Past masters of the Nevada City Classic
June 17, 2010
Heading into its 50th anniversary on Sunday, the Nevada City Classic’s all-time champions list leaves little doubt the caliber of cyclists who race here each Father’s Day.
It reads like a “Who’s Who?” of American cycling.
Of course, Lance Armstrong (2009) and Levi Leipheimer (1998) have both won here.
The first man to win Olympic cycling gold for the USA, Alexi Grewal (1993), once stepped to the top podium spot on Broad Street. And John Howard (1970), the former Olympian, four-time U.S. Road champ and winner of the 1981 Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, is also on the list.
As often is the case in Nevada City, those cycling icons claimed the Classic because they were the best on the bike that day. The 1.1-mile, closed-circuit course climbs 120 feet on each lap of the 90-minute ride, considered to be one of the most technically and physically challenging one-day courses in the country.
But in the previous 49 races, only eight riders have won in Nevada City more than once.
Five riders have won twice, including Nevada City’s first champion, Bob Tetzlaff, who plans to be on hand for Sunday’s celebration. Canadian Bill Wild, who also has RSVP’d as a special guest for the 50th, won in 1969 and 1975. Todd Gogulski, Sunday’s race announcer, claimed the Classic trophy in 1986 and again in ’88. Michael Engleman, who went on to create the U.S. Women’s Cycling Development Program, won in 1992 and ’95. Justin England, the most recent two-time champ crossed the finish line first in 2004 and again in 2008.
And then there are the big three – the past masters of Nevada City, if you will – of Greg LeMond, Scott Moninger and Bob Parsons.
LeMond, of course, needs no introduction. The three-time Tour de France champion was also a three-time winner in Nevada City (1979-81), when he was an up-and-coming talent known as the “Reno Rocket.”
In 2000, for the 40th annual race, Nevada City welcomed LeMond back with open arms as its special guest.
“The streets were lined with thousands of spectators,” LeMond told The Union that summer, remembering his three wins. “It had a European kind of feeling to it. It was definitely one of the highlights of the summer. It was, and still is, a great way to see European-style racing.”
Moninger, a Boulder, Colo. resident who won 275 road races – reportedly the most by any American rider – before retiring in 2007, owned the hills of Nevada City four times. Moninger showed the impressive longevity of his career by claiming his first and last Classic titles 12 years apart, winning in 1994, ’97, ’99 and in 2006.
“I’ve always enjoyed the venue there,” Moninger prior to the 2007 Classic, his final ride in Nevada City. “It’s a very straight-forward course. If you’re not having a good day, you know it quick. If you are, you’ve got a good chance to do well.”
Moninger noted at that time, as he attempted to tie the Classic record for most wins (five), that history was not on his side, as he never won the race in back-to-back years. But he was close, finishing second to South African Darren Lill in his Nevada City swan song.
The man Moninger was trying to match in number of Classic wins, Bob Parsons, will be alongside Tetzlaff, the race’s first champion, when Sunday’s action gets rolling down Broad Street. But these days, he goes by the name “Rob.”
No worries, though. It’s not likely anyone in Nevada City will forget his surname, after Parsons pedaled his way to five consecutive Nevada City Classic championships from 1963-67. His first came at the expense of Tetzlaff’s try for three straight, when as an 18-year-old out of Pasadena, Parsons pulled away from the field late.
“It’s a great town. It was always my favorite race, even in the first two years when I didn’t do that well. I loved it there,” Parsons told The Union in a 2007 interview. “A certain amount of braking was required (on the Nevada City course). One of my better skills was my ability to go downhill and descend faster than most of the other riders. I was also good at getting through a corner quickly and another of my better skills was that I was good at short, steep uphill stretches.
“A string like that is kind of unusual. I think the reason I was able to do that was because it was a tough course that was particularly suited to what I was best at.”
With Moninger retired, there’s no current threat to Parsons’ record stretch of five Nevada City wins on Sunday.
But with one former champion, Utah native Burke Swindlehurst (2005), already registered for the Men’s Pro 1/2 race, perhaps Nevada City could be adding a ninth member to its list of champion cyclists who have conquered the course on more than one occasion.
Contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 477-4240.