By Mark Deterline
Lance Armstrong and Shelly Olds won their respective Nevada City Classics on Sunday, both using strong solo efforts to ride to victory in the 49th annual race through the Northern California mining town.
The Proman team softened the women’s field up with a blend of tempo and aggression before Olds delivered the final blow, racing off alone to take the win.
Armstrong, meanwhile, joined an early three-man break with Astana teammate Levi Leipheimer and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) that eventually lapped the field, cheered on by a crowd that race director Duane Strawser estimated at about 20,000.
Clad in Livestrong livery, the seven-time Tour de France champion went it alone with six laps to race, taking a lead of a dozen seconds as he churned out 2.5-minute laps on the 1.1-mile, seven-turn circuit with 120 feet of climbing per go-round.
With one lap to go, Armstrong had nearly doubled his advantage as Leipheimer and Chris Horner monitored the pursuit. And just a couple minutes later he shot down Broad Street and crossed the line alone, arms raised, to claim the first victory in his comeback from retirement.
A race with history
The Armstrong win marked another memorable moment for a race whose history dates back nearly half a century. Duane Strawser, president of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, and his wife, Connie, can largely be credited with the modern-day revival of the race. Owners of the local bike shop, the Strawsers have been motivated more by love than by prestige or profits.
“Of course it’s ironic that we have worked so hard to secure media exposure over the years, largely in vain, and are now getting an overwhelming amount of attention with Lance here,” said Strawser. “But that’s how it works and we’re naturally delighted about it.”
According to some locals, in the 1970s the race enjoyed an enthusiasm and festive atmosphere like that seen on Sunday, due in no small part to the appearance of the Astana trio.
“It feels now like it did decades ago,” said longtime race volunteer Molly Breen, a resident of the area since the ‘60s and of Nevada City since the ‘70s. “People used to come and watch the race because there was something going on downtown, not because of the interest in seeing a celebrity like Lance Armstrong.”
The Nevada City course is widely considered one of the most difficult racing circuits in the West. The 1.1-mile course starts on the town’s sloping main drag – Broad Street – looking downhill at the first turn, a tight 90-degree bend just a few hundred meters from the start/finish.
The sketchiest part of the course comes in turn two, because riders see what looks heading into it like a broader curve, which narrows as they come out of it. The course continues counterclockwise and climbs back to the top of Broad Street for a thrilling descent through the start/finish area.
Teamwork delivers Olds to victory
Olds’ Proman teammates quickly strung out the field in the women’s race, with Helene Drumm setting the pace before Rachel Neylan attacked to draw out their opponents.
Neylan served as the decoy to set up the much anticipated, but equally indefensible, counter-attack and winning solo move by Olds.
National criterium and road race champ Brooke Miller (TIBCO) tried to keep the Proman onslaught in check, but in the end settled for a fine second place with Katerina Nash (Luna) taking third.
The Lance and Levi show
The men’s race began with a little sleight of hand from Armstrong, who appeared with Leipheimer and Horner shortly before the call-ups and answered questions from fellow competitors and the press.
Asked why he was racing Nevada City with the Tour just around the corner, Armstrong replied that it was partly due to the event’s history, course and fans. He added that Nevada City remains a tough race, something that can only help at this point in the year. Being 37 years old — and having spent nearly four years off the bike — has made his return to racing something of a challenge, he acknowledged.
Asked to predict a winner for the day, Armstrong simply offered, “Uh, Levi’s gonna win.”
The race began with a neutral lap that brought the pack of more than 100 riders back down toward the finish line with Armstrong tucked in at about 15th. Then Leipheimer attacked and took two riders with him.
Armstrong allowed a gap to open as he sat in fourth position, then joined the move, which quickly shrank to three riders — Armstrong, Leipheimer and Jacques-Maynes — while Horner sat on former winner Justin England (California Giant Berry Farms) and Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) in a three-man chase.
A large number of riders either abandoned when the pace heated up or were pulled by officials to keep the tight course as safe as possible for the leaders, who would lap several groups – some more than once – by the end of the race.
Then, a half-dozen laps from the finish, Armstrong attacked, opening up a gap on the chasing Jacques-Maynes with Leipheimer sitting in. He soloed to victory, arms raised and fists pumping triumphantly skyward.
Jacques-Maynes hung on for second with Leipheimer third.
The lead trio made it seem easy, but it wasn’t, Leipheimer said afterward.
“Today hurt, actually,” he said. “A bit of a shock – the first since a hot, hilly Giro.”
And Armstrong? Some wondered whether his appearance at Nevada City was an indication that he was taking the Tour de France less seriously. It was a notion he quickly put to rest.
“No,” replied Armstrong, “it was important to get in an intense day today; it happened to fall on this day. Ninety minutes of the kind of watts we were putting out were what we needed to remind the body of what we need to do.”
