Burke Swindlehurst couldn't help but think back to his championship ride in 2005, as he hit the finish line with five laps remaining in the 50th annual Nevada City Classic.
Five years ago, the Salt Lake City cyclist broke away from the field and won the race by more than a minute. But this time, despite owning a 20-second lead, the pack reeled him back.
And it was 19-year-old Ian Boswell of Bend, Ore. who won a last-lap sprint against Swindlehurst, Floyd Landis, Zach Davies and teammate Paul Mach to the Broad Street finish line early Sunday evening, joining some serious cycling company in becoming a champion of Nevada City.
Considering the race he rode, it's hard to believe Boswell was considering calling it a week on Thursday night, after crashing in the prologue to the Tour de Nez in Sparks, Nev. But despite suffering a face plant that peeled some skin from his left cheek, Boswell got back in the saddle for the rest of the Tour de Nez and Sunday's 50th Classic.
"This is, like, my favorite race in the country," said Boswell, who has raced Nevada City twice before, including last year when he won the Ron Miller Junior Grand Prix and finished 21st in the Men's Pro 1/2. "And I can always dig up some extra motivation for this race.
"Paul definitely helped, he was instrumental in bringing them back to me. He was counting on me to have good legs at the end. I was expecting a hard effort on the last lap and thankfully everybody else was just as tired."
Swindlehurst, who finished second to former teammate Graham Howard in Saturday's final stage of the Tour de Nez, showed how badly he wanted to become a two-time champion in Nevada City by breaking away from the pack at the midway point of the 90-minute ride.
He showed his strength as a climber to build a large lead, but said he approached the race the same way he did in '05.
"I wanted it bad. No doubt about it," said the 37-year-old Swindlehurst. "I'm pretty disappointed right now. I gave it more than 100 percent, though. A couple of times, I turned myself inside out to win this again, like I never have before.
"I'm kind of kicking myself for putting forth too much effort in yesterday's race. I definitely paid the price. I could feel yesterday's ride early on."
Mach said he and Boswell teamed up to orchestrate the finish. As the final five laps dropped, the question in everyone's mind was could Swindlehurst stay away?
That question was answered emphatically with three laps to go, as Mach led a chase that trimmed a 20-second margin to a mere five bike lengths. By the next lap, Mach took the lead and led Swindlehurst and Landis with two to go. And with one lap remaining, Landis led Swindlehurst, with Mach, Boswell and Davies giving chase through the Commercial Street turn.
Swindlehurst said when Landis attacked early on the climb back to Broad Street, he just couldn't answer the call.
But Team Bissell could.
"Burke was really, really strong. He really put in some digs," said Mach, a Davis resident. "At the end, I put on a few hard laps to bring him back, hoping Ian would be capable of taking it at the end, and he did."
Landis said the finish came down to a simple numbers game, and both he and Swindlehurst were the odd men out as they were riding solo without any teammates in the field.
"(Swindlehurst) was the strongest guy, but he was outnumbered," Landis said. "Those guys raced smart, but he deserved to win, because he certainly worked hard enough for it."
For Boswell, the win was especially impressive considering it was only a year ago that he won the Ron Miller Junior Grand Prix and suggested racing in the Pro 1/2 would be "another level altogether."
Apparently, Boswell has bridged that gap exactly as he rode on Sunday, in fast fashion.
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