It’s probably obligatory to include the following quote when reporting on this race, “The Nevada City Classic is considered one of the most technically and physically challenging 1-day courses in America.” While I have no idea who originally said that, I can personally attest to the truth of the statement. And to up the ante, add a bunch of top-tier domestic pros, 90 degree heat and thousands of spectators lining the route. While my knees weren’t shaking as I rolled to the start line, they may as well have been.
I didn’t plan on doing well at Nevada City. In preparation for the Cascade Classic stage race in July, I have been intentionally stacking long, hard hours in the saddle. This took all the pressure off my mind in terms of performance expectations. All I really wanted to do was finish.
Nate and I were warned to get to the start line as early as possible to secure a good position. The start/finish line is at the end of a long downhill, which takes a sharp 110 degree left turn directly into sharp climbing with 120 feet of elevation gain. Since the pace gets strung out from the first lap, it becomes very difficult to move up and close gaps if you start at the back. So of course by the time we show up the start, there are already 50 guys parked in front of us, and we get shuffled to the end of the line.
Right from the gun the pack was strung out, gaps were starting to open, and Nate and I were in panic mode to crawl to the front. My chain dropped several times while climbing in the first few laps, effectively nullifying any progress I had made moving up. By the 3rd or 4th lap, I had yo-yoed beyond the red-zone for too long and the pack rode away. So now I was off the back, with another 30 laps to go. Shortly thereafter I caught up to Nate who was in the same predicament and we proceeded to time trial for the next hour. My heart rate never dropped below 180, and I basically rode as hard as I possibly could for the duration of the race. In the final 30 minutes we had coagulated with a few other stragglers, but it was still essentially Nate and I taking all the pulls.
During our 90 minutes of losing, the field lapped us twice. Each time the lead motorcycle roared passed us, I assumed we would get pulled from the race – but they let us stay in. I remember wishing that something would happen; a crash, flat tire, broken spoke, etc – just to have an excuse to end the suffering. There were only a few things that kept me from jerking my wheel into a hay-bail and calling it quits. The announcer was yelling out our team name every time we rode past the finish line. The crowds were screaming out “Wild Cherries!” on every corner. Speckled around the course were several people I knew and they would shower us with encouragement every lap. And finally, I didn’t want to abandon Nate, and I knew he wouldn’t abandon me.
The final results put us in 29th and 30th overall, 7th and 8th in the Cat 2s. Although I think they screwed up some placings, as they omitted some riders who I know finished with us, and they placed some guys ahead of us – who I know were behind. According to the results, about 30% of the field dropped out, so I am fairly proud to say I finished.