Fresh from competing in the 2000 rock climbing world championships in the Netherlands, then 18-year-old Erin Alders returned home in time to catch her first glimpse of the second oldest cycling race in the nation.
The Nevada City Classic was celebrating its 40th birthday that summer, and did so in style with two of the closest finishes in the history of the Men’s Pro 1-2 and Women’s Pro races.
Most might remember the elbow-rubbing sprint to the finish by Team Mercury’s John Peters and Team Saturn’s Trent Klasna, which Peters pulled out by half a bike length.
Just as close, though, was the 34-strong women’s affair won by Mexico’s Belen Guerrero, who went on to race in the 2000 Sidney Olympics later that summer.
Guerrero looked like the title was all hers, until she nearly lost it to Truckee’s Julie Young after starting her celebration a tad bit too early.
All the same, Guerrero and Peters stood atop the podium after a pair of races that left Alders in awe.
“I was kind of burnt out from (rock) climbing and was home for the summer, so I got to see the race,” said Alders, who grew up in South Lake Tahoe before moving to Grass Valley and later graduating from Bear River High School in 1999. “I was really inspired to try something new. I had no idea that I would take climbing as far as I had.
“That kind of opened my eyes in terms of doing sports professionally.”
It wasn’t long after that Alders was spinning some spokes of her own.
Now a 22-year-old Category 3 cyclist – with plans on upgrading to “Cat 2” soon – Alders dreams of being the first local woman to win the Classic.
“Part of it is because the history of the event and that it has a reputation of being a hard race,” said Alders, who raced her only Classic three years ago. “And the women who have won this race have all been really strong riders – and when I say ‘strong riders’ I mean national champions, world champions and Olympians.”
Of course, the winners are also Nevada City Classic champions – like 2003 winner Eryn Hanna.
A member of Los Gatos Bicycle Club, the 29-year-old Reno resident claimed the Classic title in just her fourth year of cycling.
“I raced her last year and didn’t make the finish, and I remember seeing the woman who won walk around holding the trophy,” Hanna said after her win. “I told myself I wanted to be the one holding it this year.”
Hanna came into the race fresh off two other wins in the previous two months, taking races in Reno and Folsom.
Like Hanna, Alders enters Sunday’s Classic after a pair of May victories, including the Infineon Criterium and the Kern County Women’s Stage Race-Individual Time Trial. She’s also took second place at the Cat’s Hill Criterium and third in the Infineon Circuit Race.
She missed the 2002 Classic after fracturing her pelvis in a crash that came in a cool-down ride after a race in Berkeley.
She skipped the 2003 race due to her graduation from UC-Santa Cruz – where she captained the cycling team – taking place on the same day as the Classic.
“I wanted to skip graduation,” said Alders, who returns to Nevada City wearing the black-and-blue of Team Velo Bela, “but my mom had invited all of my relatives, so I didn’t.”
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