2018 Nevada City Bicycle Classic: Hit 'em in the Eye

I was continuing to wilt in the heat and humidity (it was hot, but I have seen it hotter), and my few choice spots in the shade only seemed to mask, did not quite relieve, and so I forced, willed, cajoled the legs into walking another circuit of the course. Their relief would come at the top of Broad, a seat on the shaded patio of the Broad Street Bistro. Earlier, I had suggested I would like to open a tab, knowing I would be back several times during the long hours of the afternoon, but only got a little laugh; no tab. It was probably my third visit, third cold drink, with the two longest races still to go.

Not that I would complain - the hottest, most weary legs belonged to those racing this 58th edition of the Nevada City Bicycle Classic. 2018 saw the race turn back a little - to it origins. By that I mean a return to its original course layout. Over the past thirty or so years I have made numerous trips to Nevada City, scheduling them to coincide with the running of this second oldest race in the United States, and each time the race finished with that wickedly fast descent of Broad Street where the start / finish line was. For those racing this years' edition, the course turned off Broad a block early before snaking up a steep little hill (as it did in 1960) to the start / finish alongside the court house. The result of the shift was that Broad was eerily sedate, the ringing cowbells, barking dogs, and cheering, yelling throng now lined the narrow sidewalks along the final ramp to the line, or spread out on the lawn beneath some towering shade trees at the Courts. A second noticeable change is the immediate steep ramp back up after racers hit the bottom of the course, where as previous years riders were afforded a bit of a transition along Commercial Street before the steep stuff picked back up again.

Typically I don't arrive at races during course set-up. Those hours are usually reserved for sleeping; the 11:00am start time for the NCBC is another of the races' little quirks stoke me to enthuse about it; I could see all the final touches of preparing the course being put into place - the fencing, signs, sweeping the corners, sign-in of volunteers, etc. The later start time also gave me opportunity to walk the course through the commercial district and surrounding residential neighborhoods, focusing on the sites rather than the race - Nevada City is the kind of town you can walk and discover all kinds of interesting littl ethings, the neighborhood cats, garden golf, nicknacks here, there, and everywhere, historical points of interest, and more. Every turn of the head shows something new.

The first group of racers to give that finishing ramp a try at the end of each of their laps were the junior categories, including a contingent of Team California Junior racers from Redlands. I only mention that because it was good to see some southern California racers making the trip north. Almost as if setting the stage for the days' later races a lone rider immediately jumped away and stayed there for the duration. It is a familiar tactic at Nevada City since the races always shred; of course you must be strong enough, and bold enough, or the hill, the heat, and the descent will conspire to foil the plan, destroying the attacking rider in the process. 

Back out along the course my legs have made to the Drencher again. The Masters are racing at the moment, the men's 35+ and 45+ and, arguably, the most well known name at this years' race is in the mix. Michael Sayers, racing now with Touchstone Masters, is a former professional from the early 2000s who raced with such teams as Mercury, Healthnet, and BMC in the premier races of this country, as well as Europe. This part of the course is another popular spot with watchers seated on walls, the grassy slopes of front yards, or the street-side edge of the cool elevated wooden sidewalk that runs up this street, legs dangling off, or folded underneath. All provide a good vantage as the race passes by, plus you get to hear the commentary across the street at the neutral water support station - "I'm getting gooder at it. I try and squirt it in their mouth, but sometimes I miss and hit 'em in the eye... and they get pissed." Entirely in jest. Am I sure? I am.

As has always been the case, the city of Nevada City and its residents pulled together to put on another successful race. Walking along Broad Street and Commercial Street, as well as the various residential streets up the hill, storefront after storefront had window displays promoting the race, while houses were decorated with banners and pennants, signs, even their own window displays of race pins collected over the years; picnics took place on front lawns and porches overlooking the street and, once again the house at the top of the hill hosted the Don Drageset Drencher. Every time the racers go past there is cheering, clapping of hands, ringing of cowbells. There are similar pockets of noise all along this uphill side of the course. I won't try to fool you, right at this moment the best years of the Classic reside in the past, but then it is hard to compete against the memories of those earlier races won by the likes of Bob Parsons, John Howard, Scott Moninger, Lance Armstrong and the great Greg Lemond. Time will bring another round of American champions, eventually, and until then California's best, as well as many from the western states keep the race competitive and exciting from start to finish.

The pro/1/2 men are out now and the team from Mikes Bikes are racing in dominant fashion. I watch as eventual victor, Chris Riekert rides away from everyone else, reels in riders off the back, and eventually catches what is left of the main bunch. As if that were not enough second place goes to another rider from the same team, in fact six of the top ten wear Mikes Bikes kit.

Among the results of the day: Pro/1/2 Men: 1st Chris Riekert (Team Mikes Bikes p/b Equator Coffee), 2nd Aria Kiani (Team Mike's Bikes), 3rd Robert Skinner (unattached); Pro/1/2/3 Women: 1st Lisa Cordova (Cycle Sport Specialized), 2nd Amity Gregg (Meteor x Giordana), 3rd Ellie Velez; Cat 3/4: 1st Christian Humpert (TB143), 2nd Jose Cuevas (Orange Pedal), 3rd Isaiah Oliver (unattached); Masters Men 35+ Cat 1/2/3: 1st Chris Coble (The Olympic Club), 2nd Dana Williams (Team Mikes Bikes), 3rd Scott Cox (unatt); Masters Men 45+ Cat 1/2/3: 1st Dan Bryant (Peet's Coffee Racing), 2nd Michael Sayers (Touchstone Masters), 3rd Jay Newton (Peet's Coffee Racing); Masters Women 35+ Cat 4/5: 1st Courtney Nelson (unatt), 2nd Jennifer Grant-Martinez (unatt), 3rd Madeline Frechette (SheSpoke Racing); Masters Men 35+ Cat 3/4/5: 1st Ryan Chepernich (Fulton Racing), 2nd Christopher Barker (Sierra Nevada / Reliable Racing), 3rd Jeff Dale (Revs Road Race); Cat 4/5: 1st Jeremy Pond (Rocklin Endurance Sports), 2nd Holger Steinmetzger (Team Mikes Bikes), 3rd Caleb Appleton (unatt). Junior Men 13-14: 1st Wyatt Hamilton (Western States Realty), 2nd Sean Strachan (Elevation Bike Co), 3rd Evan Larson (GSA Travel Team). Junior Men 15-16: 1st Jonas Crean (Team Swift), 2nd Riley Mullen (Team Swift), 3rd Eddy Huntsman (Team California Juniors. Junior Men 17-18: 1st Aidan McNeil (Team Swift), 2nd Hunter Wilson (Team California Juniors), 3rd Creighton Gruber (Team Swift).

This may be the final photo here - that woman and her son [?] spotted Princess Leia in her carrier and stopped for a look. I am pretty sure she works for the Chamber of Commerce and ran over to the building to see if they had any race tee-shirts left, and when she came back she had also brought some water for the little doggie. Mountain people, mountain hospitality.

With more than 1600 photos taken during the race, the album is a big 'un this time, containing a selection of two hundred forty-four photos in it. Thanks Nevada City for another great year.