Hundreds turn out for inaugural Truckee Dirt Fondo, local Katerina Nash claims women’s top spot | SierraSun.com

Hundreds turn out for inaugural Truckee Dirt Fondo, local Katerina Nash claims women’s top spot

Several hundred cyclists pedaled out from the Truckee Tahoe Airport last Saturday morning amid airplane flyovers, skydivers opening parachutes high above, and helicopters landing.

The unique venue served as the backdrop for the inaugural Truckee Dirt Fondo, bringing seasoned pros like Levi Leipheimer to the airport to ride alongside amateurs and families of cyclists, while raising funds for Adventure Risk Challenge, a nonprofit that servies local at-risk youth.

Roughly 600 athletes registered for the fondo, which was previously known as the Sagan Fondo Truckee Dirt Edition but was renamed this year due to the absence of pro cyclist Peter Sagan. The event featured a mass start and was divided into three distances ranging in lengths from 26 miles up to 65 miles.

Local pro cyclist and five-time Olympian Katerina Nash led the field of women across the 65-mile course that took riders from the airport, past Prosser Creek Reservoir, Boca Reservoir, and Stampede Reservoir, and around Sardine Peak before heading back to the finish line at the airport.

“That’s what’s so fun about gravel racing, it’s never the same. Even as a local, I did not really know where we were going to go,” said Nash. “There’s so much terrain back there … it’s just gorgeous back there, especially this time of year with the snowy peaks and green meadows with flowers. It was quite cool.”

Nash took the win on the women’s side, finishing the course with a time of 3 hours, 43 minutes, 54 seconds. She was second at last year’s Sagan Fondo after dealing with mechanical issues.

“It’s exciting,” said Nash on taking the win last Saturday. “It’s nice to come back and have a good day.”

Local athlete Clare Walton finished in second place with a time of 3:57:43. San Francisco’s Amity Rockwell, who was coming off winning the Dirty Kanza 200 the week before, was third with a time of 4:04:08. Truckee’s Sian Crespo was fourth overall with a time of 4:12:23 to take first in the women’s 30-39 age group. Fellow local, Samantha Shields, was fifth overall with a time of 4:24:14.

On the men’s side Jonathan Baker, of Nevada City, captured first place, outdueling a deep field of riders to cross the finish line with a time of 3:30:06.

“I do a lot of these gravel (races). This is one that was right in my back yard, so it was perfect,” said Baker on racing at the event.

“Gravel is so inclusive. You get to a mass start with everybody, you’re out there out in some beautiful country, you don’t have to worry about cars, and then you come and have these great after parties.”

Baker said he left the pack early on in the race in an effort to hold off some of the elite cyclists in the field.

“I was hoping to get a good gap before the big climbs, because I knew Levi was out here racing,” said Baker. “He wound up catching me halfway up the first climb.”

Leipheimer, a two-time national champion road cyclist, fell back after catching Baker, reportedly opting to finish the remainder of the race by riding with the field rather than go for the win. Leipheimer finished with a time of 3:57:44 for eighth in the men’s 40-49 age group.

Truckee’s Jeremy Benson finished the race in second overall with a time of 3:35.57. Brennan Wertz, of Mill Valley, was third, finishing with a time of 3:38:38. Brian Schaning was fourth overall with a time of 3:40:01, and picked up the win in the men’s 30-39 age group. Truckee’s Dillon Osleger was fifth with a time of 3:40:48.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.