Brian Hamilton: Another reason for dad to smile |

Brian Hamilton: Another reason for dad to smile

When fellow staff writer Laura Brown asked earlier this week whether I’d heard about a cyclist planning to race the Nevada City Classic in honor of his dad who had been diagnosed with cancer, I told her that I was, indeed, already on the story.

But after speaking with BMC pro Scott Nydam Thursday and while working my way through my e-mail, I spotted the actual message Laura had mentioned.

It was about another Scott, who was also racing Sunday in honor of his father.

It turns out that Scott Fonseca, who grew up right here in Grass Valley and has been racing for years ” including several runs in his boyhood backyard of Nevada City ” was also planning to ride for his own father, Lawrence, who had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in January.

What were the odds that a couple of guys named Scott were riding in the Classic with similar stories on Father’s Day?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t such a long shot after all.

According to the American Cancer Society, the likelihood was pretty good, as U.S. men have slightly less than a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer. For women, the risk is a little more than 1 in 3.

“It’s interesting,” said Fonseca, a 1987 Nevada Union High School graduate, “I’ve found ” this being fairly new for me with my father being diagnosed with cancer ” that when you start talking about it, it’s shocking how many people have a similar story.”

Fonseca, a 38-year-old who races part-time in the Masters division, decided that he was going to do everything he could to give his dad the best Father’s Day gift he could think of: a win at Nevada City, in what will like­ly be the final time 73-year-old Lawrence will see his son race.

And how appropriate that he will try to pull off the feat right back where his first broke into the sport?

Fonseca grew up playing the typical team sports most kids do in western Nevada County, such as baseball and soccer. But he remembers, after squeezing his way through the crowd of people “10 deep” for a view of the start/finish line at the Nevada City Classic, cycling suddenly became his sport.

His parents didn’t know much about cycling in the begin­ning, but thanks to the help of Norm and Elizabeth ” Tubby” Johnson, he got a real good look at the sport at a young age. The Johnsons brought him along to the 1984 Olympics, where he watched the battle for the gold medal in Mission Viejo.

He was hooked.

“I was already into it at 13 and then my first race was at 14,” he said. “And I never looked back.”

What followed was a career of racing at several levels around the U.S. and Europe, but eventu­ally he learned that wasn’t going to be able to make a living at it. So he set aside the bike and went to school, later landing a job as an executive with a medical sur­gical device company.

He did get back into racing around the age of 34, but until learning of his dad’s diagnosis, cycling served only somewhat as his hobby.

“Dad’s diagnosis obviously impacted a lot of us,” he said.

“But the last couple of months is when Dad became where he shouldn’t be driving and needed help getting to the doctors and doing the things in everyday life that he’d always done before.

“The reality hit me with the question of who was going to take care of him through this process. I elected to be the one to do it. I basically moved my office from the Bay Area to (Folsom) … And then I quit my job to take some time off and take care of him and to focus on this race, which is very special for many reasons.”

Fonseca said though he has­n’t won at Nevada City, he hopes to break through Sunday when he’ll have his family on hand, including his father and his own son, 18-year-old Joseph.

“This year’s race will be a special one for me,” Fonseca wrote in an e-mail to friends and family. ” When I line up at this year’s race it won’t be my last Nevada City Classic, but it will be the last one that my father will watch me race. As many of you know, my father was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer this past January. In his honor, I have prepared to make this race a spe­cial one for him …

“Like many fathers who have spent countless hours teach­ing their children to do well in sports and in life, my father was no different. He is a special man that traveled countless miles across this country to watch me compete in the sport I love.

“So, if this is his last Nevada City Classic then I want to give him a special ride to watch. It is my gift of gratitude for all that he has given me in sport, and more importantly in life.”

But considering how his son has already stepped up when he was needed most, a win in Nevada City would likely be just another reason for Lawrence Fonseca to be smiling with pride on Father’s Day.

Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. His column appears Saturdays.

Contact him via e-mail at bhamilton@the­ or by phone at 477-4240.

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