Men’s results | Click for: Women’s results
- 1. Lance Armstrong Uci Pt: Astana in 1:28:20
- 2. Benjamin Jacques-Maynes Uci Ct: Bissell Pro Cycling T in 1:28:41
- 3. Levi Leipheimer Uci Pt: Astana in 1:28:42
- 4. Scott Zwizanski Uci Ct: Kelly Benefit Strategi in 1:28:43
- 5. Chad Gerlach Uci Ct: Amore E Vita-Mcdonald in 1:28:43
- 6. Jonathan Baker Vitamin Cottage P/b Xp Compani in 1:28:43
- 7. Christopher Horner Uci Pt: Astana in 1:28:43
- 8. Paul Mach Uci Ct: Bissell Pro Cycling Te in 1:28:43
- 9. Fabrice Dubost Unattached in 1:28:43
- 10. Max Jenkins Glud & Marstrand Horsens in 1:28:43
- 11. Stevie Cullinan Unattached in 1:28:43
- 12. Nathaniel English Unattached in 1:28:44
- 13. Vincent Owens Hdr P/b Lombardi Sports in 1:28:44
- 14. Roman Kilun Uci Ct: Ouch Presented By Max in 1:28:44
- 15. David Glick Rideclean in 1:28:44
- 16. Justin England California Giant Berry Farms/s in 1:28:45
- 17. Steve Reaney California Giant Berry Farms/s in 1:28:46
- 18. Rudolph Napolitano Liquid Fitness/adageo Energy in 1:28:50
- 19. Derek Dixon Hdr P/b Lombardi Sports in 1:28:50
- 20. James Mattis California Giant Berry Farms/s in 1:28:50
- 21. Ian Boswell Hot Tubes Development Cycling in 1:28:50
- 22. Benjamin King Uci Ct: Trek Livestrong in 1:28:50
- 23. Jesse Moore California Giant Berry Farms/s in 1:28:51
- 24. Keith Hillier Davis Bike Club in 1:28:56
- 25. Keith Defiebre Norcal Elite Cycling in 1:28:59
- 26. ?? in 1:29:09
- 27. Daniel Ramsey Uci Ct: Team Mountain Khakis in 1:29:15
- 28. Jeff Angermann Safeway/g A Communications in 1:29:15
- 29. Dan Martin Safeway/bicycle Plus in 1:29:15
- 30. Andres Gil Delta Velo in 1:29:15
- 31. Jonathan Eropkin Unattached in 1:29:16
- 32. Justin Kerr Liquid Cycling Club in 1:29:16
- 33. Justin Laue Zteam in 1:29:19
- 34. Joseph Pinkerton Natural Grocers P/b Xp Compani in 1:29:21
- 35. Peter Graf Unattached in 1:29:21
- 36. Dirk Friel Vitamin Cottage P/b Xp Compani in 1:29:22
- 37. Jason Moeschler Wtb in 1:29:22
- 38. Omer Kem Uci Ct: Bissell Pro Cycling Te in 1:29:24
- 39. Andrew Talansky Uci Ct: Amore E Vita-Mcdonald in 1:29:25
- 40. Aren Timmel Team Chico in 1:29:25
- 41. Matt Landen Liquid Fitness/adageo Energy in 1:29:26
- 42. Tyler Brandt Norcal Elite Cycling in 1:29:27
- 43. Jonz Norine Owens Healthcare in 1:29:27
- 44. Seth Zaleski Platinum Performance Cycling T in 1:29:33
- 45. Christopher Phipps Morgan Stanley/team Spine/spec in 1:29:34
- 46. Osvaldo Olmos California Giant Berry Farms/s in 1:29:35
- 47. Patrick Mcclurg Team Bicycles Plus in 1:29:35
- 48. Scott Fonseca Zenn Racing Team in 1:29:35
- 49. Adam Ross Wells Fargo Racing Team in 1:29:37
- 50. Lee Shuemake Delta Velo in 1:29:37
- 51. Greg Juneau Sugarcrm in 1:29:42
Women’s results | Click for: Men’s results
- 1. Shelley Olds Proman Hit Squad in 50:47.2
- 2. Brooke Miller Unattached in 52:49.7
- 3. Katerina Nash Luna Pro Team in 52:49.8
- 4. Rachel Neylan Proman Hit Squad in 53:01.2
- 5. Helene Drumm Proman Hit Squad in 53:01.2
- 6. Martina Patella Unattached in 53:01.2
- 7. Lindsay Myers Unattached in 53:01.3
- 8. Sarah Maile Unattached in 53:01.3
- 9. Susannah Breen Wells Fargo Racing Team in 53:06.4
- 10. Cody Graf Wells Fargo Racing Team in 53:06.5
- 11. Jane Robertson Metromint Cycling in 53:06.6
- 12. Yukie Nakamura Metromint Cycling in 53:27.1
- 13. Sonja Klein Left Coast Racing Team in 53:27.2
- 14. Erin Alders Sierra Express in 53:27.2
- 15. Molly Van Houweling Metromint Cycling in 53:27.2
- 16. Marie-Claude Gagnan Glotman Simpson in 53:27.3
- 17. Marian Jamison Velo Bella in 53:53.3
- 18. Jennie Phillips Wells Fargo Racing Team in 53:53.4
- 19. Kimberly Fong Unattached in 53:53.4
- 20. Katie Behroozi Unattached in 53:53.4
- 21. Kristin Kein Wells Fargo in 53:53.5
- 22. Kristine Church Humanzoom in 53:57.9
- 23. Amy Padula Touchstone Climbing in 53:58.0
- 24. Heather Nielson Colavita/sutter Home Northern in 53:58.0
- 25. Laurel Green Team Bici Sport in 53:58.1
- 26. Ruth Winder Proman Hit Squad in 54:00.4
- 27. Sarah Kayfetz Dolce Vita Cycling in 54:00.4
- 28. Daniela Becker Team Roaring Mouse in 54:00.4
- 29. Elis Bradshaw Metromint Cycling in 54:00.5