Nevada City Bicycle Classic eyes smoother ride |

Nevada City Bicycle Classic eyes smoother ride

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union


What: 53rd Nevada City Bicycle Classic

When: 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Father’s Day Sunday, June 16

Where: Downtown Nevada City

Parking: This is a historic town with narrow winding streets, so leave extra time for parking. For street parking 1/4 to 1/2 mile south of the course, take the Sacramento Street exit and turn left over Highway 49. Continue up Sacramento Street and park in neighborhoods around the Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop. For parking just east of the course or on streets surrounding the course, take the Broad street exit and turn right (east) to public parking or turn left to public parking and streets surrounding the course (Broad Street and Union Street are closed after noon due to the race). For parking north of the course, turn left on the Downieville/Highway 49 exit and drive 1/4 mile to Maidu (right), parking at the Nevada County Government Center (Rood Center). This huge parking lot is just a 1/4 mile walk from top of race course. Cross Highway 49 with caution if walking or riding and follow Orchard Street to the course.

A few circumstances have aligned that could make the 53rd annual Nevada City Bicycle Classic a little easier than last year for everyone involved.

In addition to some technical changes, the race has a few more big sponsors, and another big event in town has been moved to next weekend that has taken some strain off volunteers and municipal staff. But the most notable change might be the weather.

“It looks like we are going to get great weather,” said race coordinator Duane Strawser, noting that forecasts have called for Sunday to be about 20 degrees cooler than last year’s scorching temps that neared triple digits.

Last year’s near-record temps were blamed for racer fatigue and fewer attendees than in years past.

“Year after year, racers are always talking about how electric the crowd is.”

— Duane Strawser,
race coordinator

With more than a half-century of races, the Nevada City Classic is the oldest and largest bike race on the West Coast and the second oldest in the nation.

The race is renowned for its physical challenge to cyclers.

The route is a 1.1-mile loop with a grueling 120-foot stair-step climb from York to East Broad streets, followed by a rolling hill along East Broad Street that allows racers to reach speeds of up to 50 mph as they approach a hard left turn to head back uphill again.

That corner sees plenty of racers slide across the pavement.

While the terrain is one draw for riders, the crowd is also an attraction, Strawser said.

The race’s short circuit has riders cycling scores of laps, allowing spectators planted in one spot to see continuous action, as opposed to long-distance races where viewers get a quick glimpse of passing cyclists.

“Year after year, racers are always talking about how electric the crowd is,” Strawser previously told The Union.

The national publicity acts as more of an economic boon by bringing more people to town throughout the year than on the day of the race, said Nevada City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cathy Whittlesey.

“It probably generates more publicity for Nevada City than anything,” Whittlesey said. “Often, when I’m at a conference, people will see me in my Nevada City shirt and comment about the race.”

Another potential boon for this year’s race is that the third annual Nevada City Adult Soapbox Derby, which took place the day before the bike race for its first two years, was pushed back a week.

With last year’s high heat, some volunteers who were slated to help during both events were simply too exhausted to lend a hand at the bike race after manning the soapbox derby, Strawser said. Both events require police and city maintenance personnel in addition to the droves of volunteers.

“Having a break between events makes it a little easier on personnel,” said Nevada City Manager David Brennan. “It’s just easier on an employee to not have to do two heavy events two days in a row.”

The race also has a few more sponsors than last year, when UPS dropped out just two months before the race, on top of Subaru already having backed out, Strawser said.

While Waste Management remains the steadfast top race sponsor, this year Strawser said both UPS and Subaru came back as some of the race’s top supporters.

“It means we aren’t cutting any corners or skimping on anything,” Strawser said, noting that the race costs at least $35,000 to put together.

Strawser is no stranger to racing. As a former Pro-Am rider, he competed across the U.S. and internationally. He and his wife bought a local bike shop after moving to this area in 1996, and soon, he was recruited to help organize and plan the Classic.

In addition to coordinating the Nevada City Classic since the beginning of the millennium, he is also the point man locally when it comes to pitching for the Amgen Tour of California Bicycle Race to come through Nevada City, as it did in 2009 and 2010.

Strawser has also won political races; he earned a seat on the Nevada City Council, where he currently serves as mayor.

Strawser survived a nasty May 5 wreck in a Sacramento area race, showing up a few days later to a council meeting with his head bandaged, eyes surrounded in bruises and his arm in a sling to nurse a broken collarbone.

As the race neared, his exterior bruises healed, but the wreck came back to haunt Strawser just this week, forcing him to undergo surgery at the University of California, Davis, medical center Tuesday morning to deal with a lingering aneurism stemming from head trauma.

The next day, he was back at the regularly scheduled council meeting, weighing in on the town’s police chief’s proposal to share services with Grass Valley’s law enforcement agency.

While the wreck and Strawser’s recovery certainly has hindered his ability to manage the race Sunday, he said it further illustrates the need to have more people involved in its planning and execution.

“It shows that this needs to be spread out,” Strawser said. “I need it to run smoothly without me in case something like this were to happen today, and I wouldn’t be able to be there (managing the race).”

Beyond the danger of the race’s dependence on one person, Strawser has expressed his wish to hand off the torch for a couple years now, citing a desire to actually ride in the race again. This year, Strawser has enlisted help: Chris Cooper.

“The goal is for him to shadow me this year, and if it works out and he likes it, he can come back as a co-promoter,” Strawser said.

“I would love to have somebody do 50 percent of the work. I really want to race again.”

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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