by Elle Anderson (Vanderkitten Racing)
This year was my second time racing the Nevada City Classic, which is easily among my top three favorite races of the season. Although the three hour drive each way from San Francisco is not getting any shorter, I love this race. The narrow, twisting streets closely lined with brick buildings remind me of scenes from Europe. The crowds are large and loud, especially for a regional race. The brutal climb each lap is followed by a harrowing decent where I easily spin out my 53×11. Besides the finish line existing half-way down the decent, the most challenging aspect of the course has to be the sweeping, 180-degree, off-camber turn after the finish line. Sound fun? Definitely.
At last year’s race, I was still new to the Bay Area (having recently moved from New Hampshire) and I finished in 4th place, respectively in awe of 2012’s winner Katerina Nash who has a history of lining up at Nevada City. A full year later, I arrived with hopes to better my placing. I was joined on the line by some great NorCal racers: My Vanderkitten teammate Emily Kachorek, Ali Tetrick (Team Exergy), Amy Chandos (Folsom Bike), Mary Maroon (SB Racing) and Amy Thornquist (Pinnacle Training Systems), among others.
Just the week before, I had raced a very similar course at Tulsa Tough’s River Parks Criterium which features the aptly named-Cry Baby Hill. Both courses feature a difficult power climb and technical decent, and I was coming off of a solid 8th place result at the final day of Tulsa’s NCC crit series.
Nevada City was a far cry from the boisterous mayhem and costume-clad spectators of the infamous Cry Baby Hill, but there was a lone water sprinkler at the top of the climb at Nevada City, which I thankfully targeted many of the laps. It was a small reminder of the tunnel of noise and yelling and water guns that I had raced through the previous week in Tulsa (it’s worth googling for video coverage).
Unlike most criteriums, the Nevada City Classic is often a race of attrition: There is less emphasis on positioning or tactics for the finish and more emphasis on power climbing and technical cornering. The first lap is neutral to the top of the climb, after which it was announced that there would be a $100 prime on the next full lap, the Beth Donnelly Memorial award. Going into the first lap I positioned myself to be first through the 180-degree turn, and with an aggressive line opened a gap of a few seconds on the other side, into the climb.
Carrying the gap up the climb and down around to the finish line got me the prime and set the stage for a similar situation halfway through the race, or at about 10 laps to go. Leading up to that halfway point, the first half of the race saw the field slowly whittled in half as racers fell off on the climb; the pace pushed at a steady threshold, often by either me or my Vanderkitten teammate, Emily. There were a few good attacks, but the front group stayed together more or less.
At about 10 laps to go, there was another prime, after which I found myself on the climb with another gap of a few seconds on the field, again taking a tight line through the corner. With my legs feeling good at that point, and not feeling too overheated in the 90-degree temps, I decided to keep going to see if I could grow the gap. With the twisting and turning of the course, I knew it would set up well to get out of sight quickly.
After a few hard laps I was able to stay out of sight of the chase group and with about 5 laps to go settled into a stiff pace, and maintained a gap of little less than a minute all the way to the finish line. Joanna Dahl (Metromint) and Cristina Hughes (Hub Coffee) finished off the podium, with Susanna Breen (Folsom Bike) , Amy Chandos and Emily Kachorek rounding out the top six.
This race is surely a classic, well organized and fun to race. Many thanks to the promoter, and to sponsors: Vanderkitten.com, Osmo, Wilier, Smith and Pactimo. I look forward to returning for next year’s race!
San Francisco-based Elle Anderson is a Cat 1 rider with Vanderkitten Racing