After a third-place finish in last year’s Nevada City Classic, it took Justin England until an hour before the registration deadline to get his name back on the Professional 1-2 men’s roster for the second time.
Far from being favored by most in attendance, especially after having competed in the 120-mile Olympic trial Saturday in southern California, he blew his competition away, finishing 45 seconds ahead of the pack on the 90-minute ride to earn the right to call himself the 44th Nevada City Classic champion.
With the dominating victory, England, 25, kept the Classic’s curse of having no Nevada County rider win on Broad Street intact.
Jason Moeschler, the lone local rider in the professional division, showed early signs of breaking the unfortunate trend, but was quickly reminded of history as he went from fourth place to the middle of the 24 riders in a matter of laps.
Moeschler finished 18th.
Whether or not a local rider would win this year was the last thing on England’s mind sunday.
“I took third place last year,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to come back and give it a shot again. All year I’ve been waiting for this.”
Even after an exhausting day Saturday, where he blew a tire late in the race and was not able to finish, he still had high expectations for himself.
“I was hoping to come away with a win. I had the opportunity early on and decided to give it a go.”
Tony Cruz, the winner in 2002 and member of the U.S. Postal Service team, nearly had his second crown as he finished in second place. If one can call 45 seconds ‘nearly’.
“(England) just smoked us,” Cruz said. He too rode in the Olympic trials saturday, and like England had to force himself out of bed to compete.
“(The trial) was grueling, but I had to do it. I knew I had to come here.”
Cruz was one of a select group of favorites Sunday, along with member of the Smartville-based Sierra Nevada team and third-place finisher Ben Jacques-Maynes.
Another 25-year-old, Jacques-Maynes had a solid resume, which included a 2003 U.S. National Collegiate Championship. Through all 32 laps he and Cruz were neck and neck, but were never able to cut England’s lead down to a catchable distance.
England explained much of the cause of his win was his Bay Area Webcor teammate John Kelly, who finished 10th while doing his best to hold the pack together, which included Cruz and Jacques-Maynes.
“I think I benefited because I had a teammate who helped me build the lead,” England said. “Once I built the lead I was focused on finishing strong.”
“(England’s winning) didn’t surprise me,” Kelly said. “He’s been phenomenal all year, and he really stepped up.”
In the last year and a half, England has taken first place in Mount Shasta, fourth at Mount Tamalpais, seventh at Presidio Criterium, and ninth at the Mt. Hood Stage Race, as well as third place in Nevada City last year.
Duane Strawser, owner of Tour of Nevada City Bike Shop and race organizer, got the call late last week from England’s manager and gave him the go-ahead to race.
“Justin was peaking just at the right time,” Strawser said, referring to what has become an art in the world of bicycle racing: the practice of seasonal dieting, training and preparing to reach top performance at specific times of the year.
As England quickly realized the magnitude of the Nevada City Classic over the past two years, he made it clear that he would become a regular at the race – adding one more daunting presence for Nevada County hopefuls to overcome.
Cindy Carroll blew her opponents away in the women’s division of the Nevada City Classic Sunday, winning by a margin of nearly 20 seconds.
Fourty-year-old Carroll competed in the race first in 2002 and finished 12th, and after taking last year off from racing stormed back to embarrass women nearly half her age.
The fact that she finished first out of 32 women, almost all of whom had not taken a break from riding since their teen years, and that she was coming off of a year-long rest, brought a smile to her face but no surprise.
“I needed to take the race early,” Carroll said as if it were no more difficult than simply getting on her bike.
“I broke out. I didn’t know what my lead was though, so I just kept pushing it.”
Nevada City’s own 22-year-old Erin Alders was highly favored entering the race, after having won two races already this year. Alders however didn’t even make the top ten, finishing 13th.
Barbara Howe and Melodie Metzger, both teammates, took second and third respectively.
After competing in a number of larger venues than Nevada City, Carroll was in awe of the turnout.
“The crowd hear was fantastic,” she said. Although almost every one attending the race was rooting for Alders, they didn’t hold back on their applause for Carroll’s effort.
“The way the community gets into it is fantastic,” she said.
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