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Moninger, Bajadali share lead in Tour de Nez

The 13th annual Tour de Nez kicked off Thursday with a 5km time trial in Verdi, Nevada, followed by an hourlong criterium in Truckee, California. Now in its third year on the NRC calendar, this year’s three-day, four-race omnium has attracted its strongest field ever with a pro-Category 1-2 field of more than 100 riders, including Scott Moninger, Gord Fraser and Tyler Farrar (Health Net-Maxxis); Alexander Candelario and Dave McCook (Jelly Belly-PoolGel); and Discovery’s Steven Cozza racing with the under-23 national team. Also in attendance are full squads from Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada,

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By Cherie Turner

The 13th annual Tour de Nez kicked off Thursday with a 5km time trial in Verdi, Nevada, followed by an hourlong criterium in Truckee, California.

Now in its third year on the NRC calendar, this year’s three-day, four-race omnium has attracted its strongest field ever with a pro-Category 1-2 field of more than 100 riders, including Scott Moninger, Gord Fraser and Tyler Farrar (Health Net-Maxxis); Alexander Candelario and Dave McCook (Jelly Belly-PoolGel); and Discovery’s Steven Cozza racing with the under-23 national team. Also in attendance are full squads from Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada, Webcor Builders and Team Seasilver, and a four-man squad from Advantage Benefits-Endeavor, including big man Carl Menzies.

The morning prologue warmed riders up with a short, rolling course that finished on a small climb. Early starters had the advantage, with a growing storm bringing increasingly strong winds into the area as the morning progressed.

Cozza turned the fastest time of the day, finishing in 6:10:79, followed by Anthony Colby (Target Training), 6:13:20; Andy Bajadali (Vitamin Cottage), 10:13: 28; Ryan Blickem (Target Training), 6:13:60; and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada). 6:17:82.

“It was tough,” said Menzies, who finished sixth. “It’s only 5K, but it’s real hard. You have a headwind up this slight rise [from the start] and then you turn and put it in a big gear and just push it. It’s just so fast and then you’re finished. It was fun, but it was hard.”

The evening’s criterium, run on a 1km, six-corner course through historic downtown Truckee, drew a crowd despite threatening skies spitting rain and temperatures that almost dropped to freezing.

Attacks came from the gun, stringing the field out immediately. Marc Collard (Webcor Builders) jumped on the first lap, followed by Aaron Olsen (Colavita-Sutter Home) and Candelario. Before long a small group, including Moninger, had formed off the front.

As more riders bridged to the leaders, Moninger made a decisive move halfway through the race.

“When I was in that early break of seven or eight guys I wasn’t that comfortable in the corners because the course was half dry and half wet, and I thought, ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going to have to go at this solo’ because more and more fast guys kept coming up,” he said.

“Alex Candelario and [Carl] Menzies were there and I was looking around thinking, ‘I can’t beat these guys in a straight-up sprint.’ There was a lot of disorganization, guys were trying to get in the break, but they were just sitting there. They weren’t really committed, so I decided to go it solo and there was no reaction initially.”

So Moninger shot off the front, and it proved to be the winning move – just 15 minutes into his solo bid the Health Net rider had lapped the field.

“I kept thinking, ‘This won’t last much longer,’” he said. “I just kept taking it lap by lap, keeping a good average speed and getting into a rhythm. I just kept thinking that at some point there’d be a power move coming up from the field. But then I saw the field [in front of him] and I caught up with Gord [Fraser] and Tyler [Farrar].”

Moninger took the win, with Candelario winning the bunch sprint for second, followed by Aaron Olsen (Colavita-Sutter Home) in third. Daniel Schmatz (Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada) and Bajadali rounded out the top five.

After two races, Moninger and Bajadali are tied for the lead with 121 points, followed by Cozza (103), Canderlario (90); Menzies (81) and Olsen (71).

Friday’s 108-mile three-lap road race will take the peloton past the shores of Lake Tahoe and up a gradual 13-mile grade, followed by a steeper five-mile climb that tops out at over 7000 feet. It should prove to be a challenge, especially as the weather is predicted to become increasingly poor.