By The Editors of VeloNews
It’s hard to argue with dominance, and when it came to women’s road racingin North America this year, a palpable air of fear could be felt each timea diminutive 22-year-old from Lachine, Québec, rolled to the startline.
In only her fourth year of professional racing, RONA-Esker’s GenevièveJeanson has proven to be one of the world’s preeminent climbers — justask the men’s field from the 2003 Mount Washington Hill Climb, all buttwo of whom she beat.
Jeanson started her campaign early, winning all three stages of February’sValley of the Sun stage race, followed by another win at the Pomona Valleystage race in March. At the Redlands and Sea Otter stage races Jeansonwas again in a league of her own: Not even the combined strength of theT-Mobile and Saturn squads could match her as she simply climbed away fromthe peloton. Case in point: Heading into the final stage at Redlands, Jeansonled by six minutes, and by the end of the hilly Sunset Road Race, her leadhad doubled to nearly 13 minutes.
Jeanson’s climbing prowess brought her a second victory in three yearsat the Montréal Women’s World Cup race in May; in grand fashionshe rode eventual World Cup series winner Nicole Cooke off her wheel onthe course’s final ascent to finish alone with an 11-second cushion. Theresult drew cheers from the hometown crowd, but questions from the cyclingcommunity: Why wasn’t Jeanson racing a full World Cup schedule — or grandtours — in Europe?
“I’m with RONA [a North American sponsor] until 2004,” Jeanson replied.“After the Olympics, we’ll see.”
And while the peloton knew the 5-foot-5, 105-pound rider could climband time trial, Jeanson brought a new skill to the finish line in 2003— a sprint. Jeanson outkicked perennial rival Lyne Bessette at the SeaOtter’s opening stage in Redwood City and again when it really counted,at the Canadian nationals road race in Hamilton.
That result indicated that Jeanson would be a favorite at the worldchampionship road race — held over the same course in October — as didher fifth-place in the world championship time trial. But on October 11,the morning of the road race, UCI officials informed Jeanson that her bloodsamples had tested above the women’s 47-percent hematocrit limit, barringher contesting a world championship in her home country, and thus castinga shadow of doubt over her phenomenal season.
All the while Jeanson declared her innocence, claiming the use of ahypoxic oxygen tent was to blame. Two weeks later, laboratory analysisshowed no evidence of EPO or any other performance-enhancing drugs.
However, a cloud continued to hang over Jeanson’s head in November asattention shifted to the case of a Montréal doctor charged with,among other things, failing to properly record his administration of EPO“to a world-class female cyclist from Québec.”
Jeanson, who later revealed that she was the cyclist mentioned, continuedto maintain her innocence. (see “Jeansondenies EPO use“).
LYNE BESSETTE, MARLA STREB
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