Tour de Nez: the big bicycle bash | SierraSun.com

Tour de Nez: the big bicycle bash

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE and#8212; Get your cow bells ready, as the summer’s biggest bicycle bash and#8212;the 17th annual Tour de Nez and#8212; cruises into Truckee Thursday and Northstar Saturday.

The multi-day bike race pits top cyclists against one-another on courses through downtown Truckee, Reno and Northstar, and also includes other festivities and fun for spectators.

This year will also feature the Hand Cycling Criterium Championship, a form of cycling available for those with disabilities peddled with the arms rather than the legs.

The Sierra Sun caught up with Tim Healion, founder and director of the Tour de Nez, to find out what’s in store for this year’s Tour de Nez.

Sierra Sun: Hey Tim, so what’s the story with this year’s Tour de Nez? What’s new and what’s different?

Tim Healion: We’re tightening up the events this year to bring a closer focus on the spectator events and what makes them good. For example, we’ve revamped our presence in the Village at Northstar to create a more festive atmosphere. The race that goes through the village is the focus of our events up there. The start and finish is right in the village, the kids races, the clunkers are all down in the village. The Green Park expo is in the rink in the village. It’s just going to be great up there and highlight what’s cool; the village. And then we are moving all the Reno events back to downtown Reno and everyone is psyched about that.

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Sierra Sun: It looks like for every men’s race there is a women’s race this year, along with some junior’s and master’s events, what can we expect from that?

Tim Healion: Yes, we’ve ramped up the racing this year to include multi-day events for the women and the masters in addition to the pro’s. Last year’s first-ever women’s race for the Tour de Nez was a blast and really well received by the women’s fields. The masters have been asking for the multi-day format for years so they get it this year. Should be really cool and all culminating up at Northstar on the final day.

Sierra Sun: You’ve also got the hand cycling championship this year, and have had hand cycling races in the past. Why is hand cycling important to the Tour de Nez?

Tim Healion: We’ve done the handcycle discipline in the past and it’s been really cool. We had a conflict last year with their National Championships so didn’t have that part of the event but this year we decided to do it any way and got awarded the National Criterium Championships for the US Handcycling Federation. It’s a big deal. We are running the Handcycles as a three day omnium but with in that, the Reno race is the National Championship race. It’s important to integrate adaptive sports into mainstream sports to dispel the thought that they are different. It’s athletics all the same.

Sierra Sun: So tell us what the clunker and messenger races are and#8212; can we make the messengers deliver the Sierra Sun?

Tim Healion: The Clunkers are the goofy bikes of all shapes, sizes and weights. They are fun and will be doing a lap at all three of the venues. It’s free and very popular with the locals. The messengers can take anything anywhere and want to. Due to time constraints on the various courses, we can only have that race as a one-day in Reno. It is crazy as those guys are all over the place.

Sierra Sun: Who are the big teams and big names coming to the Tour de Nez this year, and who should we be betting on? Anybody you’re excited to see?

Tim Healion: I’m excited to see the return of past champions of the Tour de Nez. Last year’s overall winner Aaron Olson is coming back with his new colors; Oakley/Sidi. Roman Killun of Ouch who won last year’s Truckee and Northstar Village Stages is coming back with teammates possibly including Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Floyd Landis.

Justin England, who is a previous Tour De Nez stage winner, is coming back with the California Giant Strawberry/Specialized team, I like him.

The masters field will be strong with Local rider Gregg Betonte claiming he’ll win the whole thing. He’ll have to beat retired pro and former Tour De Nez pro stage winner Mike Sayers.

The women’s fields will be really exciting with teams from Proman, Vanderkitten, Vello Bella, Tibco, Sugar CRM and Metromint sending strong squads. Former Reno resident Amber Rais will be leading the Tibco team.

As far as the handcyclists go. Many-time national and world champion Alajandro Albor is my favorite to win the whole thing.

Sierra Sun: How do the three days of racing work together, and how does somebody win overall?

The races are scored on points and the rider with the most points at the end of the three races wins.

Sierra Sun: How will the stages in Truckee and Northstar compare for spectators and racers?

Tim Healion: The Truckee race is off the hook for spectators. The whole town shows up in addition to folks coming up from The Bay Area, Central California and Reno. It gets crowded. Northstar with all the changes putting the focus in the village will be really great for spectators and there should be a ton of people up there. The Northstar is a must see as it is the final day and the over all winner gets crowned after that race. That stage is really cool as it goes right through the village and then climbs up above. It is grueling and is right at a 2 mile loop.

