Imagine sprinting up the stairs of a 12-story building. Imagine doing this every three minutes, 18 times in a row.
This is how riders of the Sierra Express Cycling Team describe the steep course at the Nevada City Bicycle Classic. Besides being the oldest race in the country, the course has the reputation of being one of the gnarliest.
Local riders say that when they’re sucking wind going up Main Street, crowd support helps a lot.
“The spectators are so motivating, says Jim Rogers of Grass Valley, who will be marking his 27th Classic race this weekend. “Sometimes you’ll do a lot better than you really are in shape for.”
The lineup for the 47th annual race on Sunday includes some of the fastest riders in the country, including pros, track racers and former Olympians.
Race organizer Duane Strawser of the Tour of Nevada City bike shop expects between 300 and 400 riders.
Sunday’s racers will include last year’s winner in the pro category, Scott Moninger, along with four members of his team, Pro BMC. Moninger has won the Classic four times.
In the women’s pro category, last year’s winner, Helene Drumm, will return with the Proman Team.
One lap on the course runs just over a mile and includes more than 120 feet of climbing. Going downhill, cyclists reach speeds of more than 50 miles an hour.
For Rick Kalb of Nevada City, an expert mountain biker who joined Sierra Express to get into racing, the turns are the hardest part of the Classic’s course.
“I can’t go around a turn that fast,” says Kalb. “I lose time.”
Among the Sierra Express team, President Craig Lindberg favors Chuck Ross of Grass Valley to place in the top 10 in the Men’s Masters 35-plus category. Last year, Ross placed 20th.
Although no Sierra Express women have entered the race this year, the team has high hopes for some of its junior racers, a group of strong climbers, some of whom have excelled on NU’s mountain bike team.
Strawser says that the demanding course has a way of leveling out the playing field.
“A lot of pro teams will send their top two to five riders here because it’s so difficult – guys can get pounded by lesser-known riders.”
According to Strawser, many lesser-known riders will come here to get noticed.
“They use it as a stepping stone,” he says, adding that if they perform well, “a team takes notice and picks them up.”
Lindberg of Sierra Express thinks that the wild card element adds to the allure of the race.
“The beauty of it is, the strong man wins,” says Lindberg. “Or the smart guy with the right timing.”
To contact Staff Writer Jill Bauerle, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4219.
KNOW & GO
WHAT: The 47th Annual Nevada City Bicycle Classic
WHERE: In downtown Nevada City, the course starts at Broad Street and continues counter-clockwise to Union, Commercial, York, North Pine, Cottage, Main, East Broad, back to Broad Street.
WHEN: Sunday, June 17, Junior races start at 1 p.m.; Master Men at 1:55 p.m., Women Pro at 3 p.m., Men Elite at 4 p.m. and Men Pro at 5:05 p.m.
INFORMATION: Call (530)265-2187 or go to http://www.nevadacityclassic.com
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