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On a normal day, Portola, California has 2,000 people. For the weekend of the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, the population doubles.
For the riders, the lure of riding through pristine mountain valleys then partying to live music is the draw to the tiny Sierra Nevada town. For the organizers, bringing in riders is a way to rebuild an economically depressed community — and to fund some sweet trails.
“Lost and Found is a way for the public to explore the remote regions of the Lost Sierra,” said Kurt Gensheimer, spokesman of race organizer Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. “It is also an economic driver. It is something that is important to our nonprofit. We are focused on building economically viable economies through recreation, and events is the main way to do that.”
SBTS is the crew behind the Downieville Classic, the legendary mountain bike event celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. SBTS also put on Grinduro. (This year Grinduro is moving to Mt Shasta, but SBTS will host the same race in its original location under the name Mountains to Meadows.)
Lost and Found has grown from 200 riders its first year to an anticipated 2,000 on June 6 in its seventh year.
Mosaic Cycles founder Aaron Barcheck has done the race twice and raves about it.
“When you go out here it is pretty evident what the Trail Stewardship does,” Barcheck said. “It’s amazing. The race itself has a great mix of double track, dirt roads, a tiny bit of pavement and amazing views. And it’s hard. Man, it’s hard.”
Barcheck and Mosaic got in on the fundraising effort the past two years with a Builders for Builders for Challenge, which raised $50,000 by raffling off a chance to win a handcrafted bike with $10 tickets. The other builders involved in the fundraiser were Stinner Frameworks, Sklar Bikes, Argonaut Cycles, and Chris McGovern (McGovern Cycles), who helped design the Lost and Found course with SBTS executive director Greg Williams.
Gensheimer said SBTS doesn’t have economic impact data from Lost and Found, but SBTS overall efforts in Plumas and County Sierra County made a $1.9M economic impact in 2018. This includes paying wages to 40 part-time and full-time employees with a payroll north of $800,000.
In 2019, SBTS moved the start and finish of Lost and Found from Lake Davis to the tiny town of Portola. “The town loved it, and the participants loved it, because everything is based out of one place, with camping right there on the river, and music in the park,” Gensheimer said.
Music, he said, is an essential part of SBTS events: “We love to party down. It’s as important as the ride.”
Lost and Found this year is June 6, with course options of 36-, 67- and 106 miles that feature 3,650, 5,200 and 8,100 feet of climbing, respectively. All three distances feature stocked aid stations, and all three end together on the final three miles along the Feather River. Registration is open now.