Sierra Sun: What do people who don’t shave their legs and wear spandex need to know to come watch the races? What other activities are available?

Tim Healion: Tons of fun at all venues; we’ll be doing the Tour De Nez party at all stops, kids races, music, movies, food, a green park expo, New Belgium beer, nice days outside. Great times on the river in Reno and up on the Mountain at Northstar. Fun stuff all around.

Wednesday, June 17 and#8212; Reno

and#8226; Park and ride to the Reno Aces afternoon baseball game.

and#8226; Ride back to Amendment 21 for and#8220;Meet and greetand#8221; pro racers

and#8226; Reno Film Festival bicycle film: and#8220;Pee Wee’s Great Adventureand#8221; at the Amendment 21

Thursday, June 18 and#8212; Truckee

and#8226; Downtown Truckee Criterium for pro men, pro women, masters and handcycles

and#8226; Downtown Truckee races for clunkers, messengers and kids

and#8226; Music and feast after races in downtown Truckee

Friday, June 19 and#8212; Reno

and#8226; Group ride with athletes in the morning with coffee stop

and#8226; Downtown Reno Circuit Race at riverside Wingfield Park, pro men, pro women and masters

and#8226; Handcycle National Criterium Championships

and#8226; Races for clunkers, messengers, and kids at Wingfield Park on the river in Reno

and#8226; Reno Film Festival bicycle film: and#8220;Breaking Awayand#8221; at Wingfield Park Amphitheater

Saturday, June 20 and#8212; Northstar-at-Tahoe

and#8226; Village circuit race at the Village at Northstar-at-Tahoe for pro men, women, handcycles, masters, and juniors

and#8226; Village races for clunkers, kids and messengers

and#8226; Green Park Expo, music, demos, food, festival and party, all in the Village-at-Northstar

Sunday, June 21

and#8226; LUX Ride with the Pros in the morning

and#8226; The great Tour de Nez Century ride along the shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe

* Note: The Nevada City Classic bicycle races are also on Sunday, June 21

The 2009 Tour de Nez returns for a 17th year this June 18th through the 20th, with a three race Omnium competition in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area. And with more than $35,000 up for grabs in the three race series, some of Americaand#8217;s top professional men and women cyclists will take to the Tour de Nez start line to contest the Northern California tradition. Below are several riders to watch over the course of the three day event.

MEN

Aaron Olson, 31, Independent

Olson was the overall winner of last yearand#8217;s event, and as such the gentle giant from Bend, Ore., will once again travel to the Tour de Nez in hopes of garnering some big results for his personal sponsors, Oakley and Sidi. Olson is a strong all-arounder with a huge engine, and heand#8217;ll have a little bit extra motivation as he has the privelege of wearing the #1 bib in the race as defending champion. Expect to see him at the front of each dayand#8217;s racing pushing the pace, looking to eliminate the faster finishers with his consistent, diesel-like power. His best chance for a win meanwhile will come on the final day on the Village course at Northstar.

Dan Ramsey, 30, Mountain Khakis

Dan Ramsey has had a solid 2009 thus far, and has established himself as a top threat on the California racing scene throughout the year. Built in the mold of a larger rider like Olson, Ramsey is a tactically sound rider capable of riding away from the field under his own power. A few months ago in the Napa River Velo Grand Prix as a matter of fact, thatand#8217;s exactly what the Ventura, California native did, escaping early and finishing solo for an impressive win in the twisting, technical criterium. Heand#8217;ll be right at home on all three race courses at the Tour de Nez, and should be a top candidate for the overall win. Look for him to try his hand with a solo escape on the Truckee course on day two as he tries to distance his adversaries with his trademark aggression and superior bike handling skills.

Justin England, 30, California Giant Berry Farms

England is a former stage winner at the Tour de Nez, and is an all-arounder capable of competing on all three race courses of this yearand#8217;s Omnium. More a climber than a sprinter, England will likely play the role of team helper for the first two stages before going for his own glory on the final day at Northstar. With some luck over the course of the first two days of racing, England could find himself in the mix for the overall title, especially with a convincing win on the final day. A native of Boulder, Colorado, Englad likes the elevation, and racing at altitude will be an advantage for him over some of the other riders in the field. Heand#8217;ll also be tuning up for the Nevada City Classic on Sunday, June 21, so a top performance at the Tour de Nez is likely.

