Giant Factory Off-Road Team rider Carl Decker returned to northern California last weekend to race the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, an event he has won twice before.
This year the veteran from Bend, Oregon, turned in another podium performance, overcoming a late-race tire puncture to finish third behind winner Tobin Ortenblad and second-place finisher Anthony Clark, two top-level U.S. cyclocross pros.
The Lost and Found race, a 100-mile endurance event, is the first of three races in the Lost Sierra Triple Crown, a series that also includes the Downieville Classic Cross-Country in August and Grinduro in October. Decker has won the Lost Sierra series title the past two years.
Familiar with the challenges of the race, which this year had its largest field ever with 1400 riders, Decker had a trick up his sleeve: a prototype gravel bike from Giant that he has been working to help develop over the past year.
“The Lost and Found event is perennially one of my favorite events,” Decker said. “Though the mileage is always around 100 miles, the course changes every year, exposing riders to new sections of the Lost Sierra region and corresponding new challenges. This year's race was touted as perhaps the easiest Lost and Found ever due to better than average road conditions, but it would turn out to be anything but easy.”
The first big move went away as soon as the leaders hit the dirt, with a group of 10, all the top contenders, making the selection at the front. By the 60-mile mark, the lead group was down to four. “It was becoming apparent that we'd be sorting out the podium order on the final dirt road climb and descent to the finish,” Decker said.
A punctured rear tire forced Decker to make a repair stop, and he spent the final miles trying to catch back up. He was able to catch and pass Menso de Jong to land the final podium spot, about 1:20 behind McTubbin and 40 seconds behind Clark.
“This was my first race on this new purpose-built gravel bike, and it was a more than willing partner,” said Decker, who also wore the Giant Pursuit helmet and Charge XC shoes. “My body was cramping more than I’ve ever experienced and in ways I’d never thought possible, but my back and hands were in better shape than I expected after this brutal day of racing. I’m sure that’s due in large part to the smooth ride quality of the new bike.”
Decker said he was disappointed to lose his Lost and Found title, but looks to be in good position for the Triple Crown series. “Despite placing third, I was the first Triple Crown contender to finish,” he said. “So a kind of victory on that front. If Menso is as strong at Downieville and Grinduro as he was at Lake Davis, we could have a good fight on our hands.”