Tour de Nez comes to Northstar Saturday |

Tour de Nez comes to Northstar Saturday

Sun File PhotoThe pack climbs one of the hills in the Northstar stage of the Tour de Nez last year.

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Walking around an otherwise peaceful Village at Northstar Saturday, visitors may hear an unusual sound and#8212; cowbell.

The cacophony grows as the crowd cheers, and is soon joined by the buzzing of gears, the staccato bouncing of skinny tires over cobble stones and directions shouted among teammates across the pack of professional cyclists. That’s right, it’s time once again for the Tour de Nez, albeit on a smaller scale in 2010.

and#8220;It’s going to be a beautiful day in the village, the expo will be off the charts and the racing is going to be more dynamic this year,and#8221; said Race Director Tim Healion. and#8220;For people who are into watching bike racing, this is as cool as it gets.and#8221;

The 18th annual race starts out in Sparks on Thursday with a time trial against the clock and a flat and fast leg Friday in downtown Reno, Healion said racers will face an entirely different set of challenges on the hilly Northstar course on Saturday, including the altitude.

That means whoever shows up Saturday morning in the red leader’s jersey is by no means guaranteed to keep it at the end , he said.

This year more complete teams are showing up, like Kelly Benefit, California Giant Strawberry and Cliff Bar on the men’s side, and Luna Chix, Velo Bella and Tibco on the women’s roster and#8212; meaning more complex strategies than years past.

and#8220;I think racing will be far more aggressive, teams with leaders will have expendable guys they can throw off the front and attack all day,and#8221; Healion said.

On the pro men’s side, Healion said he’s got his money on Andrew Bajadali of Kelly Benefits, who’s placed second and third in the past at the Nez; Burke Swindlehurst, fresh off a win at the Iron Horse Classic; and Paul Mach of Bissell, who spent time in the Tour of California’s climber’s jersey, to be top contenders.

On the women’s side, however, Healion offered just one name: Truckee’s Katarina Nash, a Luna Chix rider who placed second last year.

and#8220;The gal’s got the altitude and is just coming off a win at the Cyclocross World Cup. She’s super strong,and#8221; Healion said.

All racers will trace a two-mile circuit over many laps (a circuit runs by time, not number of laps), up through Northstar’s parking areas, down a sweeping Big Springs Road, and right through the heart of the village over cobbles.

and#8220;With Lance (Armstrong) back from retirement, the popularity of the Tour of California, last year’s Nevada City Classic with Lance and this year’s 50th anniversary, there is a lot of hype and a lot of excitement about bicycling right now,and#8221; Healion said.

In past years, the Tour has been much more featured in Truckee, highlighted by a leg through downtown. However, economic issues led to a smaller Truckee-area contingent this year.

and#8220;I get a lot of sponsorships from Northstar and Reno, but not Truckee, and we can’t let Reno and Northstar pay for the race in Truckee,and#8221; Healion said in an April 8 story at and#8220;It’s too bad because it’s everybody’s favorite day.and#8221;

The Tour de Nez isn’t just about the pros, and other races include kids racing, clunkers (old, heavy bicycles not normally raced), handcyclists (a field that’s almost doubled since last year) and the masters age group, Healion said.

The expo area will also grow with more bike vendors and other businesses offering up eye candy, music, food and festivities, he said.

Parking and transportation to the village for spectators and participants alike should go smoothly with Northstar’s crew running shuttles, Healion said, but the true bicycle devotees can make the ride from Truckee in 25 minutes.

Traffic disruptions should be minimal, with 300 feet of Big Springs Road closed.

Fur full information on the 2010 Tour de Nez, visit

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