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June 23, 2009
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Nevada City could host Tour of California's first stage

Not only has Nevada City been contacted by the Amgen Tour of California about hosting a stage of the annual race, but apparently western Nevada County just might be the starting point of the 2010 event.

Nevada City Classic race director Duane Strawser confirmed tonight that he and City Manager Gene Albaugh have been in discussion with representatives of the Tour of California over recent weeks.

"We have had two conference calls in the last three weeks," said Strawser, who was working a proposal to be submitted this week to TOC race officials. "The offer was made directly to me and Gene, our city manager. And now we have about 48 hours to get the paperwork done.

"It is true we have been approached by them for the opening stage start."

On Sunday at the 49th annual Nevada City Classic, the three-time defending champion of the Tour of California - and his well-known Astana teammate - both made a case for Nevada City to be a part of the Tour.

"What we did today," Leipheimer told the crowd Sunday, "is show that Nevada City deserves to be on the route of the Tour of California."

As first reported by The Union last Thursday, Armstrong said Tour of California officials should consider including Nevada City, the second-oldest bike race in the United States and the longest-running race on the West Coast.

"... the answer is 'yes," Armstrong told The Union. "They definitely should do that.

"You want to go where the crowds are. And with Nevada City, you have that built in."

On June 3, Strawser said he and Nevada City officials had discussed piggybacking on a proposal by the Chico community to be part of a stage race.

Strawser said he was later contacted directly by race representatives.

The Tour of California, an eight-day, 650-mile race cycled in stages, showcases the Golden State through the cycling world and provides an economic boost for host communities.

Earlier this year, the tour announced it would move its race date from February to May 16-23 for the 2010 event. The change of date is expected to coincide with warmer temperatures in the Sierra, offering a safe, challenging and picturesque climb through the foothills.

More than 80 cities were reported to have put forth proposals to serve a host for the race.

"I think we'll know in a couple of weeks," Strawser said.

'The Lance effect'

Ben Jacques-Maynes referred to it as the "Lance effect," but however one refers to the the celebrity power of Lance Armstrong it's clearly an impressive force.

Jacques-Maynes, who finished second to Armstrong in Sunday's 49th annual Nevada City Classic, noted via social network Twitter that many folks who "followed" Armstrong are now following his Twitter account. They have offered him a lot of positive feedback following the race.

"The Lance effect is destroying my follower numbers!" Jacques-Maynes wrote. "Welcome all new cycling fans and thanks for all the well wishes!"

Armstrong's celebrity was also obviously apparent in the number of people who attended Sunday's race.

Nevada City police estimated the crowd to be around 30,000, which is dramatic increase over the estimated 5,000 fans who have watched the race in recent years.

Nevada City draws globally

Anyone wondering whether the Nevada City Classic drew international interest might be surprised to learn at least one cycling fan traveled all the way from Bucharest, Romania.

Gary Stollery, a member of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, helped organize a free raffle that offered prizes for fans filling out a short questionnaire Sunday.

The survey asked how folks had heard about Nevada City, whether they were there solely for the bike race and whether they had patronized any area merchants.

Stollery said the chamber hopes to use the information in planning toward future events, including that potential Tour of California stage. Area merchants offered prizes, which were awarded to the three people who traveled the farthest to attend the race.

"One was from Bucharest, Romania, another was from Winbur, Pennsylvania and the third was from Kaunakakai, Hawaii," he said. "There were others from Plattsburg, Missouri and Victoria, British Columbia.

"A group of kids from Victoria drove round robin to be here just for the race. I don't know how much they were involved, but I was told they pitched in to help with the barricades and that type of thing."

Local fan support was apparently strong as well. Stollery said about one-third of the raffle surveys totaled thus far were completed by Grass Valley and Nevada City residents.

Stollery said merchants contributing prizes to the cause were: Brigadoon Books/Toad Hall Bookshop, Earth Store, Friar Tuck's, Gold Mountain, Harmony Books, Indian Springs Vineyards, J.J. Jacksons, Loana Beeson, The Mine Shaft, National Hotel, Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, Nevada City Crystal and Glass and Nevada City Winery.

To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail or call 477-4240.

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The Union Updated Jun 23, 2009 02:36AM Published Jun 23, 2009 02:28AM Copyright 2009 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.