Confessions of a Downieville Veteran

by Amy O'Connell July 28, 2016

With the Downieville Classic only days away, the small town of Downieville, nestled in the heart of California’s Sierra County is preparing for the masses. Whether or not your quest for the hot and crazy has already begun with packing and pre-rides, we thought it fitting to get Yuri’s perspective on what the fun-fest has meant to him over the years and how he’s been prepping for the epic event.

 

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Confessions of a Downieville Veteran – Yuri Hauswald

 

I have a confession to make. I went well over five months without touching my mountain bike, geared or single speed. I’m embarrassed to admit my abstinence, but that’s the truth. See, I have been a bit one dimensional since last December, totally focused on training for my title defense at the Dirty Kanza 200, which meant that my Marin mountain bikes only gathered dust while hanging in my garage. All of that changed, though, two days after my lack-luster showing at this year’s  Dirty Kanza. I decided that the best way to get rid of the Flint Hill blues was to ride a single speed soul-searching session in Camp Tamarancho, CA, which happens to be the site of my first ever California MTB race way back in 1997. It also served as my first official training ride for the 2016 Downieville Classic single speed All Mountain, a race that holds a special place on my shelf of cycling memories.

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When it comes to my racing past, convergences align in Downieville, CA: rivers and trails, old friends and new rivals, good ideas and great times, even Clampers and mountain bikers. In my 16+ years of racing the Classic, it’s hard to pin point just one moment that was pivotal or more meaningful than another. Was it seeing Travis Brown and Stella Carey bare SSWC brands instead of tattoos at the 2002 Single Speed World Championships or watching Marla Streb hurl herself off the infamous Downieville river jump as attendees gasped in horror because of the fake baby strapped to her chest? (Thankfully, Child Protection Services doesn’t have a Downieville branch.) Standing on the 2003 single speed podium as that year’s winner was a huge honor, and something I will never forget (for full disclosure, especially if you ask Mike Ferrentino, I was 2nd that year to a fella who raced in his age category on a single speed). But, I think if I had to just pick one Downieville moment from the past 16 years, it would be that I was part of the first field of single speeders who raced the All Mountain category in 2013.

 

Yeah, yeah, I know, it wasn’t like we were overly progressive, but it did show that a band of relative misfits could get their shit together enough to lobby the promoters (which really meant we bugged them incessantly)  and were able to gather enough constituents to allow the creation of a single speed All Mountain category. No records, or bones were shattered, and much fun was had. New and old rivalries were stoked and, most importantly, a tradition was started.

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Photo: Forrest Arakawa

For me, there’s something very therapeutic and zen about riding a single speed. That’s why it was the perfect bike to ride off my post Dirty Kanza funk; no thoughts needed for shifting, just make the gear work for all pitches and terrains.

Breathe. Hydrate. Chop wood.

As soon as I clicked in and took a few pedal strokes, my legs instinctively recognized the low cadence of the bike and drew on it’s single speed muscle memory. It was like long lost dance partners who, once they’ve locked hands, immediately sync their steps and never miss a beat. I was home. I was on the bike I’ve raced the SS AM once before, ready to begin my 2016 dance preparation for Downieville.

Want to know my biggest training secret when it came to getting prepped for this year’s Downieville SS AM? I made a point of riding my single speed at least once a week. Wow, shocking revelation, right? But you’d be surprised at the number of times I’ve competed on my single speed without riding it prior to the event. Oh, and being a Cancer also means that I’m a creature of habit. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I returned to Camp Tamarancho in Fairfax, CA. and rode the same loop over and over, since that first day back on my single speed. Sound boring? It wasn’t. While I saw steady progressions in my fitness numbers, and a marked improvement with my technical skills, it was the post-work mental clarity that renewed my stoke for the mountain bike, my single speed.

Amen to that.

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I feel much better now that I’ve confessed. Thanks be to single speeds.

 

Think he’s as cool as we do? Follow Yuri on Instagram.

Look for the Kitsbow Van at Downieville! Stop by, check out the gear, hang out and donate to SBTS for somethin’ rad!

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Amy O'Connell
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