by Briggs Heaney

Reno, NV - Stage 2 of the Tour de Nez returned to its rightful spot in downtown Reno, as the revered Truckee river course challenged the peloton with ten technical turns on an up and down race course. Overnight race leader Chad Gerlach was marked throughout the race, but the Lifetime Fitness/Velo Vie rider once again bested the field, taking top honors in a bunch sprint in the 60-minute timed twilight event.

Gerlach launched probing attacks throughout the course of the race, but he was heavily marked by the California Giant Berry Farms team riders Steven Reaney and Justin England, as well as the OUCH/Maxxis tandem of Roman Kilun and Bobby Lea.

At the five laps to go mark, 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, California Giant and OUCH led the chase, with Justin England doing the most work to bring the young up-and-comer King back to 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 Steven Reaney and Bobby Lea. Gerlach was humble when asked to describe what winning for the second time in a row felt like. "I'm just really happy to be riding as good as I am. I'm looking forward to continuing to improve, and I'm just soaking this all in right now. It's a great feeling."

In the jersey competitions, Gerlach solidified his overall lead, while Natural Grocer's rider Jonathan Baker took top points on all the sprint laps to wrap up the sprint jersey classification. In the best young rider competition, Andrew Talansky rode valiantly to defend his best young rider lead ahead of a revived Ben King, and Talansky will have his hands full on the final day in defending his best young rider lead on the hilly Village course at Northstar.

In the women's race it was Katherine Nash who was able to resist the firepower of Amber Rais and the Tibco team, as the elite mountain biker was able to take the bunch sprint just ahead of home town hero Rais, scoring one the fat tire off-roaders in the crowd. Early on it was Irish time trial champion Olivia Dillon and Martina Patella who tried their hand at early escapes, but hard work in the chase group by Stacy Marple, Starla Teddergreen and Helene Drumm ensured that the group went to the line in a bunch sprint.

Rais managed second place to maintain her hold on the red leader's jersey, and she'll hope to defend the jersey on the final day tomorrow in the Village circuit race at Northstar-at-Tahoe. A tough, hilly course at 6000 feet elevation awaits the field, where Nash will again be one of the favorites for the win.

In the US hand cycle criterium national championships, it was heavy pre-race favorite Alejandro Albor who rolled away with an easy win, powering across the line with a comfortable 20 second gap to his nearest competitor. Next up for Arbol will be the world hand cycle championships, where he'll hope to earn a rainbow jersey for the United States.

Tomorrow's racing will feature the Village circuit race at the Northstar-at-Tahoe resort, a tough climber's course in and around the new Northstar Village. With a combination of punchy climbs and twisting descents, bike handling skills and nerves of steel will be the order of the day for all athletes on hand, as the three day race and festival concludes.

Photo courtesy of Allan Crawford