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Nevada City bike race brings community together
By Stacy Butler

Father’s Day on June 19 will mark the 56th year anniversary for the Nevada City Bicycle Classic, the second-oldest Pro-Am Criterium in the nation. This is quite an accomplishment and the race endures because of stalwart local support and participation.

The Nevada City Bicycle Classic has seen the likes of racing legends like Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong flying around a 1.1-mile course in downtown Nevada City. However, there have been years where the race’s future hung in the balance and was even on the chopping block due to the enormous amount of work involved in coordinating the race, raising the sponsorship dollars and housing the teams.

Local citizens and sponsors, however, stepped up to be sure the race continued and today it is experiencing resurgence in popularity and support.

Behind the scenes, Duane Strawser, the longtime volunteer-promoter of the event, is still rounding up local sponsors that now include Gold Country Cab, Waste Management, BriarPatch and Title Sponsor ol’ Republic Brewery, which is also sponsoring the SHO-AIR/Sierra Express racing team from Nevada County.

Jim Harte and Simon Olney of ol’ Republic also are overseeing the t-shirt and poster production – at no charge. David McKay, a local photographer, still assists with production of the t-shirts. Dee Samuels takes on the huge job of coordinating the many volunteers needed to make the race run smoothly.

The Nevada City Chamber staff, led by Executive Director Cathy Whittlesey, fields the hundreds of phone calls and helps sell collectible t-shirts, posters and buttons from the Chamber office.

Sierra Express Bicycle Club members become race-day field marshals and put up the fencing that separates the spectators from the whizzing racers who navigate the narrow, winding course through downtown Nevada City.
The Nevada Union mountain bike team, football team members and others handle the real grunt work of posting signs, setting up staging and basically anything that needs to be done.

Simply Country (formerly Ridge Feed and Supply) provides at no charge the placement and removal of the hundreds of hay bales that line the turns in the course.

Dave Towle, the official announcer of the Amgen Tour of California, will announce the race and only asks for a small stipend and that his travel expenses be covered.

A collaborative group of local video production specialists donate their time and equipment to film commercials promoting the race that will broadcast by Comcast Cable Television.

Over the years local Pro-1-2 racers like Chris McGovern, Mike Peavy, Don Davis, Ron Miller, Jason Moeschler and Jim Rogers have competed in the Nevada City Bicycle classic. The Masters race is named for Jim Rogers, the Junior race is named for Ron Miller and the Volunteer award is named for Alysia Tobiassen. Strawser also completed the grueling Pro-1-2 men’s race before he moved to Nevada City.

The future of the race looks promising because of the talent and expertise the race continues to attract. According to Strawser, Nevada City is now home to former U.S. Pro Road Champion Kurt Stockton, and former U.S. Pro Women’s Road Champion Robin Farina, along with other experienced cyclists like ex-pro Chris McGovern. All are experienced racers who know the sport inside and out, and Duane looks forward to the knowledge and advice they bring to the future of the race.

“Everyone involved loves the race. The Expo vendors look forward to promoting their newest products, they see it as a key media opportunity since the race is covered in many magazines, attracts local and national TV coverage, including ESPN, along with extensive radio and social media exposure. The top racers love the challenging course, the high-prize purse and points series that add to their national rankings,” Strawser said. “Our biggest hurdle right now is to be able to afford the fees to qualify for the National Racing Calendar. Then we will attract many more of the top teams in the country, which in turn attracts racing fans and tourists. It costs significant money, and we have to have that by July each year to apply for the next year. We’re hoping that can happen in the next couple of seasons to raise Nevada City to the next level.”

The race takes place in downtown Nevada City, Sunday, June 19. The kids parade starts at 12:45 p.m. and the first race begins at 1 p.m. with races all day ending with the main event, the Mens Pro-1-2, which begins at 5 p.m. and ends at 6:30. For more information about the Nevada City Bicycle Classic, visit nevadacityclassic.com, nevadacitychamber.com or call the NC Chamber of Commerce at 530-265-2692.

The 56th annual Nevada City Bicycle Classic starts at 1 p.m. on June 19, Father’s Day, in downtown Nevada City.