Lance-mania hits foothills

Nevada City Classic to host Armstrong, Leipheimer, Landis and thousands of fans
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The streets of Nevada City will be buzzing like never before Sunday afternoon. Bolstered by the news that both Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer will be in town for the 49th Nevada City Bicycle Classic, race director Duane Strawser expects record crowds for the criterium-style competition. “All the powers that be — CalTrans and CHP — are gearing up for a huge turnout,” Strawser said Thursday. “I would guess we’d have double the crowd — 10 or 12,000, but some people are saying it could be more like 30 to 50,000.” Armstrong announced on Twitter earlier this week he and his Astana teammate Leipheimer would make the trip to Nevada City on Tuesday afternoon. “Levi and myself are racing the Nevada City Classic next Sunday. A great American race!!!” the seven-time Tour de France champion wrote. “BTW, I believe the last time I did Nevada City was 1990. Uh, long time ago. Psyched to go back.” Armstrong came out of retirement this year and is headed to the Tour de France next month. Leipheimer won the Tour of California in February and is enjoying a stellar season as the leader of the Astana team. Leipheimer, from Santa Rosa, won the Nevada City Classic in 1998. Chris Horner, another Astana rider, will also make the trip to Nevada City, giving Armstrong plenty of support for what Strawser believes will be an inspired performance. “From the e-mails we’ve exchanged and the Twitters I’ve seen from Lance, my guess is this is a loose end he’s trying to tie up in his career,” Strawser said. “He was second here 1991, so we’re guessing he’s not just going to come and make an honorary appearance. He’s coming to win.” The Nevada City Classic will see competitors looping through the historic streets of the old mining town along Highway 49. The professional riders will race for 90 minutes around the 1.1-mile loop, reaching speeds of more than 50 mph. The Tour of Nevada City bike shop has been inundated with e-mails and phone calls all week with people from all over the country making plans to see Sunday’s race. Riders have been registering at a frantic pace since Armstrong’s announcement as well. Floyd Landis, who won the 1996 Tour de France, but was stripped of his title because of a doping violation, is expected to ride along with Sacramento’s Chad Gerlach, who dominated the Auburn Criterium last month. Sunday’s intimate course and competitive field of more than 125 professionals should provide a special atmosphere. “It’s basically one of those things where you do your best to put on an event to draw guys like that,” Strawser said. “They’re almost always in Europe getting ready for the Tour de France this time of year, but (the Astana team) was actually in Aspen, Colo. training. Within a day, they decided to come. “They have anywhere from 10 to 15 events making six-figure offers for them to come race every weekend,” Strawser added. “This race has earned its reputation, I think it’s a notch above most. It’s a non-profit event and all the money goes back to the purse.” Races begin at 1 p.m. Sunday with junior males and females hitting the course. The professional women will begin at 3 p.m., followed by the men’s elite division and then the pros.