By Bryan Jew, VeloNews Senior Writer
The 2001 Tim Schoeny’s Tour of the Gila ended on Sunday with the Gila Monster road races, an epic 100-mile test for the men and 66 miles for the women. The final stage gave the overall race winners one last chance to show who was strongest, as Scott Moninger (Mercury-Viatel) and Genevieve Jeanson (Rona) each added to their win totals en route to the overall, with Moninger taking his third and Jeanson her fourth stage win.
Jeanson dominated the final day in the same way that she did every other road race stage, ending the day with a 5:56 advantage over Saturn’s Kimberly Bruckner and 17 minutes over third place Lyne Bessette (Saturn).
On stage 5, essentially the reverse of stage 3’s course for the women, Jeanson took off nearly from the start, opening up a gap of more than a minute as she rolled past the huge copper mine on the side of Hwy. 152, over the first climb of the day.
The women’s race would turn into a two-rider pursuit, as Bruckner went off solo to chase after the Canadian. The Saturn rider put in a strong effort, but Jeanson continued to extend the lead, constantly pushing herself to the limit in what was essentially a 66-mile training ride.
On the last climb, the tough, single-lane ascent into the Gila National Forest and up toward the finish in Pinos Altos, Jeanson continued to go hard, rocking out of the saddle on the Category II climb.
By the end, she had extended her margin in the overall classification to almost 15 minutes over Bruckner, and nearly 25 minutes on Bessette.
While the women’s race was already a runaway for Jeanson, there was still a little bit of tension left for the men’s contest. With 100 brutal miles and 9200 feet of climbing, the Gila Monster would provide plenty of opportunities for anyone wanting to test Moninger, or to improve their standing in the general classification standings.
After the first time bonus sprint, Jelly Belly made the first effort to shake up the G.C. putting Jason McCartney (13th overall) and criterium winner Mariano Friedick into the early break along with Bianchi-Turkey Store’s Duane Dickey and Dale Sedgwick. McCartney entered the day 5:56 behind Moninger, meaning that Mercury wouldn’t let the foursome get too far up the road. The seafoam-and-blue jerseys manned the front as the race rolled over the Continental Divide and through the valley toward the grueling second half of the race, which featured three back-breaking climbs.
The gap would grow to more than four minutes, but as soon as the pack hit the Category 2 climb up to Clinton Anderson Vista, on the way to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, the gap began to come down. Meanwhile, the main field began to shed people off the back, whittling the once 120-strong group down to about 65.
After the summit, the race takes a breathtaking drop down toward the Gila River, with dramatic views of the canyon below. But while the riders might have time to enjoy the high-speed descent, it came with the knowledge that they would turn around at the Gila visitors center, and then come up the back side to return to Clinton Anderson Vista.
On that ride down by the river, Sedgwick and Friedick came off the break, and Dickey and McCartney would soon follow. By the time the race hit the Category 1 return climb, an elite group of about 30 separated themselves from the pack, with almost all of the top G.C. riders present, including Moninger, second-placed Eric Wohlberg (Saturn), Scott Price (Landis-Trek-VW), Doug Ziewacz (7UP-Colorado Cyclist), Michael Creed (Prime Alliance) and Jesus Zarate (Tecos).
That group of 30 would soon splinter into several small groups on the climb, which gains a little less than 2000 feet in about five miles. Moninger was always in charge at the front, along with Creed and several Tecos, but contenders like Wohlberg, Price and Ziewacz struggled up the Category 1 climb.
They were able to rejoin on the descent, but once the race hit the final climb through the forest and back toward Pinos Altos, it came down to Moninger, Creed, Zarate and Lam.
Moninger would go on to take the win, sprinting up the last little climb through the town of Pinos Altos ahead of Zarate and Lam, but Creed was a big winner on the day as well. With Ziewacz finishing two minutes behind the leaders, and Price and Wohlberg three minutes back, the young Prime Alliance rider was able to leapfrog his way into second overall behind Moninger.
“I’d have maybe liked to try to win a stage,” said Creed, “but it was like, I could risk winning it, and then lose it all, or just drill it to the finish and get second overall.”
Meanwhile, race winner Moninger felt ride at home throughout the grueling five-day event contested between 5500 and 7400 feet. “Racing at this elevation, I feel right at home. It’s pretty similar to Boulder and where I train …. I feel like I can really breathe well up at 7000 feet.”
For complete results, visit the Tour of the Gila website.