Pedal to the metal |

Pedal to the metal

It was just five days before the start of the 48th Annual Nevada City Bicycle Classic and race director Duane Strawser looked calm, even as the last-minute details mounted.

First, he needs an announcer for the Father’s Day race because Dave Tolle, one of the best in the business, had to back out.

“He called and said ‘Sorry, I have to do Minnesota,'” Strawser said, referring to a larger pro-am race than the one being held Sunday.

So, he’s frantically searching for a replacement, and it can’t be just anyone: “A good announcer makes the race,” he said.

It also, in the words of a former Democratic presidential candidate, takes a village to put on a race of this magnitude. Or at least it will take the help of about 100 volunteers, a few businesses and city employees who will begin working as early as 5 a.m. Sunday.

The annual bicycle race is expected to attract at least 350 to 400 professional and amateur bicyclists who will tackle a 1.1-mile course through the streets of downtown Nevada City. The five races start at 1 p.m. and should end by 6:35 p.m.

Strawser expects the race will attract 3,000 to 7,000 spectators, far less than the 20,000 who jammed the streets in the ’80s and ’90s to watch Greg Lemond and Lance Armstrong ride.

It’s difficult to attract the biggest names in bicycling to a one-day event, said Strawser, adding that a top Tour de France rider can command a $200,000 appearance fee.

This year’s racers will compete for $10,000 in prize money, but first they need to find a place to stay, something Strawser is working on today.

“We don’t know who the racers are or even all the teams that will be here until Wednesday or Thursday,” he said, adding that the search for lodging includes Nevada City, Grass Valley and Auburn.

The Queens Inn in Nevada City is among the local hotels that has benefited from the annual race, according to Robyn Adams, who handles bookkeeping and human resources for the family-owned business.

“We do have a lot of bike enthusiasts and riders staying here,” she said Wednesday. “We’re always certainly booked for the race.”

Strawser, who owns the Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop, said hotels such as the Queens Inn and the Outside Inn have provided discount or even free rooms in the past.

Ridge Feed and Supply of Grass Valley is another business that contributes to the race. Strawser said the business will bring 400 bales of hay downtown 30 minutes before the races start and pick them up as soon as they end.

“In the past, just getting the hay down here was a huge problem,” Strawser said.

The city will help on Sunday as well. Public Works Director Verne Taylor said crews are pruning plants, trimming bushes and repaving Union and Cottage streets for the race.

“This is a huge deal,” Taylor said Wednesday. “This is the biggest street closure of the year.”

Taylor said four city employees will join him at 5 a.m. Sunday to get the streets ready for the race. He also will drive a streetsweeper on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to keep the course clean.

Though Strawser has some concerns about the fresh asphalt on parts of the race course, Taylor said racers have nothing to be concerned about.

“This is perfect paving weather,” he said. “The streets will be as hard as a rock.”

Strawser has plenty of other concerns heading into the weekend.

He needs to put the finishing touches on race guides, pre-write checks for winners, distribute fliers to homeowners who live along the course, coordinate the efforts of 100 volunteers and then get ready for Sunday, when he plans to work from about 5 a.m. to midnight.

And even while he and his wife, Connie, try to focus on the weekend ahead, they’re lining up sponsors for next year’s race.

“The hardest part of the race is that I don’t even get done with it, and I have to get ready to make proposals for next year,” he said.

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail or call 477-4239.

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