Friday, June 15, 2007

Any Gold Left in Nevada City for Me?

Imagine some old miner who's been toiling away in the Gold Country for years and never found anything. He dragged his family out west in 1849 with great hope and promise, but the reality never even came close. His back aches, his wife nags him, and his kids are hungry. Life sucks.

But just think how his heart rate would skyrocket if one day he saw a big shiny nugget in his pan!

Autobiographical? Well not exactly. I've toiled away at the Nevada City Classic in each of the last four decades, and never come away with any gold. So that part is similar. And I have to admit that my heart rate rises even just thinking about racing there! But my back doesn't ache, my wife don't nag, and the kids are most definitely not hungry. Life is good.

So this weekend I'll try again, panning for gold in the 45+ and then the p/1/2.

I'm guessing my odds of getting a nugget are better in the 45+. Less than 20 guys are entered so far, but a couple will be tough for sure. Somebody needs to explain to Larry Nolan that it violates several laws of physics for him to power his mass over that Nevada City hill every lap. And I'm hoping Kevin Metcalfe is confused and shows up with a tt bike. My best chance will be to hitch my wagon onto one of the 35+ horses (35+ and 45+ race together, picked separately) and hope no other old geezers can hang on. How's that for a strategy??

The p/1/2 is a whole different beast, and I reserve the right to not even start depending on a million factors, most of which I will dream up later.

Anyway, let me continue on with this vowel movement and dump a little personal Nevada City history on you...

I first did this race back in 1977 as a junior who was a fish totally out of water. Correction... I was a fish on another planet. I got dropped almost immediately and surely was lapped before the half-way point.

I came back in 1978 after spending a week at the Olympic Training Center in CO Springs, and I was a confident and cocky junior fish back on earth. On my new white bar tape, I wrote "Win Nevada City!" and other motivational messages. Note: yes, I was a dork even back then. Well, my junior friends Mike Bunds and Steve Pera just couldn't stand it, so they graffiti'ed my new white bar tape. Thus, I spent the race reading "I am a gronk" and "I won't Win Nevada City"... Ahhh, I loved those guys! But they were right, I wouldn't win. I got 5th.

By 1979 I was in my last year as a junior and it was time to try again. Trouble was, I'd just graduated high school, and accordingly, I had about seventy-five other priorities higher than training. Note to self: Nevada City is not a race to do if you have not been training. Sho 'nuff, I was dropped like rock and DNF'ed. 'twas a bummer because that year I was on a junior all-star team of sorts (Palo Alto Bicycles), and we were all getting a nice stipend to help with expenses. (I should be so lucky now!) And after the humiliation of getting dropped, I told the team boss to stop sending my stipend.

After a year off, I returned in 1981 to race with arguably the strongest field ever at Nevada City. I was once again a fish out of water, but perhaps just on earth this time. You see, that year Greg LeMond came back to Nevada City from Europe with a couple of mysterious Euro teammates. And of course, that meant all the best-of-the-rest in the US showed up too. (BTW, for some more nostalgia from the race that year, suffer through this post a bit longer...)

It wasn't much of a race. LeMond lapped everyone ...twice! Actually, if I remember correctly, a couple guys were only one lap down. Fortunately at Nevada City, they often don't pull lapped riders, and in my case it was clear why. Zero chance of confusing me at my speed with anybody actually in contention. Place? who knows... maybe 40th?

Fifteen years later (1996) I returned for the 35+ race and was the last one to hold on to a flying Glen Winkel. No gold, but silver wasn't bad.

Next year (1997) was bronze for moi in the 35+ because I rode like an idiot. Matt Sarna and I were away, and I was too apprehensive to attack him even though he wouldn't pull. Then Brian McGuire caught us in our sprint! Natch, I got 3rd. BTW, I miss Brian ...where is he?

Last time I did Nevada City was 2002. C-Walk'ed away from us to win 35+ solo. I got 7th in a surprisingly large bunch sprint for 2nd. My lasting memory from that year was a bit of wisdom imparted to me from good 'ol Roger "Max-Kash-Agro" Worthington. Rog said after the race, "Fennell, if I had your sprint, I'd attack more." Only later did I realize he was insulting me...

So this Sunday, 30 years after my first mining trip to Nevada City, I will try again. Let's see if my legs can put Roger's advice to work!

OK, now about that nostalgia I promised a few paragraphs back... I already confessed to being a major pack-rat so it should come as no surprise that I still have the program from the 1981 Nevada City race. Admittedly that's a little embarrassing, but on the outside chance that anybody might find it entertaining, I've imaged the pages listing the pre-reg'ed riders from that year. Most have a bit of biographical info. Some were already superstars. Others would become super-stars. Some are still racing today. Some are known to SB folks. I circled a few names.

Click on the image if you want to view it full size and read it.

The cover. They charged a dollar!

Page 1. All about LeMond and Eric Heiden. BTW, I had done a night-time crit in SLO that Heiden attended, and he was absolutely mobbed by Cal Poly coeds. I'd say he was the first Rock-Star bike racer.

Page 2. Wayne Stetina is still racing!

Page 3. Gavin Hein had been a hot-shot SoCal junior who was on the powerful North Hollywood Wheelman junior team in the late 70's.

Page 4. I think you might still find Alex Osborne, Shin Umeda, and/or Jim Rogers in an occasional NorCal masters race. Mike Bunds was one of my best friends. He's now teaching Geology in Utah, and racing motorcycles, riding MTB, and skiing.

Page 5. Now, when they ask you for biographical info for a race program, and you know that guys like LeMond will be in there, what are you gonna to say? Uhh, yeah... I got 14th in the Berkeley crit and 9th at the Crockett-Martinez RR. Wrong! So, instead I thought I'd give a little anecdote, only they messed it up. It wasn't Nevada City, it was Land Park crit. Oh well.

Page 6. A few Santa Barbarians and others of potential interest.

OK, so if you've read this far, I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane. That many of the folks listed in these pages are still active in cycling shows what a great sport this is. Either that, or we're all losers who can't do anything else...

'til after Nevada City...


Gary said...

Awesome. Kick butt out there! With all your racing experience, I don't mind getting dropped regularly by you. Go get em.

Kimberly (aka. DrKim) said...

Good luck Mark!! Wow...I love hearing about the history. I started in this game too late to create much history, but hearing about yours is awesome!!

Kick some butt, and bring home gold this year!

Matt Smith said...

Thank you for scanning the program. You've created a family heirloom. I'd watched the race several years during grade school during the 1970s. That inspired me pick up bike racing. And the 1981 Nevada City junior race was my first big win.