The Northern Sierras of California are a quite a special place and even more so… if you mix in gravel bikes. I’ve known about the Lost and Found race for awhile but hadn’t felt 100% ready to tackle the 100 mile gravel grinder until this year and man, was it totally worth it.
The race kicks off in a mass start for everyone in the 102 mile format (there’s also a 67 and a 35 mile format). This mass of cyclists is lead at the very front by highway patrol eventually leading us to our first gravel road. We’d spend the next 8 1/2+ hours peddling through what seemed like every type of gravel mountain terrain imaginable. It had been raining heavy yet sporadic in the Sierras leading up to the race, providing ample mud pits with even snow still present on the course in numerous areas.
The first 1/3 of the race included the two biggest climbs for the day which I seemed to get through just fine eventually linking up with a buddy of mine who rode an XC Mountain Bike while my weapon of choice was the Stigmata Cx. We were able to punch pretty hard on the descents, splashin’ in ‘n out of water crossings, dodging all sorts of baby head rocks and using our trusty speed on the short downs to carry us back up the next roller.
After conquering the biggest summits for the day, the course lead everyone to the most lively aid station area in the Red Clover Valley. Refueling and constant snacking are paramount to keeping your stamina up in these kinds of races. I made sure to eat a couple clif bars, bacon-wrapped pickles, down a pack of shot blocks as well as drink pickle juice, coca cola plus tons of electrolyte water. This aid station was also the crucial fork-in-the-road for riders unsure if they wanted to press on into the full 100 mile course or ‘bail out’ and take the remaining distance in the 67 mile cut-off route instead. It was at this point I felt really confident in suggesting my girlfriend Ariel ride the whole 100 mile shebang with me… and she eagerly agreed.
The next few segments of the race were the most beautifully scenic landscapes and tranquilly peaceful sounds. Even if you were riding with other people, you’d hit a stretch of gravel road or a rocky ascent where your pace out-matched others and just like that- you were totally alone, quietly riding… super deep in some serious back country.
As we neared the last 1/3 of the route, fatigue and strain began to creep in a little bit. The best way I found to counter this was with quick on-the-go body stretching, even more hydration, conversations with those riding around me and some good weed. I knew we needed to stay focused in order to make the 6pm cut-off time at the finish line, so we kept our next few aid station breaks very short and pressed on… reminding ourselves things would eventually get easier once we were on the long asphalt road descent that takes you back to highway 70.
The very last leg of the race after highway 70 took you back on gravel for one final dirt push. The course sent you thru a tunnel underneath the highway which traversed to yet another (and final) rough gravel ranch road before dumping you onto the stretch road. A very friendly course warden waved enthusiastically to me as I rode by raising 3 fingers and exclaiming, “Three more miles to go!!” at which point I immediately had some extra gas left in the tank to power thru to the campgrounds, pathway, bridge over the river to the event grounds and finally over that coveted finish line and massive archway.
In the end, we were pretty beat to be honest (haha) but feeling 100% satisfied with getting down on our most monstrous gravel grinder to date. A handful of days later, Ariel and I are already looking into what races we can sign up for next as we happily enter the summer riding season.