Hundreds of bike enthusiasts will compete Nov. 20 in the first-ever Heart of Gold, a challenging 55-mile gravel course race through Gold Country that will help increase awareness and raise funds for mental wellness programs for youth in Nevada County.
The Heart of Gold was postponed in September because of air quality concerns prompted by nearby wildfires that also closed part of the course.
“The Heart of Gold is an opportunity to compete against some of the best riders in the state while increasing awareness for mental wellness in Nevada County,” said race event chair Hardy Bullock, a Nevada County supervisor and avid bike rider, in a news release. “The race also showcases how our community comes together for an event that helps promote the region and improves the lives of others.”
As many as 400 racers — many from the Bay Area and Southern California — will pedal past old-growth trees, through historic parks and the hamlets of North Bloomfield and Washington, over the Yuba River and endure scenic-but-demanding rolling hills on the course with almost 7,500 feet of vertical climbing. The competitive race includes steady climbs and steep descents totaling 7,200 vertical feet. Participants will finish four- to seven-hours later, depending on the skill level of riders, at the starting line in Nevada City. Awards will be issued to the top finishers.
“It’s a steep, challenging course,” said Bullock, who advises against beginning riders from competing in the race. “The course is the real deal, and is strenuous and technical. Riders will definitely feel a sense of accomplishment at the finish line.”
Riders should also feel a sense of giving back, with proceeds from the $145 entry fee funding six mental wellness programs for youth in Nevada County: Bright Futures for Youth; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Sierra; Child Advocates; Nevada Joint Union High School District; Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District; and Youth Bicyclists of Nevada County (YBONC). Riders can make an additional donation to further support the programs.
“Youth often face mental wellness challenges, but they have even more during COVID, which has led to isolation, depression and much uncertainty,” said Jennifer Litton Singer, executive director of Bright Futures for Youth. “The proceeds from the race will greatly help meet the needs of teens and young adults in the community, and increase the awareness of the importance of mental wellness.”
About 8% of children face abuse or neglect in the county, higher than the statewide average, according to the California Department of Education’s California Healthy Kids Survey. And almost two of every five ninth-graders have feelings of depression, and 10% missed school during a recent 30-day period because they felt sad, hopeless, anxious, stressed or angry.
“We are so excited about the Heart of Gold race,” said Nevada County Behavioral Health Director Phebe Bell. “It’s great to see the attention being given to the mental health of young people. We want youth to know that when they have hard times, they are not alone and there are so many people who care about them as well as great programs and services to support them. The community coming together to support youth mental health programs in this way just underscores our commitment to helping our young people thrive.”
The Heart of Gold — modeled after the wildly popular Levi Leipheimer’s Gran Fondo ride in Windsor in the wine country — will include food booths and live music at the start/finish line at the Eric Rood Administrative Center. A children’s race will take place around Hirschman’s Pond at Hirschman Trail.
Race sponsors are Allworth Financial/Scott Hanson, Nevada County, One Toyota of Oakland, the Rotary Club of Truckee, and Truckee Tahoe Airport District.
About 40 volunteers are needed to help with the Heart of Gold. Volunteers can sign-up on the Heart of Gold website.
“The Heart of Gold is an excellent way to help local organizations and support youth mental wellness in Nevada County, while showcasing what we have to offer bike riders at varying skill levels,” said Dr. Daniel Goldsmith of Grass Valley, who has been bike-riding for four decades and competing in races the past 20 years. “I hope this paves the way for more events that promote what the region has to offer.”
This article was published in The Union on October 16, 2021.