Nevada City Classic tradition has grown over the years
Special to The Prospector
KNOW AND GO
WHAT: Nevada County Cycling Festival
WHEN: June 1st and 2nd
WHAT: Gold Country Cycling Challenge Road and Gravel Saturday June 1; Nevada City Classic Brewfest Saturday 6 p.m.-9 p.m., 59th Annual Nevada City Classic, Sunday June 2 11 a.m.
Nearly 60 years ago, Nevada City was a long way from the vibrant tourist stop it is today.
In fact, the downtown was nearly shuttered and suffering financially when local businessman and avid cyclist, Charlie Allert, suggested hosting a bike race.
Current Nevada City City Council member and co-owner of Tour of Nevada City Bike Shop Duane Strawser says, “Allert stepped up and said we need to do something in our community that is different from every other community.”
Cycling was in its American infancy at the time. The challenging course and the few A-level races run in the country brought every big cyclist in the country, including names like Greg Lamond. Cities did not close their downtowns as they do today.
“It was just a brainstorm by some local merchants who said we have to do something, or we are going to die and that is exactly what the race did,” Strawser said. “It really brought some attention to the town that was needed. People started saying, Nevada City, where is that? And what in the world is this bike race thing?”
Strawser has been the lead organizer for the Chamber of Commerce event for nearly two decades. Over the years the world of racing has changed, and Nevada City is making changes as well. This year, the 59th Annual Nevada City Classic is the culmination of the Nevada County Cycling Festival that includes the Rotary Gold Country Cycling Challenge, Big Brothers Big Sisters Ride For Kid’s Sake, and the Nevada City Classic Brewfest.
Rotary’s Gold Country Challenge moved its event to be part of the weekend. The road race offers durations on asphalt ranging from 35 to 100 miles. The group also stepped up to help Big Brothers Big Sisters, who held Ride for Kids’ Sake gravel rides. There will be 60, 40 and easy routes. Riders can take part for free by raising funds to Big Brothers Big Sisters. All of Saturday’s rides will be well marked, with full support on site.
See the website for details at rotarygoldcountrychallenge.com. As a bonus, registered (adult) riders will receive free admission into the Nevada City Classic Brewfest.
Saturday night’s Brewfest is a fundraiser for Sunday’s event. Nine breweries will offer unlimited tastings in the Three Forks Bakery and Brewery Parking Lot with live music featuring Buck Star. The event is $20 and runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Food will be available from The Top Dog. Tickets can be purchased at the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce office.
While the events bring the community out, they also draw a considerable number of people from outside of the area. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cathy Whittlesey says the Chamber puts on the Bike Classic because of the tradition and the benefit it brings to the city.
“It has probably been the event that has gotten us the most attention nationally, and we want to continue to do it,” Whittlesey said. “A lot of people that are bike spectators are also outdoors people. They come here and learn about all of the trails, and the lakes and the camping and all that so it’s really an attraction to the town.”
The addition of the road and gravel races on Saturday are geared to make the weekend a bit more inclusive of all parts of the county.
“Now people can come into town Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,” Strawser said. “These events go through Penn Valley, Grass Valley and Nevada City. This brings everyone together for the benefit of the entire county. We even have sponsors out of Truckee for the bike race.”
The focus of the Cycling Festival is clearly on health as organizers have expanded Sunday’s schedule to include a running event offering cash prizes. The 3rd Annual Nevada City Mile running race covers the same route as the bike race. The one-mile race begins immediately after the Kids Bike Parade, which kicks off at 11 a.m. and ends with the Men’s Professionals around 5 p.m.
Strawser plans to continue as the lead organizer at least one more year, which will be his 20th and the Classic’s 60th anniversary. He continues to stay involved because of a love for the sport and a love for the community.
“Regardless of whether people understand the bigger picture of how unique this is, it is really important for the community and it’s important for the sport and its tradition,” Strawser said. “Americans to me, in general, are very fickle and we are losing touch because of the effort it takes to keep tradition alive. People aren’t willing to step up and make the effort it takes, and we are losing things.
“Eventually we become just any other village in the middle of nowhere if we don’t have something again that sticks out like a billboard that says, Hey. We are here. Here we are.”
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