Paul Mach, 27, Bissell Pro Cycling Team

Paul Mach, a climber out of Davis, California, should find that the Tour de Nez suits his riding style, as he looks to add to his growing tally of 2009 wins. Coming off a recent impressive overall victory at the very hilly Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, Mach will hope to keep the momentum going in his native California. Heand#8217;ll be backed by several strong teammates, and will be one of the major protagonists for the Village race at Northstar. A team player, heand#8217;ll no doubt play off his teammate Burke Swindlehurst throughout the three races, making it hard on the opposition to control him and the rest of the Bissell squad.

Burke Swindlehurst, 36, Bissell Pro Cycling Team

One of the true veterans on the American cycling scene, and#8220;T-Birdand#8221; Burke Swindlehurst will bring his top-flight climbing skills once again to the Tour de Nez, and is one of the biggest favorites to take top honors on the final day at Northstar. Like his teammate Paul Mach, Swindlehurst excels when the road tilts up, and he thrives at elevation. Expect him to be one of the biggest influencers on each day of racing, as he either looks to set up his teammates or himself for the win. And when not racing, expect that youand#8217;ll see him plying his other skilled trade, that of a fly fisherman, out on the Truckee river.

Roman Kilun, OUCH presented by Maxxis

Another top performer from 2008, Kilun returns in 20009 to defend his sprint jersey that he won in 2008. A winner of two of the five stages of last yearand#8217;s edition, Kilun will be a marked man on each stage as he tries to replicate his 2008 success at the Tour de Nez. An Oakland, Calif., resident, he loves the Tour de Nez, and his exhuberant riding style and glued-on smile will be seen at the front of the peloton for each stage of this yearand#8217;s race. A strong all-around rider with a sneaky-fast finishing sprint, he is among the top three favorites for the overall crown after three days of racing have been completed. Heand#8217;ll be in with a chance for victory on every stage, with the downtown Reno course his best chance at success.

WOMEN

Amber Rais, Team TIBCO

Rais, a local hero hailing from Reno, Nev., is in her fourth year as a professional cyc;ist. She possesses a strong combination of climbing and sprinting skills, and is ideally suited to the race courses of the Tour de Nez. Along with her other TIBCO teammates, Rais should be right at the front of the race on all three days, with a chance to take the overall Omnium with a bit of luck. She has racked up more than 15 victories as a pro, and sheand#8217;ll hope to win her first stage of the Tour de Nez this year.

Alison Starnes, Team TIBCO

Another talented all-arounder, Starnes burst onto the pro cycling scene in 2008 and hasnand#8217;t looked back since. A consummate teammate and amazing time trialist, Stares loves to go off the front of a bike race in hopes of winning solo. Sheand#8217;ll be the perfect foil to some of her teammates, and will have a realistic chance to win any of the three legs of this yearand#8217;s Tour de Nez. Known as a fiesty personality always in search of a good time, donand#8217;t be surprised to see Starnes with a ten gallon smile as she rides around the race course, even taking the time to fire up the crowd at key moments during the race.

Alison Rosenthal, Team TIBCO

Another relative newcomer to the professional cycling scene, Rosenthal has nevertheless made the most of her time in the sport. After a solid 2008 campaign, she placed 11th at this past yearand#8217;s Amgen Tour of California criterium, forecasting her talent as an elite criterium rider. Like her teammates she is always willing to work for whoever is strongest, yet will go for her chance if the circumstances are right. Sheand#8217;ll be at the front end at the end of each day of racing, and like her teammates will have a good chance at victory over the three day event. Her best chance for success is likely on the Reno course on Thursday.

Betina Hold, PROMAN Hit Squad

Betina Hold raced hard at the Tour de Nez in 2008, and sheand#8217;ll line up again for the race this year. As part of the Hit Squad, Hold and her teammates will offer the most significant resistance to Team TIBCO. A good all-arounder with solid endurance, Hold will mix it up over all three days as she searches for at least one stage win.

Helen Drumm, PROMAN Hit Squad

Helen Drum is an accomplished criterium racer with a potent finishing sprint. Sheand#8217;ll be a top favorite for the Reno and Truckee courses, and is a dark horse for the overall Omnium win. After picking up a solid win at the Carrera de San Rafael in 2008, Drumm will show her veteran know-how throughout, riding in support of her teammates when needed.

Liza Rachetto, SugarCRM Cycling Team

Rachetto has a hard-nosed approach to the sport of cycling born from several years on the European circuit in Italy. A staunch support rider with three wins to her credit thus far in 2009, Rachetto can win in a variety of situations and terrain. The Reno course seems best suited to her style, as does the Truckee criterium.