NEVADA CITY, Calif. – Hundreds of experienced bike riders will compete Oct. 8 in the second annual Heart of Gold, two challenging gravel-course races through Gold Country that will increase awareness and raise funds for mental wellness programs for children and young adults in Nevada County.

The Heart of Gold race starts at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Eric Rood Administration Center, 950 Maidu Ave. in Nevada City, about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento. Both races also finish at the administration center.

Racers can sign-up in advance online or in person the morning of the Heart of Gold. Race-day registration and packet pick-up starts at 6 a.m.

More than 200 racers, many from the Bay Area and Southern California, competed in the inaugural Heart of Gold in 2021. Heart of Gold organizers expect more riders this year, especially with two challenging and competitive gravel-race courses.

More than 200 racers competed in the inaugural Heart of Gold Gravel in 2021. More racers are expected at this year’s event on October 8.
More than 200 racers competed in the inaugural Heart of Gold Gravel in 2021. More racers are expected at this year’s event on October 8.

The first race is a 74-mile course with a climb of almost 11,000 feet, with riders enjoying the fall colors on old-growth trees, historic parks, and the hamlets of North Bloomfield and Washington. The second race is a 46-mile course with a gain of about 7,100 feet in elevation. Both courses are for experienced riders.

“The Heart of Gold attracted a lot of riders in its first year and has gained much attention in the bike-racing community,” said Nevada County Supervisor Hardy Bullock, race event chair and an avid bike rider. “But the Heart of Gold is more than just a bike race, it’s about the community working together to put on a first-rate event that helps improve the lives of residents.”

Registration is $160, regardless of the course. Riders are also asked to donate at least an additional $15.

All proceeds support local organizations that provide mental wellness services for teens in Nevada County: Bright Futures for Youth, Child Advocates, Tahoe Forest Health System Foundation, and Youth Bicyclists of Nevada County (YBONC).

“Teens are faced with so many challenges, from anxiety and depression to bullying and loneliness,” said Jennifer Litton Singer, Executive Director of Bright Futures for Youth. “The proceeds from the race will help us meet the needs of youth in our community while also increasing awareness to the issue.”

Teens are facing numerous issues. Almost two of every five ninth-graders in the Nevada Joint Union High School District are battling chronic sadness, and one of every four has considered suicide, according to a new California Healthy Kids report. And bullying, especially online via social media, affects about one of every four ninth-graders.

“It’s critical that young people know when they are facing such issues they are not alone and there are great programs and services to support them,” said Nevada County Behavioral Health Director Phebe Bell. “The Heart of Gold Race is a great way to raise funds for organizations, and for the community to support programs that help our youth.”

The Heart of Gold is modeled after the popular Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo ride in the Wine Country.

“There’s a new kind of Gold Rush in the foothills of the Sierras, it’s gravel gold,” said Leipheimer, a former professional road racing cyclist, two-time national champion and Olympic medalist. “This Bike Monkey event, now in its second year, showcases the beautifully rugged terrain of the historic 49er Gold Rush. With steep and dramatic canyons, the views are quite scenic when you’re ripping the massive gravel descents that this event is known for.”

The Heart of Gold will include food booths and live music at the start/finish line at the Eric Rood Administration Center.

Race sponsors are the County of Nevada, Kensho Wellness, Tahoe Forest Hospital System, and YubaNet.

About 50 volunteers are needed to help with the Heart of Gold. Volunteers can sign up now.

“Nevada County is a bike-riders paradise, and the Heart of Gold offers two challenging courses,” said Dr. Daniel Goldsmith of Grass Valley, who has been bike riding for four decades and competing in races the past 20 years. “Bike riders can compete in a great race on a scenic course, and support some excellent organizations.”