California’s Tour de Nez began Thursday 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, as it was Lifetime Fitness/VeloVie rider Chad Gerlach who took the pro men’s race in a one up sprint against Jonathan Baker of the Natural Grocer’s team.
With only one teammate, Gerlach sparked the day’s decisive move four laps into the race with Baker, and the duo never looked back, working well together right up to the finish.
With about five laps remaining, Gerlach and Baker caught the field, and the final sprint for the victory was contested among the lapped participants in the main field. Gerlach, using his superior sprint, took the win easily over the out-gunned Baker, his first victory of 2009 and his comeback to the sport.
In the pro women’s race, it was the TIBCO team that put on a cycling clinic, using all four of its riders to perfection in delivering hometown Reno hero Amber Rais to the finish line in first place. Rais was off the front early in the race, but after being reeled back in by Stacy Marple and Martina Patella, she settled back into the main field as all of her teammates attacked over the ensuing 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 Nash to take the win before the cheering partisan crowd.
Racing continues Friday with the Reno River criterium races. Saturday’s racing will then take the field to the Northstar-at-Tahoe resort for the final stage, a circuit race in and around the Village at Northstar resort.