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State of the Classic

In 2001, a perfect storm of problems arose as the 40th annual Nevada City Classic Bike Race approached.

With the big race about eight weeks away, the main organizer dropped out, leaving a huge administrative void.

“We had six to eight weeks left before the race and no one to run it,” said current race organizer Duane Strawser. “I talked to every promoter I could think of and no one would touch it. They knew it was professional suicide.”



Strawser, owner of the Tour Nevada City Bike Shop, knew if he didn’t take on the role of organizer and administrator the race might have been lost for good.

“I agreed to step up that year,” Strawser said, “and help them find someone else the next year.”




Scrambling to keep everything afloat, Strawser learned four weeks before the race that the main sponsor, TDK, was declaring bankruptcy and pulling its sponsorship, leaving a $20,000 void in the operations budget.

“We almost bailed at that point,” Strawser recalled. “But everyone warned us that once it goes away, it’s twice as hard to bring back. So after hearing that, we didn’t want to see it leave for good.”

Strawser went searching for sponsors in a hurry, and two area companies came through.

“Waste Management and a computer company in Colfax (Aviation & Electronic Schools of America) – both with avid cyclists heading up the company – put in about $10,000 each, so we were set. We just didn’t have any idea what we were doing. We’d all volunteered before, but never run the thing.”

The race went off with few people knowing the turmoil behind the scenes.

“No one in the community really knew what happened,” Strawser said. “I mean, there were a few things printed about it, but not much. And everyone thought it was the best they’d seen in years.”

Why?

“It wasn’t intentional, but it ended up bringing the locals back into the mix,” Strawser said. “When two local companies came in at the last second, that sort of snowballed.

“Before, with out-of-town promoters coming in, local businesses had no idea where their money was coming from or going. When we started running it, they started to kind of come out of the woodwork.”

Strawser said he knew then that they might have to make a commitment to do it themselves.

“We agreed to do it for three years,” Strawser said. “Now, six or seven years later, here we are.”

Strawser is quick to point out that the event still has a long way to go, but the race has also come a long way since the turmoil from 2001 and before.

What’s up this year

Changes in other races may have an affect on this year’s Classic, but Strawser isn’t expecting any major changes.

Other area races have always affected who shows up to participate in Sunday’s event. Without other races going on before the Classic, it would be difficult for the local race to draw national riders from across the country.

However, with Reno’s Tour De Nez (pronounced “nay”) and a new race in Folsom leading up to Sunday, riders nationwide can look to the West as a possible weekend destination for multiple races.

In the past, the Tour De Nez has been held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday leading up to Father’s Day. This year Thursday was scrapped from the event, as was the road race from Truckee to Tahoe City, along the shores of Tahoe and back.

Strawser said there are two effects this could have on the Classic. First, the lack of a road race could have an adverse affect on teams looking to make the trip. However, because the money typically poured into the road race is now diverted into the Tour De Nez’s criterium races making the purse much larger, which could bring more riders over the hill for Sunday’s race in Nevada City.

“Cutting the road race off makes it tougher, but that bigger pot should help,” Strawser said.

Meanwhile, a race in Folsom could provide a boost for the Classic as well.

Strawser explained that the Tour De Nez is an invite-only event, so some members of teams won’t make the trip because they may not have a chance to race. That’s where the Folsom race might help.

Also, Reno’s races don’t include any women, which the Folsom race does, so doubling up between Folsom on Saturday and Nevada City on Sunday becomes more attractive to out-of-town racers and teams.

“Folsom has all categories,” Strawser said, “but they really focus on all the races that aren’t being held in Reno.”

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To contact Sports Writer Ross Maak, e-mail rossm@theunion.com or call 477-4244.


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