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Tour of the Gila Final Stage - The Gila Monster
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 5/8/2002
Tour of the Gila Final Stage - The Gila Monster

All the stage and GC results, plus lots of great photos, are available on the Tour of the Gila 2002 website

At the start of the race, for the first time in five days it looked as though the riders would not be beaten to death by the fierce Gila winds. Part of this course was on  narrow, undivided mountain roads, barely wide enough for two cars, and reminiscent of European mountain roads.

Six miles out the first attack of 20 riders separated from the pack as they turned onto Hwy 152 leading up to the first bonus sprint and 1000 feet of climbing over the first of six mountain passes and 9,250 feet of climbing for the day. The break was premature, and was only the first that would test Chris Wherry and the dominance of the Mercury team as the day progressed. 

With Mercury securely in control of the GC (Wherry and Moninger in first and second), but with Wohlberg, Pate, Lieswyn, Horner and Price separated by only three minutes, a change in the G.C. was possible. It was only a question of which of the teams would attack in an attempt to displace the Mercury riders from their dominance of the podium. 

The turnoff to NM highway 15 begins the 7 mile 1600 ft Copperas Vista Climb to 7400 ft, with a turnaround at the Gila Cliff Dwellings visitor center. Pate attacks. Wherry, Moninger, Horner, Ubaldo Mesa ( Tecos), Carl Swenson (RLX), Lieswyn, Andre Bajadali (Excel Sports), Tom Danielson (Sobe/Cannondale) et. al. follow.  The pack disintegrates into chasing groups. By the end of descent to Sapillo Springs the peloton is shattered by the climb and technical descent. 

Attacks/counter attacks came at the base of the Cat. 2 Sapillo Springs Climb 15 miles and 1700 ft. of climbing to the finish split the leaders into two groups. The front group was Mercury's Chris Wherry and Scott Moninger, Danny Pate/ Prime Alliance, Teco's Ubaldo Mesa. The chasing group was 7UP strongman John Lieswyn, Carl Swenson, Bajadali and Tom Danielson. The next chasing group was several minutes down. During the break Moninger sacrificed himself for Wherry and the races was decided by a sprint finish with Wherry the victor, Danny Pate second and Mesa third, Moninger fourth. Swenson, Lieswyn, Bajadali, Danielson finish in this order. 

Chris Wherry said after, "Scott led me out and helped me win this race... this is payback for my helping him win two races in last two weeks." All the more impressive, Chris Wherry finished the race on Derek Bouchard Hall's bike after he dropped his chain at the top of the Cat 1 climb to Gila Visitor's Center. 

Excellent tactics by Chris Horner and Prime Alliance and great riding by Danny Pate moved Pate onto the podium. Another rock solid performance by John Lieswyn brought him home in 4th place. Tecos rider Ubaldo Mesa moved up from his thirteenth place in the Stage One ITT to 5th. Tom Danielson (Sobe/Cannondale) moved up from 30th to 8th in the GC. A starting field of 127 riders was reduced to 74 by race end. Daily Peloton contributor and first year pro Chuck Coyle (7UP/Nutrafig) finished 53rd; an amazing ride, considering that on the Mogollon stage, Chuck gave up his wheel to teammates who flatted three times. In spite of this, Chuck finished the race in the main group. 

Another first year pro I first met on the Daily Peloton chat eight months ago, Russell Stevenson (Prime Alliance), finished in 43rd place, with an excellent ride in support of his team. 

During the Criterium, I over heard one of several Saturn womens riders watching Chris Horner leading out the peloton: " I don't believe he has a broken one could ride that fast with a broken bone in their foot." Well ladies, it's true, makes you wonder what Mr. Horner would have done at 100%, doesn't it? 

Young Guns: The "keep an eye on" list: Sandy Perrins (Logan Race Club), Ian Dille and Eric Murphy (Mercy Cycling team), Tom Danielson (Sobe/Cannondale), Tim Larkin (Ofoto-Lombardi Sport), Mike Ley and Ernie Lechuga (Choco Andean),  Scott Price (Landis Trek/VW), and Mesa Ubaldo ( Tecos Turbo). Each of these riders distinguished themselves riding at Gila with top pros in a tough race. The list is not complete but these riders caught my attention and we will be watching them as the season progresses. 


Jeanson and RONA Dominate
Genevieve Jeanson once again dominated the final road race, winning four of the five stages, winning the GC with her nearest rival Kimberly Bruckner (Saturn) at 11:42. Karen Bockel (RONA) won the Criterium and finished third in the GC. A sweep of all five stages for the RONA ladies. 

Mademoiselle Jeanson attacked at the bottom of the 16 mile climb to Sapillo Springs and quickly gained over five minutes on the climb, adding another solo victory, and her second Tour of the Gila, to her extensive and growing palmares. Kimberly Bruckner won the sprint with Karen Bockel when they raced in 5:47 after Genevieve had finished.

