CYCLING: 57th annual Nevada City Classic will feature 2 days of events, festivities | TheUnion.com

CYCLING: 57th annual Nevada City Classic will feature 2 days of events, festivities

Father's Day in Nevada City means the streets will be filled with the buzz of elite cyclists navigating the downtown area at speeds exceeding 50 mph in hopes of earning the prestigious title of Nevada City Classic champion.

"This is definitely one of the classic NorCal races and it's been one of my favorites … Lots of big names have won it," Nathaniel English said after winning the 2015 Nevada City Classic Bicycle Race. "This is one of the best and the hardest (criterium races), and for me that's great. I really love this one."

The Nevada City Classic, which has been a local sports staple since 1961, is set for its 57th annual event this weekend, and this year's version will have quite a few notable differences than races in the past.

In recent years, the Nevada City Classic's popularity has waned, with crowds lining Broad street getting thinner and thinner. In an effort to breath new life into the event and build it back up to its former glory, the Classic is expanding from one day to an entire weekend, adding several more events and festivities.

The 2017 Nevada City Classic will still feature its iconic and grueling criterium race on Sunday, but it has added a gravel grinder ride, sprint races and a run to the event schedule.

"We wanted to be able to reach out to a broader demographic of outdoor sports-minded people, beyond just bike racers and bike racing fans," said event director and former pro rider Kurt Stockton, who came up with the new format for the Classic.

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Kicking off the two-day affair will be the Gourmet Gravel Nevada City, a ride that starts and finishes at ol' Republic Brewery in Nevada City. The event starts at 8 a.m. Saturday and is a ride, not a race, said Stockton.

"My idea behind Gourmet Gravel was: let's tie in some great riding with some food and drink that is locally produced," he said. "One of the great things about Nevada City is that we have all of that right here."

There will also be a raffle after the ride, and 'ol Republic Brewery will be hosting a post-ride party, according to nevadacityclassic.com.

Saturday evening will feature sprint races, in which riders will compete in a straight line bike race beginning at the National Hotel, near the bottom of Broad Street. Competitors will charge as quickly as they can up Broad Street for 225 yards.

"The sprints are more like a track and field kind of thing," Stockton said. "They are quick, to the point and you instantly know who won. I thought it would be fun to do that and would get people to come into town and enjoy what we have to offer. Have a beer, get some food and check out some racing."

The format for the sprints will be four racers per heat, with the top two in each heat advancing to the next round until a final sprint determines winners for both men and women. The sprints are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

On Sunday, a running race was slipped into the schedule ahead of the start of the Women Elite Pro 1/2/3 race. The race is being dubbed the "Nevada City Mile," in which runners will traverse the same 1.1 mile course the cyclists compete on.

The traditional criterium races will get started at 11 a.m. Sunday with the junior races and culminating with the men's pro race, which starts at 5:20 p.m. and goes for 75 minutes.

With Stockton handling the new additions as well as promotion for the event, longtime race director Duane Strawser said he is focusing more closely on Sunday's bike races.

"I'm just trying to focus on the quality of the race itself," Strawser said. "The physical course, the asphalt condition, the safety for the racers and that kind of thing. Getting back to the nitty gritty and trying to hand over the promotion and marketing side so I can focus on the logistics of the day.

"I'm just trying to make the day of the event as fun, energetic and professional as it has been in the past, if not better."

Strawser added he's interested to see how the new features will aid the event.

"I'm looking forward to the new additions and hoping they add something fresh to the race weekend so we can rebuild this back up to where it has been in the past."

THE COURSE

The Nevada City Classic features a 1.1 mile course that starts at Broad Street, continues counter-clockwise to Union, Commercial, York, North Pine, Cottage, Main, East Broad and back to Broad Street. The course is 1/3-downhill, 1/3-uphill and 1/3 rolling flats. The race is considered one of the most technically and physically challenging one-day courses in America.

PAST WINNERS

The Classic has no shortage of big name winners throughout its history, including Greg LeMond, Levi Leipheimer, Ian Boswell, Scott Moninger and Lance Armstrong. Last year's winner was Jason Saltzman, who accomplished the feat at just 18 years old.

In the race's history, only 10 riders have won multiple Nevada City Classic titles. They are Bob Tetzlaff (1961-62), Bob Parsons (1963-67), Bill Wild (1969, 1975), LeMond (1979-81), Todd Gogulski (1986, 1988), Mike Engleman (1992, 1995), Moninger (1994, 1997, 1999, 2006), Justin England (2004, 2008), Boswell (2010-11) and Stephen Leece (2012-13).

The 57th annual Nevada City Classic is presented by ol' Republic Brewery, Waste Management and The Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. For more information about the 57th annual Nevada City Classic Bicycle Race visit http://www.nevadacityclassic.com.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

Past Nevada City Classic winners

1961 Bob Tetzlaff

1962 Bob Tetzlaff

1963 Bob Parsons

1964 Bob Parsons

1965 Bob Parsons

1966 Bob Parsons

1967 Bob Parsons

1968 Dave Brink

1969 Bill Wild

1970 John Howard

1971 Fred Fisk

1972 Dave Walters

1973 Keith Vierra

1974 Ed Parrott

1975 Bill Wild

1976 Mark Pringle

1977 Rick Baldwin

1978 Bob Cook

1979 Greg LeMond

1980 Greg LeMond

1981 Greg LeMond

1982 Toby Power

1983 Dale Stetina

1984 Greg Demgen

1985 Jeff Pierce

1986 Todd Gogulski

1987 Gervais Rioux

1988 Todd Gogulski

1989 Mark Caldwell

1990 Nate Reiss

1991 Chris Huber

1992 Mike Engleman

1993 Alexi Grewal

1994 Scott Moninger

1995 Mike Engleman

1996 Chad Gerlach

1997 Scott Moninger

1998 Levi Leipheimer

1999 Scott Moninger

2000 John Peters

2001 Ernesto Lechuga

2002 Antonio Cruz

2003 Eric Wohlberg

2004 Justin England

2005 Burke Swindlehurst

2006 Scott Moninger

2007 Darren Lill

2008 Justin England

2009 Lance Armstrong

2010 Ian Boswell

2011 Ian Boswell

2012 Stephen Leece

2013 Stephen Leece

2014 Walton Brush

2015 Nathaniel English

2016 Jason Saltzman