Canadian Cyclist


August 13/00 7:56 am - Shep Takes Final Stage of Mercury Tour

Posted by Editor on 08/13/00

Mercury Tour - Colorado
(courtesy Patrice Quintero - USA Cycling)

STEAMBOAT, Colo. (Aug. 13, 2000) -- Off-road action at the 2000 Mercury Tour presented by Outdoor Life Network concluded Sunday, with Russian Pavel Tcherkassov (Gary Fisher-Saab) capturing his first overall Mercury Tour title. RLX Polo Sport rider Jimena Florit from Argentina clinched her second-consecutive Mercury Tour title.

Neither Tcherkassov or Florit won Sunday's final stage, the Gondola Criterium. Canadian Chris Sheppard (Haro-Lee Dungarees) and Russian Alla Epifanova (Volvo-Cannondale) won the short-track race. Both riders also won the opening prologue of this year's Mercury Tour.

Only .08 miles long, the Gondola Criterium was a short, fast race at the base of Steamboat's Mt. Werner. Riders averaged 4-1/2 minute lap times, with the women racing for 30 minutes and the men for almost 45. For the fourth day, heat proved to be a factor, with temperatures reaching the 90s.

Both Sheppard and Epifanova kept control of their respective races from the start. Sheppard had said earlier in the week that he was planning for a strong showing in Sunday's stage. The Canadian has performed well this year in the shorter races, earning podium finishes in the U.S. national short-track cross-country series.

Behind Sheppard, the race shook out for second and third. It came down to Carl Swenson (Boulder, Colo. -- RLX Polo Sport) and up-and-comer Adam Craig (Colorado Springs, Colo. -- Devo) in the last lap. Craig, a U.S. Olympic resident-athlete, took the second spot with about 15 minutes to the finish, but Swenson eventually overtook him.

"Carl (Swenson) caught me on the last lap," said Craig, who turns 19 years old Aug. 15. "I was feeling really good. It's nice to know I'm getting better and moving up to this level. This is my first year as a pro, so it gives me a lot of confidence."

Tcherkassov went in to the final stage with a seven-minute lead, allowing him to ride with less pressure than those behind him Sunday. The Russian had no worries about his overall title after the first stage.

"I was worried when I got a flat in the first stage. It was a crucial moment. Other than that, I felt comfortable. It's always nice to bring some bacon home," Tcherkassov joked. "It was a long way to go and after finishing second overall twice, it feels good to win."

Epifanova never faltered at the front of the women's race. The field behind her spread out with no real threat to the Russian. U.S. Olympic resident-athlete Rachel Lloyd (San Anselmo, Calif.) rode in the chase group for much of the race before her chain became stuck in her bike frame just before the finish.

Moots rider Rene Marshman (Lafayette, Colo.) had one of her best performances of the year, placing third.

"It's nice to finally get a podium this year," said Marshman, who will retire from the sport at the end of 2000. "The climb here suits me, and I'm very comfortable on the course. I was wondering how I would get motivated to train this next month, so I think this will get me going."

Florit only needed to ride a safe race to keep her overall lead. The Argentine Olympic team member placed second.

"It feels really good," Florit said. "I just wanted to keep the bike safe and not have any flats. Now I will get ready for Mammoth (Calif. -- U.S. national series finals, Sept. 8-10)."

In the overall standings, Susan Haywood (Davis, W.Va. -- Trek/WV Tourism) and Swenson were the top Americans at third and second, respectively. Boulder, Colo., resident Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Nantucket Nectars-Specialized) finished third overall and was the Best Young Rider.

Tcherkassov took home $15,700 in prize money, with Florit snagging $10,125.

Gondola Criterium

1. CHRIS SHEPPARD Canada (Haro-Lee Dungarees) 39:02
2. Carl Swenson Boulder Colo. (RLX Polo Sport) at 0:25
3.Adam Craig Colorado Springs Colo. (Devo) 0:39
4. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski Boulder Colo. (Nantucket Nectars-Specialized) 0:57
5. Kashi Leuchs New Zealand (Volvo-Cannondale) 1:06

1. ALLA EPIFANOVA Russia (Volvo-Cannondale) 30:01
2. Jimena Florit Argentina (RLX Polo Sport) at 0:30
3. Rene Marshman Lafayette Colo. (Moots) 0:39
4. Rhonda Quick San Diego (Jamba Juice) 0:53
5. Susan Haywood Davis W.Va (Trek/WV Tourism) 1:04

Final GC

1. TCHERKASSOV at 6:26:48
2. Carl Swenson at 5:30
3. Horgan-Kobelski 6:34
4. Peter Swenson 7:40
5. Eric Jones Salt Lake City 10:22

1. FLORIT 6:24:54
2. Epifanova at 6:31
3. Haywood 9:43
4. Vanlandingham 12:31
5. Audrey Augustin Williston Vt. (Team Koulius Zaard) 15:17


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