Father’s Day classic | TheUnion.com

Father’s Day classic

Scott Nydam’s ascent to the elite level of cycling has been a fast one, but what else would you expect but a quick climb from the rider who won the King of the Mountains jersey at this year’s Amgen Tour of California?

And considering he didn’t start racing until he was 25 years old, the Colorado native who now resides in Santa Rosa, is making up for lost time.

On Sunday, Nydam of the BMC team will be back in Nevada City looking to add another accomplishment to his fast-growing résumé by winning one of the toughest criteriums in the country and the second-longest running bike race in America.

Of course it is also one of the favorite races for all riders who have legged out the long climb to the top of town and then have dared to dash down Broad Street at nearly 50 miles per hour.

“The scene there is great,” Nydam said on the phone this week. “It just seems like very authentic bike racing. The course is short, but in your mind it’s so much bigger because it has every element of racing: a fast descent, a technical corner and a tough climb. Even the flat parts at the top of the course are still difficult.

“It’s an exciting place to race. It’s a lot of fun to come to a community that’s excited about bike racing. And you can feel it there, too, especially compared to other races that don’t have that feel.”

Nydam knows he’s not alone as one of the favorites to win the Men’s Pro 1/2 at the 48th Nevada City Classic, especially with two former champions signing up for the race late Friday.

Race organizer Duane Strawser said two of Friday’s late entries are Justin England, the 2004 champ now riding for the Toyota United team, and Burke Swindlehurst, the 2005 champion who is a member of the Bissel team.

Also expected to make some noise is Slipstream/Chipotle’s Steven Cozza, who won the Ron Miller Junior Grand Prix in Nevada City in 2003, and took fourth place behind Swindlehurst in the 2005 men’s pro race. Cozza

And if the Waste Management team, which is planning a run with seven members strong, rides around the 1.1-mile course like it owns the road, that’s because in way it does. Once again, Waste Management will serve as the title sponsor of the Nevada City Classic.

Though the KOM jersey he pulled on while standing on the podium at the Tour of California has put him in the spotlight, the real reason that BMC’s Nydam is a favorite to win Sunday is the work he put in over the winter. It was the most focused training he’d ever undergone, which is what you’d expect when you’re trying to ride side-by-side with Levi Leipheimer, one of the top cyclists in the world and the 1998 Nevada City champion.

“I saw the amount of riding it takes to train efficiently,” Nydam said of his offseason work with Leipheimer, who finished third in the 2007 Tour de France, won his second Tour of California this year and is currently competing in Europe with the Astana team. “I was forced to get all my ducks in a row … otherwise I wasn’t going to be able to hang for the week.

“He’s one of the world’s best. When we’re climbing, you can’t expect to stay with him all day, but I knew training with someone who was that invested would mean I would be that invested as well.”

All of that hard work, however, was suddenly swinging in limbo weeks before the Tour of California was about to begin. Back in January, while racing in Qatar, he was banged up in a big crash. But then came even more bad news – his father, Ron, had been diagnosed with leukemia.

“There was a lot of anticipation for (the Tour of California),” Nydam said. “But with the sudden news of my dad, that he had cancer, it kind of put a standstill to things.

“It was like I was flying high and all the sudden, in two different ways the bottom fell out.”

But, despite thoughts of withdrawing, Nydam got back in the saddle and was determined to bring some good news to his dad back in Michigan after the Tour of California came to a close in February.

And he delivered.

Nydam gave the performance of his life, earning the King of the Mountains jersey. In the race’s second stage, from Santa Rosa to Sacramento, he charged off the front solo, eventually building a lead of more than 20 minutes, as he stayed away solo for more than 80 miles. Nydam continued to make the right moves throughout the race showing grit and determination where this year’s rough weather overwhelmed many of the world’s top pros.

By the end of the tour, he was standing there alongside several of those top pros on the podium, including his training partner, Leipheimer, who had won the event for the second straight year.

“I’d have to say that was the most satisfying experience in cycling that I’ve ever had,” Nydam said. “I had this feeling, like there was a connection with my dad, between my racing and his recovery.

“But I’ve got to say there was a huge team aspect in me earning that jersey. The team helped protect me. I just felt like the whole experience, the success for everybody, made it all the more satisfying and rewarding.”

Whether he’s able to earn the champion jersey at Nevada City or not, Nydam said he’s doing the right thing by racing in Nevada City Sunday. Even though it is Father’s Day, and he’d like to be with his dad this weekend, Nydam said his father wants him to be on the bike.

“If I weren’t racing in Nevada City, yeah I’d probably be out there (in Michigan) taking a midseason break,” said Nydam, who will share his story with a group of young riders Saturday night at Pioneer Park. “But he’s doing well enough … that it’s better for me to be out racing and talking about cancer and leukemia.

“Above all things, he wants me to be doing my thing.”

Fans on hand shouldn’t be surprised to see Nydam, a former all-state high school quarterback who is just in his second year of professional racing, make another quick rise through the ranks Sunday.

After placing 16th in his first run at Nevada City last year, he was looking for some insight on how to best get around the course as efficiently as possible.

And for that inside info, Nydam once again turned to none other than Leipheimer, who won the Classic 10 years ago and is currently racing the Dauphine Libere stage race in France.

“I’ve actually conversed with him through e-mail,” Nydam said. “He’s given me some tips on what I have to do to win it.”

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