Cyclists, bikers find their own form of … Expression
Like many sports, cycling has gone through periods of increased interest in addition to phases of decline. With the recent popularity of Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France, many consider the sport to be going through a high point in terms of attention.
This national trend is evident in Nevada County as well, particularly in light of the recent rebirth of the Sierra Express Racing Team, which was originally created in 1980.
The origins of a cycling club in the area can essentially be traced back to two names: Ron Miller and Jim Rodgers. When Miller was 12 and Rodgers 13, the two decided, because of the lack of bike shops in the area, they would open their own store – in the basement of the home owned by Miller’s parents.
The two boys lived just blocks off the race course for the Nevada City Classic and became enamored with the sport. In addition to the bike shop, the boys started the Nevada City Wheelmen. The club fizzled after a few years.
Then in 1980 Clif LaMoure moved to Nevada County from Davis, where he had already started a racing team. Upon moving to the area he didn’t see a road racing club in the area, so he took out an ad in the newspaper for interested parties to meet one afternoon.
Seven or eight men showed up and the original Sierra Express Racing Team was born.
However, five or six years later the team began to fade.
In the next two decades, discussions to revive the team were held, but nothing solid came to show from the talk. Meanwhile, the Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop that Miller and Rodgers had started, continued to grow, changed ownership and has since become the epicenter of western Nevada County cycling.
So after years of failed attempts at re-creating the racing team, what went right for the current group that has successfully revived the Sierra Express Racing Team?
For one, team organizers persuaded Duane Strawser, owner of the Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop, to get on board and not only help to sponsor the team, but help in the creation and organization of it.
“Last summer in July/August a couple of the area racers came to me about re-creating the team,” Strawser said. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to be involved, so I told them I would go to the Las Vegas trade show, check things out and get back to them about the possibility.”
Upon his return, Strawser talked again with Robert Ryan, Craig Lindberg and Rick Kalb. Despite turning down similar requests in earlier years, Strawser had a hard time saying no this time, to this group, after seeing the plans the three had for the club. And getting the support of his wife Connie to commit to the idea only helped to solidify his desire to hop on board as well.
After just five months or work, the new version of the Sierra Express Racing Team consists of 44 members, nine of them women and seven of them under the age of 18. Elliot Gunnison is the youngest member at 14 years old with Jim Dodds at 69 coming in as the oldest member of the team.
Occupations of team members are diverse with doctors, teachers, engineers, students and real-estate agents, to name a few.
Lindberg is now the president, Kalb the treasurer, Ryan the Master’s Lead, Strawser the race promoter, David Barrett the membership coordinator and Sam Raymond has created the team’s web site: http://www.sierraexpressteam.org/.
“The commitment people put in helped to change my mind,” Strawser said. “Five or six people are doing the work and that’s a better percentage of people willing to help than just one person doing it all.”
The commitment was one part, but the group’s ability to recruit sponsorship has helped as well. Ten different sponsors have stepped forward to get the team on its feet, with Monster Gym and Strawser’s bike shop leading the pack. The amount of sponsorship the team has brought on board is impressive considering the fact that the team is a regional group and is not composed of primarily professional racers.
Sierra Express is fairly evenly spilt between road racers and mountain bikers, with racers competing at all levels including professional mountain bike racer Jason Moeschler and professional road racer Holly McGovern.
Riders must pay $149 for full membership on the team and receive a team kit, which includes a team jersey, shorts and socks, along with race reimbursements and discounts at the Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop for equipment.
“Bike racing had always been a big sport in California,” Rodgers said. “It’s exciting to see the team come back again.
“It motivates me again to ride more.”
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