‘New kid in town’
And the winner is … Darren Lill?
During the 47th running of the Nevada City Classic on Sunday, a little known 24-year-old South African stunned the crowd and dominated the race.
Lill cruised to victory ahead of four-time winner and defending champion Scott Moninger, who took second, and previous one-time winner Tony Cruz.
“I think this is a great circuit; very challenging,” Lill said after surprising his competitors. “Those two corners (at the bottom of the track) are very exciting, and obviously there is great support here.”
This was Lill’s first trip to Nevada City, where he said he expected to do well but not necessarily win the whole thing – especially in such a dominant fashion.
“I don’t think you ever come into a race expecting to win,” Lill said. “You just have confidence that you will do well. In this case, it worked out well.”
With the race just five or six laps in progress, Lill – who rides for the Navigators Insurance team based in the U.S. – started to pull away from the crowd along with a member of the BMC team.
“I was hoping to wait until about halfway through before I wanted to leave the pack,” Lill said. “But we were about 15 or 20 minutes in, and it just felt like the right time. We started to pull away from the pack and he (the BMC member) wasn’t really willing to work with me, and I wasn’t going to let him sit on me, so I just rode him off.
“Then I just prayed as I went to the line.”
Later in the race, with two riders in chase who own a combined total of five Classic championships, Lill never gave the more-experienced Moninger and Cruz a chance to close the gap.
“This is not an easy course, so I try to spot the key guys at the beginning of the race to come up with my strategy,” Cruz said. “Except for the guy who won. I didn’t know him at all. He kind of came out of nowhere.”
Race organizer Duane Strawser, who has been organizing the race since 2001 and has been involved with it for much longer, has seen such dominating performances in the past – particularly from the likes of Moninger and Cruz.
“He’s (Lill) doing to them what they did to other riders for years,” Strawser said. “We may have a new kid in town.”
To contact Sports Writer Ross Maak, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4244.
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