59th Nevada City Classic: a day of tough racing, hard falls and hope for the future
Special to The Union
Individual category winners Sunday at 59th Nevada City Classic.
Juniors 9-10 male
Juniors 11-12 male
Juniors 13-14 male
Juniors 15-16 male
Juniors 16-17 male
Juniors 15-18 Male
Juniors 13-14 female
Elite 4-5 Men
Master 35+/3-5 Men
Elite 4-5 Women
Master 35+/3-5 Women
Master 35+/1-3 Men
Master 45+/1-3 Men
Master 55+/1-3 Men
Elite 3-4 Men
Master 35+/1-2 Women
The 59th edition of the Nevada City Classic offered a day of aggressive racing, tactical prowess and a devastating crash, but the great tradition of the Classic endured.
The fields throughout the day Sunday were somewhat diminished after a multitude of unfortunate circumstances and scheduling conflicts befell the race organization. Nonetheless, the streets of downtown Nevada City were lined with spectators enthusiastically cheering the gathered athletes.
The early races of the day were defined by decisive moves and runaway winners. The finale of the event, the men’s and women’s pro races, were prime examples of tactical racing.
The penultimate race of the day, the women’s pro race, was a patient effort, as three riders broke away at the front early and spent the majority of the race testing each other out with small attacks on the brutal uphill section of the historic course.
Some ominous clouds began to gather over the event as the race went on, but the only lightning Nevada City saw on the day was winner Ellie Velez surging out in front of her two chasers on the very last climb. Velez looked strong throughout the race, putting in several tough accelerations before settling in to work with her competitors. When the time came, however, she was ready with the sprint, and got the win as a reward for her efforts.
“The last corner I knew going in to take it you had to be in the lead,” said Velez of her well-timed attack, adding, “I tried to go at one point, but just decided to wait for the sprint and hope that I could hold it all the way down the hill.”
She held it all the way, and she won.
“I love this race,” said Velez of the famously tough course, specifically citing the trademark hills as a reason for her interest. Fittingly, it was the last incline of the race that brought her the victory.
The men’s race unfolded somewhat similarly to the women’s for most of the competition. After a flurry of initial attacks a group of three formed at the front of the race, and the leaders spent the rest of the day watching each other, waiting for the decisive moment. That moment came on the final lap, unfortunately in the form of a crash between the leaders on the road. Gavin Murray, riding in third place at the time of the crash after falling slightly back from his fellow frontrunners, made it through the damage unscathed and won the race.
As is so often the case in the sport of cycling, aggressive riding and technical courses can make for dangerous situations, and this maxim held true at this year’s Classic.
“At the very top of the hill I was just gassed, but they still had some bullets to burn. They attacked on the downhill,” said Murray of the lead up to the crash, “I was happy with third, and then I came around the final turn and see them on the ground.”
Despite the less than ideal circumstances of his victory, Murray raced a smart, hard ride and earned a significant win to add to his racing resume.
“It’s awesome, it’s one of the best put together races and one of the most dynamic races,” Murray said of his win, saying of the notoriously tough course, “It’s super kick ya in the teeth, so it feels good to do well.”
“It’s devastating,” race organizer Duane Strawser said of the last minute crash. “It is what it is and today was a good day and we’re happy in general, but to see it finish like that … it’s always disappointing because we want everybody healthy going home in one piece and racing the next weekend.”
Despite the ending, and the issues leading up to the event, Strawser remains optimistic about this year’s race and the health of the Classic going forward.
“I was very happy with the crowd; we had people coming around telling us thanks,” said Strawser, adding, “I think it’s a good starting point and we just have to regroup and see where we go from here.”
The crash, which ended the 59th Nevada City Classic, may well end up being analogous to the event itself. Just as the battered riders will dust themselves off and live to race another day, organizers hope so too will the Classic. To hear the gathered organizers, volunteers, fans and riders tell it, both the injured cyclists and the Classic will all be back better than ever for the 60th edition next year.
For full results of the race, go to https://www.nevadacityclassic.com/
Kael Newton is a Nevada County native and freelance journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KaelNewton on Twitter.
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