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The road home

Brian Hamilton

In its previous 46 years of existence, the Nevada City Classic has always drawn some of the top cyclists from across the country.

That once again appears to be the case as the entry list for the 47th version continues to grow with just two days to go.

But two names on that list of riders traveling from thousands of miles away to compete in the Classic are actually homegrown talent. Eric Edlund, a graduate student at the Massachusets Institute of Technology, and Jon Baker, a software engineer based in Boulder, Colo., will both be back in the saddle in their hometowns this weekend.

For Edlund, Sunday’s Category 3 pro race will be his first run at the Classic. In fact, he was just upgraded to Cat 3 in February after embarking on a competitive cycling career less than two years ago.

The 1997 Nevada Union grad, who is studying plasma physics in working toward a Ph.D., was a late-comer to the cycling world.

He was an undergraduate at Chico State, where he said he “smoked cigarettes and drank for four years” before eventually finding a healthier side of life after moving to Boston for graduate school. Once there, he began running with the goal of competing in the Boston Marathon and eventually found cycling through the MIT club team.

And he’s been hooked ever since.

“I don’t know if it’s any one thing in particular,” Edlund said. “Just the feeling of sitting on the bike, riding in a pack of cyclists and then launching an attack and seeing the pack drop further behind you … That’s it for me, right there.”

Less than six months after his cycling career began, he rose through the college ranks from the D-field to the A-field in one season. By the end of that initial campaign, he attended the nationals with the MIT team and one month later became the team’s captain.

“The thing I love about cycling, and why I ride the way I do, launching attacks and being aggressive, is that it’s a chance to let loose and fly by instincts,” Edlund said. “I try to restrain myself and races, and many times have told myself going in ‘today I will ride calm and wait for the finish,’ and many times fail to do so and attack within the first five miles. It’s a gamble.

“Cycling is a sport where one can play cool and smart, driving hard and trying to trash the field, or even bluffing your way to the line. The personalities really come through – you’re not riding against faceless numbers, but people whose limits and breaking points you must compare to your own.”

Edlund, who turns 28 this summer, said as much as he’s looking forward to seeing his family this Father’s Day weekend, he’s also very much looking forward to trying his luck in one of the toughest one-day races in the country.

“I’ll probably go out on Saturday morning and roll down the streets,” he said. “I’ll check out that first corner off Broad Street and the corner at Commerical.

“Over the course of the last two weeks, I’ve been dreaming about it and visualizing it in my mind.”

Baker back for fifth run

Baker is no rookie to the Classic’s 1.1-mile, up-and-down punishing course. Sunday will be his fifth run at Nevada City and fourth in the Pro 1-2 category.

No locally grown rider has ever won the Classic’s pro race and Baker certainly would like to be the first.

“It kind of gives me goose bumps just thinking of it,” said the 33-year-old software engineer. “It’s why I keep coming back and keep dreaming about it.”

Baker also enjoys coming back from Colorado each summer for the Classic to celebrate Father’s Day and somewhat of family reunion, as his sister also makes a point of returning home from Texas for the event.

A return to California earlier this year was a fruitful one for Baker at the Sea Otter Classic, where he won the 30-and-over men’s road race. He also won the Haystack Mountain Time Trial, held north of Boulder in April. And last week, he took second in the Boulder Time Trial Series.

Once again, he also won’t be riding solo in the race, as his Vitamin Cottage teammate Joe Pinkerton will also be in town. But in Nevada City, Baker said, the difficulty of the course can lessen the impact teams have in determining the victor.

“They can be useful early,” he said. “But at the end it usally comes down to the toughest guys fighting it out.”

Emerging from such a battle and being the first to the finish line in this race, which would give western Nevada County its first local winner, would mean more to Baker than any other victory.

“Winning this,” he said. “It would definitely be the highlight of my cycling career.”


To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail brianh@theunion.com or call 477-4240.


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