Nevada City Bicycle Classic 2003
Photos taken Sunday, June 15, 2003
2003, Herbert E. Lindberg

We celebrated Father's Day up here in the Gold Country by going to the 43rd Annual Nevada City Bicycle Classic, the toughest short-course race in the United States, and a prized and often required trophy for world-class cyclists. I begin the story with a short aside. Saturday afternoon Craig, Jodie and Tyler came to our home in Lake Wildwood so Craig could lug two cubic yards of sand from our driveway in front of the house to the beach on the lake behind the house. The beach sand had been getting thin for making castles but now it's a foot deep near the top, just right for the grandchildren this summer. 

Craig hauls sand the old fashioned way, with shovel and wheelbarrow.

This chore took Craig about two hours and served as a good workout. On the day of the bike race he got a more stressful workout serving as captain of the crossing guards on the downhill run to the start/finish line on Broad Street. I say stressful because it doesn't take long after a race starts for the riders to spread throughout the 1.2-mile circuit, so the gaps between riders become very short, and they come whizzing down the hill at fifty to sixty miles per hour. The cyclists and pedestrians are at risk for serious injury throughout the races, aggravated by a steady stream of people going back and forth for food, beer, and just to get to the other side. Craig had to keep everyone safe from the start of the Junior Grand Prix at 1 p.m. to the finish of the men's pros at almost 7 p.m. Mary and I were seated not too far from Craig's main crossing but never had a chance to say more than a quick hello and give an occasional wave because he was so busy and we didn't want to contribute to the risk for all involved.

Craig gives the all-clear sign to cross in a gap between cyclists.

Mary and I arrived as the women pros were on their final laps, at about 3:30 p.m. The surprise winner was Eryn Hanna from the Los Gatos Bicycle Racing Club, who has been racing for only four years yet finished far ahead of the second and third place winners Jane Despas of San Jose and Cynthia Mommsen of Mill Valley.

A very happy Eryn Hanna won the women's pro race.

The Senior Cat. 3 Men's race (the one that Craig races in when not under the gun at start-up TiMetra) began shortly after 4 p.m.  Mary and I stayed for this race and the Men's Pro, which started shortly after 5 p.m. During the Cat. 3 race I walked the course backward to get a feel for the uphill struggle and downhill peril the racers face again and again as they pound around the circuit.

The start of the Senior Cat. 3 Men's at Craig's Pine Street Crossing

 The Cat. 3 men accelerate down Broad Street toward the high-speed turn onto Union Street.

Cat. 3 men climb the uphill back stretch.

The Men's Pro race started about 5 p.m. On the very first lap the favorite, Eric Wohlberg, who had won the Reno race the day before, broke spokes on his rear wheel and immediately fell almost a lap behind. But he jumped back into the race, and each time he came around by himself, far behind the leaders, the crowd cheered him on loudly. In an amazingly small number of laps he was on the heels of the pack and in a few more laps passed everyone, one by one. Toward the end of the race he had lapped most of the riders and was out in front all by himself.

The men pros swoosh at 50 mph around the corner to Union Street at the foot of Broad Street.

Close-up of a racer viewed from the inside of the same corner.
I was tracking the rider -- note the blurred inside railing and outside spectators at this speed.

Mary stayed almost the entire time at the Pine Street crossing, watching the racers zoom by on the downhill straightaway. I asked her if this fixed spot got boring after awhile and she said, no, there were always many interesting people and their activities to watch. While I was standing at suicide corner waiting to compose pictures I couldn't resist some people watching myself, but probably not the same type people that interested Mary.

My kind of people watching

As the Men's Pro race wound down I drifted back to Pine Street where Mary was camped. We watched the racers complete their last lap as the crowd cheered them on, with Eric Wohlberg finishing a lap ahead of the others.

The crowd cheers for racers beginning their last lap and Eric Wohlberg finishing.

Erik raises his arms in the victory salute.

After the race I walked a short distance down Broad Street to be opposite the announcer's stand so I could photograph Eric up close and hear his thoughts on the race. It was then that Eric told us what had happened on the first lap. I didn't get the announcer's name, but he said he played in the movie "Breaking Away" in which he was the guy on the Cinzano team who pushed his bicycle pump in the the hero's spokes.

Erik tells us what happened on his first lap.
He never cracked a smile during the interview but he was always pleasant and modest.

But off the announcer's stand he smiled easily for a pretty friend (wife?).

The final bit of business was congratulations to Duane Strawser, who's been race organizer since 1996, when he purchased the Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop. He says getting sponsors and putting the race together is an all-year job. Early in his tenure they lost their principle sponsor and almost couldn't support the race that year. Duane struggled to avoid a year's hiatus because that could have led to seriously reduced status of the race as a professional event.

Duane Strawser gets a high hand shake for another job well done.

This story ends with a Father's Day gift from Craig. Those familiar with these racing events know that throughout the race various sponsors donate "premes" (short for premium, I assume) to encourage the racers to excel even if they're back in the pack or even in a small group of racers with little chance of catching the leaders. As a group of such racers pass the announcer stand, the loud speakers inform them that this particular lap has a "preme" for that group of racers. Typical premes are $25 cash, a case of Nevada City Pale Ale, and so on. When that group comes past the announcing stand on the next lap, the racer leading the group wins the preme.

One of the first premes in the Men's Pro was $85 in the name of Herb Lindberg, the "father who was always there for us," from his son Craig Lindberg. The announcer was impressed with this sentiment (as was I, of course) because for the entire two minutes or so of the lap he repeated our names and the sentiment. He called out for me to acknowledge myself by waving my hand, which of course I did. It was a wonderful thought and tribute, and thank goodness I'm now old enough that I don't embarrass easily. Mary, of course, thought it was wonderful and embarrassment didn't enter her mind. So, in addition to my hole-in-one on Friday I became more widely famous for two minutes on Father's Day. Thanks, Craig, and all you cyclist who made such a special day.

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