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CYCLING: Nevada City’s Jonathan Baker wins Masters Road Race National Championship

Jonathan Baker added a fourth national championship to his resume, winning the 2019 USA Cycling Masters Road Race Championship in the men's 45-49 category. The race was held Aug. 10 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Photo by Craig Huffman / Craig Huffman Photography | Craig Huffman / Craig Huffman Ph

With the National Championship on the line, Jonathan Baker took a calculated risk.

“You just got to be brave,” said Baker, who recently competed in the 2019 USA Cycling Masters Road Championships. “It’s hard. You’re out there, you’re suffering and nobody really feels great and then you go, ‘I’m going to work even harder. And, if it doesn’t work, I’m going to get caught and passed and spit out the back.’ So, you make this gamble.”

The veteran rider’s gamble paid off.

Baker, a 45-year-old Nevada City resident, made all the right moves and with a pair of late surges claimed the men’s 45-49 USA Cycling Road Race Masters Championship in Colorado Springs, Colorado earlier this month.

“You can’t recreate that feeling,” Baker said of the moment he knew the race was in hand. “That’s what you race for.”

For his efforts, Baker earned the right to don the coveted Stars and Stripes Champions’ Jersey for the next year.

“I’m really looking forward to parading this thing around NorCal,” Baker said with a smile.

Earning the champions’ jersey was no easy task and took great physical and mental skill on Baker’s part.

Competing against about 80 others in his age group, Baker was content to stick with the lead pack for the first half of the race, which took riders on an 18.3 kilometer course for six laps with 1,000 feet of climbing per lap.

After three laps, a pair of riders broke off from the pack and gained a substantial lead on Baker, who remained with the peleton.

“I was starting to get worried,” Baker recalled. “We weren’t really gaining on them, but I knew I still felt good, and I was like, ‘I got to try something,’ even though it’s risky.

“I wound up attacking the group on the climb and chased these guys down. I chased down a minute and a half gap over the course of this one climb, caught those front two guys, and we stayed together for the next lap. Then I did it again on the last time up the hill and went in by myself.”

Baker crossed the finish line in a time of 2 hours, 49 minutes, 36 seconds, which was 48 seconds faster than the second place finisher.

“You have to be one of the strongest guys, but then you have to make the right decisions,” said Baker, noting that if he had made his move too early or too late, the results may be different. “I really like the analytical side of racing.”

For Baker, who rides for Touchstone Racing, it was his first Masters road race national championship and fourth national title overall. In 2017, he won the 40-45 hill climb national title and also has a pair of cyclocross championships (2009, 2010) to his credit.

He said the road race victory stands out among the others.

“Being the National Road Champion — that’s the title everyone wants.”

Baker said he’s also become enamored with gravel races, which have been growing in popularity. Unsurprisingly, he’s fared well in gravel races and recently placed fifth among all racers at a competition in Steamboat, Colorado.

It’s been a stellar year of racing in general for Baker. He has multiple wins, including a victory in the 45-plus category at the Nevada City Classic, his hometown race.

“The inspiration I get from this town and the cycling scene, the Nevada City Classic; it all kind of created the mystique of bike racing for me,” said Baker. “That’s what I’m living now. It’s a really great community to have that and I’d like to see the tradition continue going forward. I just want to inspire people to continue with the sport.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

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