Nearly three years in the making, Stetina’s Paydirt debuted in Carson City, Nevada on Saturday. The event was twice canceled, once due to COVID-19 and then last year due to wildfires. This year, the event finally launched, albeit on the heels of the tragic murder of Mo Wilson.
The event was produced by Pete Stetina and Bike Monkey, the longtime event management company based in Santa Rosa, California. Stetina served as creative director, handling sponsorship and promotional aspects, while Bike Monkey took on the operational aspects of the event.
The event was unique in two major ways: one, it featured two timed segments rather than one continuous clock, and two, the prize money was designated for women. There were men’s, masters, and para categories, as well, but without the cash payout.
“My whole road career, the women’s race, if there was one, was usually treated as the opening act to the men’s,” Stetina said. “I’ve profited off that my whole career due to cultural norms and I realized I have a platform to make a change.”
Stetina said that the day was full of “resounding stoke,” and that coming together in light of recent tragedy was “therapeutic.”
“You realize how tight knit the community really is,” he said.
On-site registration pickup saw nearly 500 participants on race morning. Stetina said that nearly 1/3 of riders were women.
“We still need to strive for more, we’re not at 50 percent. But, we’re not done yet,” he said.
The weather in Carson City on race day was calm. Normally, mid-May conditions would include the possibility of a late winter storm and subsequent mud. This year, Stetina said, sand was the theme.
The 65-mile Paydirt route included two timed sections.
After a 2.3 mile neutral rollout on pavement, riders hit dirt at mile 3, entering the Mexican Dam Trail network. Miles 7.5 – 10.5 were on fun, fast urban gravel.
The first timed segment began at mile 13.6.
A short, steep climb and descent, both rough and sandy, led riders to Brunswick Canyon, a long, rough climb. In all, the 18-mile segment took just over an hour for some of the fastest riders and 2.5 for people near the back. Neutral support met riders at the top of the plateau.
Eventual men’s winner Griffin Easter pulled away from Levi Leipheimer on the Brunswick Canyon climb.
Paracyclist Meg Fisher finished atop the podium in the adapative category.
Here, Stetina has a hot dog at the first aid station. In the background is Fabian Serralta, director of Gravel Locos, who traveled to Carson City to grill up 450 hot dogs for riders.
After a long haul through rough, rocky sections followed by long sand washes, riders were eager to regroup at the feed zone. However, the first segment did not end here. Those racing opted to skip this feed zone and descend off Sunrise Pass Road to the pavement and end of the Pine Nut timed segment at mile 31.5.
1o miles of smooth tarmac were a relief as riders pedaled toward the main oasis of the event in Genoa, Nevada’s oldest settlement.
Stoked on the eastern Sierra.
The second timed segment included the Clear Creek Trail, which Stetina described as a “flowy, twisty, fun singletrack perfect for a gravel bike.” While the segment was mostly climbing, there was a smooth flow-trail style descent as well.
Rider times on this segment ranged from 50 minutes to two hours.
Stetina’s stalwart mechanic Big Tall Wayne on the mechanical bull.
There were a few opportunities to earn time bonuses at Paydirt of up to 30 seconds total, Stetina said. Riding the mechanical bull and playing a tire toss game were two. Women’s winner Flavia Oliveira was far enough ahead that she didn’t beed to play any games; however, second-place finisher Lauren Cantwell did try the tire toss (a two-week old broken collarbone prevented her from riding the bull).
Nevada’s nickname is the Silver State.
To make mementos for the event’s podium finishers, Carlos Perez of Bike Monkey bought pure silver and a stamp. At home, he melted the silver into two ounce 2 bars and engraved them with three things: Paydirt, finisher number, and Mo, for Mo Wilson.
Five women split a $4,400 prize purse. Oliveira said she will donate a portion of her winnings to one of the charities set up by Mo Wilson’s family.
After forgetting her Garmin head unit, Oliveira also said that instead of racing by power, she raced with Wilson in mind.
“I defaulted to my ‘chasing after Mo’ mode. Her presence in this community will be felt for a very long time. We all miss her and all I could do was imagine riding like we had done so many times, until I knew at some part of a techy spot she would just ride away with her effortless moves through the singletracks. Today,I was able to focus on those great memories on and off the bike and that’s what I want to do: hold on to the good stuff.”