the area had seen its share of haze and smoke, however the race would go on as planned.

Williams hinted that the popularity of the event has its organizers, the Downieville-based Yuba Expeditions company, planning additional off-road racing events for the future.

The All Mountain world championships headline a weekend of live music and a bustling street fair, as well as the self-title world championships of river jumping, Pixie-cross racing and Robot Dance-off.

Stay tuned to VeloNews.com for updates and news from the 2008 Downieville Classic mountain bike race. Unfortunately, the web editor says we will be unable to post full results from the world championships of river jumping, Pixie-cross or Robot Dance-off.

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