Cruz-ing at the Tour de Nez | SierraSun.com

Cruz-ing at the Tour de Nez

Jamie Bate
Sierra Sun
Sierra Sun file photoCyclists race through the Martis Valley in last year's Tour de Nez.
ALL |

Tony Cruz has raced bicycles all over the world, but the three-day Tour de Nez could be considered something of a homecoming for the veteran cyclist.

Cruz, the initial rider recruited by the first-year Toyota-United Pro Cycling team, called Reno home between 1991 and 1999. As a former member of the Reno Wheelmen cycling club, he knows well the highways and byways between Reno, Tahoe and Truckee. From the club’s mid-week races at Boca Reservoir to criteriums at Squaw Valley, Cruz says he’s glad to be back in the area. He even fit in a training ride Tuesday ” up Mount Rose.

“That was one of my favorite rides,” the former teammate of Lance Armstrong says, “up to the lake to Truckee and back.”

That from a guy who has left his heart and soul on cobblestones and climbs from storied races around the world ” the Giro d’Italia, Vuelta Espana, Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders, to name a few ” for some of the most notable riders ” Lance, Hincapie, Hamilton, Salvodelli, Heras ” of the day. For five years Cruz was as a member of the feared U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams, on which he won the overall 2004 Tour de Nez.

“It was a great experience to be with Postal; Johan [Bruyneel, directeur sportif] and Dirk [Demol, team director] and all the guys,” Cruz says. “You’re sitting on the team bus and looking around and say, ‘Holy . . . this is the real deal.'”

But it doesn’t matter if it is Milan and the Mediterranean or Brockway Summit and Tahoe, Cruz’s aim is help whatever team he is a member of win.

“The way I look at it, it’s really like a war,” he says. “It’s survival of the fittest. All the other teams are looking to take you down. You have to stay together as a group.”

As far as Toyota-United goes, they’re a formidable group, one that will help Cruz ” or one of his teammates with fresher legs ” take on the peloton, particularly during Friday’s Tahoe road race. Frankie Andreu, the team’s director and nine-time Tour de France combatant, will decide which of his team is going to be the man for the Tour de Nez.

“We’ll sit down with Frankie and discuss who’s feeling good and who’s feeling so-so,” Cruz says. “Things can change in a hilly road race.”

A likely catalyst in Toyota-United’s game plan will be Scott Moninger of the Health Net team. Moninger lapped the field in last year’s Truckee criterium and won the road race by a large margin. He’s also coming off a victory at last weekend’s Nevada City Classic, a race in which Cruz, sans a team, took third.

“Moninger is the guy I’m looking at here,” Cruz says. “He’s such a smart rider, he has a lot of experience. The higher up we get Scott has the advantage.”

Whatever the outcome, Cruz says he’s looking forward to the Tour de Nez, particularly the new events held in Truckee-Tahoe. Between his wife’s family in Reno and old friends, he should have a healthy cheering section.

“I think it’s really cool,” Cruz says. “I’m really looking forward to racing up around the lake.”