by Briggs Heaney
The final stage of the Tour de Nez tore through the Village at Northstar resort this Saturday, June 20th, and the crowd on hand was treated to an action-packed day of racing across all categories. Race leader and double stage winner Chad Gerlach had his hands full in defending his Omnium title against a rabid California Giant Berry Farms squad intent on putting Steve Reaney into the overall lead. In the end though Gerlach got it done, edging Reaney for the overall title in front of an elated crowd.
The final stage was contested on the difficult two mile Village circuit course at the Northstar-at-Tahoe resort that featured cobbled sections and tough climbs, as 62 of the top male riders in America took to the start line to contest the 90-minute timed event. Coming to the line out of an elite three man escape group, it was Jesse Moore who took top honors on the day, pulling away from Bissell's Graham Howard and his teammate Justin England on the approach to the finish line.
Moore was the deserving winner on the day, as he went out on a solo escape just ten minutes into the 90-minute timed event. Behind him, a charging Howard was able to link up to create the twosome, while the main field chased behind. Never able to get closer than 25 seconds, the main chase group were unable to bring the twosome back in time to contest the finish. Meanwhile, with only about five laps to go, another California Giant Berry Farms rider, Justin England jumped away from the field managed to bridge up to the two escapees, giving California Giant two riders in the decisive three man group.
Down the stretch, it was England who turned himself inside out for his teammate, allowing Jesse Moore to finish things off for the northern California amateur powerhouse. Having come close on days one and two with Steven Reaney, Moore's victory gave a hard-earned win to the California Giant Berry Farms team that had been knocking on the door all week.
In the overall Omnium classification, Chad Gerlach had a nervous finale, as Graham Howard came within inches of taking the red leader's jersey away from the Velo Vie/Form Fitness rider, but with a solid top ten placing on the final stage Gerlach solidified his overall win, the first since his much publicized comeback after four years away from the sport.
The women's race was equally exciting, as Tibco's Amber Rais successfully defended her Omnium crown from a game Katerina Nash of the Luna Chicks team. Nash won in Reno on stage two Friday, and the mountain bike-oriented rider managed a solid 3rd place at Northstar behind a flying Amber Rais and Olivia 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 a supposed victory was snatched away from the Tibco rider and passed to her teammate Amber Rais. Gracious in defeat, Starnes admitted her mistake, confident that she would live to fight another day.
In the hand cycle event, Alejandro 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.
To a man, the 2009 Tour de Nez presented by Northstar-at-Tahoe was one of the exciting and best yet. From top-flight athletes to above-the-fold management to elite athletes to an enthusiastic crowd, each day of the three day festival was charged with electricity and expectation. Already looking forward to the 2010 version, event promoter and "Supreme Commander" Tim Healion has already promised an equally great experience next year.