What can one say about Miss Jeanson? It appears, for the moment, that she is without equal. Her time in the opening ITT was 38:26.91, which would have placed her in 34th place in the Mens Pro ITT. Her nearest rival was Kimberly Bruckner at  :58. Jeanson said from the podium, "I will be back next year - the course is tough, the competition with the best riders, the race is well organised and we get great support." 

I believe we have witnessed a unique moment in the cycling history similar to when an aging Fausto Coppi raced against the espoir French phenomena Jacques Anquetil, and when an older Anquetil raced against the young Belgian rider Eddy Merckx. But this time the protagonists are the great French rider Jeanie Longo, the greatest women's rider in history, and the young phenomena of Quebec, Genevieve Jeanson. Although Madame Longo will race in the future, as Coppi did with Anquetil, the heir-apparent Mademoiselle Jeanson has seized the moment. The comparison is irresistable, both bitter and sweet - that unique fraction of time when the new young rider challenges the still strong, but older, champion. Undoubtedly a moment that will be added to the History of the Tour of Gila. 

Anna Millward (Saturn) who went to the hospital for an allergic reaction to hazelnut flavoring in her morning coffee on Saturday, was riding the course solo on Sunday and powering up the Sapillo climb. She said she was feeling fine, though Saturn's women's manager Giana Roberge said "it was scary." So this should assure her fans that she is doing well and we will see her soon at the front of the results. 

Mens Class 2 
The mens 2 road race was fought over the same course as the pro mens road race. The only exception was a 10.8 mile shorter criterium. Carlos Vargas (FCRC/Trek/VW) from Columbia took the leaders jersey on the second day, with Brian Matter (Eclipse Racing) 2nd and Mark Schwab (Excel Sports) third. From the third stage on the Podium seemed in no danger of changing with Vargas, Matter and James Mortenson (Tokyo Joes) joining the leaders after a great ride on the Fort Bayard loop and maintaining their positions until Day Five. 

Mens Class 2 Gila Monster RR 
Mike Lange (, Jon Stierwalt (FCRC/Trek/VW), Brian Matter (Eclipse), Cameron Brenneman (KB Home), and Peter Dahle (Paragon/Telluride) escaped from Carlos Vargas when he flatted on the Sapillo Climb. Vargas finished 1:36 down, losing the leaders jersey to Matter by 6 seconds. Michael Lange moved from fifth to third.  Full Men's Category 2 Results  

Carlos Vargas, riding alone, had made agreements to exchange support with other riders, but when " I flatted they attacked." In spite of losing the leader's jersey finishing second, Vargas has shown he is a young gun to watch in the future. James Mortensen, a pro mtn cross rider, dropped to eleventh position. He should be put on the "Cadel Evans" list as a man to watch in the future in both mtn and road racing. 

Other "Young Guns" to watch in the future who had podium finishes or consistent placings during the Tour of Gila: 

Kevin Livingston (Casati), Mark Schwab (Excel Sports), Devon Vigus (Sharpe Bicycle), Doug Ollerenshaw (Bike Gallery/Trek), Hatcher Rosebrook (Fondriest/RRV), Jon Stierwalt (Fondriest), Martin Micah (Rio Grande/Monsoon), and Rich Davis (Monsoon). 


Race Organizer:  Hike and Bike's Jack Brennan, who conducted a well-run and well-supported race. 
Race Directors: Jack Brennan, Michelle Geels-Bighley and Sgt. Phillip Hickson; and the many volunteers who helped and gave their time to make the race possible. 
New Mexico National guard who acted as control for the race. 
Tour of the Gila webmaster, Rob Narvaez. 
Holiday Inn Express, Silver City. 
Silver Imaging Photo Lab, Silver City, for the great assistance with our photo handling.

The USCF officials who once again tracked the results and made this world class event possible: 
Chief Official: Tom Simonson 
Chief Judge: Bill Wycoff 
Assistant Judges: Cindy Smith, Fred Jimenez, Delfina Jimenez. 
USA Cycling Regional Coordinator: Rogene Killen. 
Road officials: Mike Spahle, Jim Lackner, Bill McLain, Ken Forbes, Oliver Spear, Jason Lockett, Don Russell, Nan Contreras, Laurie Pankay, Debbie Door, and Nancy Ellis. 
Motor Officials: Dave Osborne, Jimmy Schwartz, Ted Fisher, Bill Bennett, Jim Yahn, and Jerry Penny. 
All are thanked for their work and support that made this American Classic possible. 

A passing note: I took over 500 Photos of the race (not including the shots of the inside of my lens cap). We are looking at making a CD available with these photos at a reasonable price. If this is something you are interested in please let me know. It will take a bit of time to select and produce the gallery of these photos on the site. 

Thanks for reading and I'll see you on the road.


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