CYCLING: Local cyclist Jonathan Baker wins National Hill Climb Championship
In the midst of a highly successful second act to his racing career, local cyclist Jonathan Baker added another victory to his resume Saturday.
The 1991 Nevada Union graduate and Nevada City resident made a late charge to earn first place in the Masters (40-plus) division at the Hill Climb National Championships in Colorado Springs.
Baker said he had a specific plan heading into Saturday’s race, which took riders on a 156-turn, 12.42-mile road course up Colorado’s famed Pikes Peak.
“Before I showed up out there, there was another guy (Raik Huster) who had been winning all these types of events in Colorado. He’s a really strong climber, so I knew he was my main competition,” Baker said. “I knew I just had to stay close to him. If I was able to stay with him until the end I knew I would be able to beat him at the very end. And, that’s how it worked out.”
Baker barely got the best of Huster, out-sprinting him to the finish line and winning by less than two seconds. Baker took first with a time of 1 hour, 17 minutes, 16.88 seconds. Huster came in second with a mark of 1:17:18.38. The third place finisher was more than two minutes behind Baker and Huster.
“It’s really a race for the altitude climbing specialists because you finish at 14,000 feet and the air is super thin,” Baker said. “It’s less of a test of leg strength than it is about pure cardio power.”
Baker, who is a member of the Chico Cycling Team, said he spent several weeks in Colorado ahead of the race to help get acclimated to the elevation.
The win in Colorado was the “icing on the cake” in what has been a successful return to racing for Baker. He also won the Masters (40-plus) Cat 1/2/3 division at the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico in April and the Masters (35-plus) Cat 1/2/3 division at the Nevada City Classic in June.
“It’s been 15 years of trying and this was the first year I got one,” Baker said of his Nevada City Classic win. “I grew up in this town and have been watching the race since I was a kid. When I got into racing, that was always my top goal, and I got close in the pro category, but I’m starting to get a little old, so I competed in the Masters race and got the win.”
The 43-year-old Baker has several top-10 finishes in the Nevada City Classic’s pro race, including fifth place finishes in 2008 and 2009 and a seventh place finish in 2010.
Baker, who started riding competitively in 2003, said injuries had derailed his racing career after the 2010 season and it wasn’t until a couple of years ago he began competing again.
“I didn’t touch the bike for about four seasons and put on some weight, but a couple years ago I re-found my spark for the sport and started training again,” he said. “This has been my big comeback year, I’ve won about half the races I’ve entered this year.”
Baker said there a couple of other events on his calender this season and added he will be training for the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships which are coming to Reno in January.
Baker won the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championship in the Masters (35-plus) division in 2009 and 2010.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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