Chad Gerlach (Lifetime Fitness/VeloVie) and Amber Rais (TIBCO) took the overall honors at the Mighty Mighty Tour de Nez last weekend. Both riders grabbed the leader’s red jersey on the first stage, succesfully defended until the end and even won another stage before it was all set and done.
The 2009 Tour de Nez presented by Northstar-at-Tahoe started off on Thursday June 18 with the downtown Truckee criterium, the first of three days of racing in the 17th edition of the race. Run under sunny skies, warm temperatures and stiff winds, the pro men’s field put on a show for the thousands of assembled fans where rider Gerlach took the win in a one up sprint against Jonathan Baker of the Natural Grocer’s team.
Gerlach who was racing with only teammate, Andrew Talansky, initiated the decisive move four laps into the race with Baker, and the duo never looked back, working well together right up to the finish. With five laps to go in the race, Gerlach and Baker caught the field, and the final sprint for the victory was contested among the lapped participants in the main field. Gerlach took the win easily over the out-gunned Baker.
In the pro women’s race, it was the TIBCO team that put on a cycling clinic, using all four of their riders to perfection in delivering hometown Reno girl Rais to victory. Rais was off the front early in the race, but after being reeled back by Stacy Marple (Colavita/Sutter Home) and Martina Patella (ValueAct), she settled back into the main field as all of her teammates attacked in the following laps.
First it was Rushlee Buchanan, then Alison Starnes, and finally Jerika Hutchingson that softened up the field, and by the time the group hit the last lap the result was all but assured for Rais. Out of the saddle down the final finishing straight, she overpowered Marple and Katerina Nash (Luna) to take the win before the cheering partisan crowd.
In the hand cycle race, it was pre-race favorite and world championship contender Alejandro Albor who took top honors, distancing Seth Arseneau by a sizeable margin. The hand cycling criterium national criterium championship commenced on Friday in Reno, Nevada during stage two of the three stage event.
On the second day, the race moved to downtown Reno, where the Truckee river course challenged the peloton with ten technical turns on an up and down 1.26-km course. Though he was marked throughout the 60-minute race, Gerlach took his second victory solidifying his overall lead.
In his aggressive style, Gerlach launched attacks throughout the race, but riders including the California Giant Berry Farms duo of Steve Reaney and Justin England and OUCH-Maxxis pair of Roman Kilun and Bobby Lea were not letting him go. With five laps to go, Fly V/Australia’s Ben King went on a solo flyer and was able to stay away until the final lap of the race. Behind him, CalGiant and OUCH led the chase with Justin England doing the most work to reel King back into the group.
On the back stretch of the race course on the final lap, Gerlach was able to gap the group heading into the final straightaway, and the Sacramento resident maintained his lead ahead of a hard charging Reaney and Lea.
In the women’s race, it was Nash who was able to resist the firepower of Rais and the TIBCO team, as the elite mountain biker was able to take the bunch sprint ahead of Rais and Marple. Early on it was Irish time trial champion Olivia Dillon (Touchstone) and Patella who tried their hand at early escapes, but hard work in the chase group by Marple, Starla Teddergreen and Helene Drumm ensured that the group went to the line in a bunch sprint.
In the US hand cycle criterium national championships, it was Albor who rolled away with an easy win, powering across the line with a comfortable 20 second gap to his nearest competitor Arceneau. Niel Harding was third.
The final stage of the Tour de Nez was contested on the 3.15-km Village circuit course at the Northstar-at-Tahoe resort which featured cobbled sections and tough climbs. CalGiant’s Jesse Moore went out on a solo escape just 10 minutes into the 90-minute race and was soon joined by BISSELL’s Graham Howard while the field chased behind. Never able to get closer than 25 seconds, the main chase group was unable to bring the pair back in time to contest the finish.
With only five laps to go, England jumped away from the field and managed to bridge up to the two escapees, giving CalGiant two riders in the decisive three man group. And the Berry boys took full advantage of it when down the stretch England turned himself inside out for his teammate, allowing Moore to finish things off for and finally take a win for the hard-working amateur team. Howard finished second and England rounded off the podium.
While Howard threatened, Gerlach finished in the top 10 and won the overall, Baker won the points classification and Talansky took home the white Best Young Rider jersey.
The women’s race was equally exciting, as Rais successfully defended her Omnium crown from a Nash who managed a solid 3rd place at Northstar behind a flying Rais and Dillon. Rais was deemed the winner after her teammate Alison Starnes was relegated one lap down for mistakenly taking a free lap during the race. Unfortunately for the first year pro Starnes, there were no free laps awarded during the race, and though she crossed the finish line first, the victory was awarded to her teammate Rais.
In the hand cycle event, Albor rolled away victorious again, winning for the third time in as many days. He blazed the four lap course alone and even added a fifth lap for good measure, showing that he is on form and ready for the upcoming cycling world championships in Italy where he’ll hope to earn a rainbow jersey for the United States.