Steamboat Springs Two Ace bandages and 33-miles of dust couldn't hide the trails of blood that ran down Australian racer Mary Grigson's right arm as she crossed the finish line of the Mercury Tour Thursday.
Grigson posted the fastest women's time of the day at 2 hours, 38 minutes and 21 seconds to earn the yellow leader's jersey.
But her efforts in the stage were hampered by injuries suffered in a fall on Wednesday. Her participation in the future stages of the race will be determined day-to-day because of the fall, which took place prior to the start of the Prologue race Wednesday, she said.
"I was very surprised to win," Grigson said. "Tomorrow, I may not get out of bed."
Grigson crashed at the top of the Moonlight trail Wednesday while training for the Mercury Tour. She was able to race that evening and finished 18th in the Prologue event. The accident, however, left her with deep cuts and bruises along her right arm. She also bruised the top of her left thigh.
"I knew it was pretty bad then (at the time of the fall). I couldn't hold on to my handlebars for a while and it hurt a lot," Grigson said.
The injuries were plain to see at the finish line Thursday. Holding her wrist on a bag of ice, she was in noticeable pain during post-race interviews.
"It hurts pretty bad, but not bad enough for me to go home," she said.
She did have thoughts about pulling out of the Continental Divide Cross-County race right up until start time, but opted to give it a try after getting medical attention prior to the race start.
The race course began at Buffalo Pass and went to Summit Lake along the Continental Divide to Grizzly Lake. The course then continued along the divide until it met the Fish Creek Falls trail and dropped the riders back into the Steamboat Ski Area. From there, the riders raced down Pete's Wicked Trail, Sunshine, Valley View, Yoo Hoo and Headwall.
Grigson said she felt good enough to make her first move of the race once the leaders reached the first section of single track.
"I noticed the riders were getting tired, so I just picked it up a little bit," Grigson said.
She passed last year's winner, Jimena Florit, about a third of the way into the race and never relinquished the lead again. Florit would eventually fall behind Alla Epifanova who made a run, but never really threatened Grigson.
"If Alla (Epifanova) had pushed me, I don't think I could have gone any faster," Grigson said.
"I want to keep the podium in the overall," Epifanova said. "But I don't think I had my best race today."
Epifanova was second with a time of 2:38:47 and Florit finished the race in third with a time of 2:40:07. Florit, who was last year's overall women's winner, was happy to be on the podium and felt she was in a good spot at this point of the four-part stage race.
"I just wanted to stay up with the leaders," Florit said. " We still have a long way to go in this race and I didn't want to expend too much effort in the first stage."
The top 25 finishers in Thursday's Continential Divide Cross-Country race, the first official stage of the Mercury Tour: Pro Women 1, Mary Grigson, Australia, 2:38.21; 2, Alla Epifanova, Wauakasha, Wis., 2:38.47; 3 (00.26), Jimena Florit, San Diego, Calif., 2:40.07 (01.46); 4, Shonny Vanlandingham, Pagosa Springs, 2:42.14 (03.53); 5, Rachl Lloyd, Colorado Springs, 2:43.41 (05.20); 6, Susan Haywood, USA, 2:44.51 (06.30); 7, Rene Marshman, Lafayette, 2:44.57 (06.36); 8, Lanie Mason, Flagstaff, Ariz., 2:45.00 (06.39); 9, Audry Augustin, Williston, Vt., 2:46.31 (08.10); 10, Gretchen Reeves, Boulder, 2:51.18 (12.57); 11, Willow Koerber, Ashville, N.C., 2:51.41 (13.20); 12, Suzy Pryde, New Zealand, 2:51.18 (14.02); 13, Nancy Busching, Rapid City S.D., 2:52.57 (14.36); 14, Katherine Zambrana, Steamboat Springs, 2:53.13 (14.52); 15, Rhonda Quick, San Diego, 2:53.14 (14.53); 16, Kelli Emmett, Lafayette, 2:53.58 (15.37); 17, Niki Pippin, USA, 2:55.03 (16.42); 18, Amber Neben, USA, 2:55.39 (17.18); 19, Karen Masson, Atlanta, Ga., 2:59.57 (21.36); 20, Kerry Barnholt, Boulder, 3:00.56 (22.35); 21, Jilayne Lovejoy, 3:01.51 (23.30); 22, Twila Wellman, Rancho Mirage, Calif., 3:01.52 (23.31); 23, Theresa Eggersten, Park City, Utah, 3:02.56 (24.35); 24, Caroline Duncan, Valdese, N.C. 3:03.01 (24.40); 25, Marie Ange Anderson, Winter Park, 3:03.43 (25.22). Pro Men 1, Pavel Tcherkassov, Russia, 2:14.37; 2, Pete Swenson, 2:15.03 (00.26); 3, Seamus McGrath, Boulder, 2:15.36 (00.59); 4, Steve Larsen, Bend, Ore., 2:16.00 (01.23); 5, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, USA, 2:17.10 (2.33); 6, Carl Swenson, Boulder, 2:17.14 (3.15); 7, Kashi Leuchs, Sweden, 2:17.52 (3.15); 8, Jay Henry, USA, 2:18.15 (3.38); 9, Frank Mapel, USA, 2;19.09 (4.32); 10, Marc Gullickson, Boulder, 2:20.25 (5.48)' 11, Eric Jones, Salt Lake City, 2:20.31 (5.54); 12, Jason Tullous, USA, 2:21.09 (6.32); 13, Chris Sheppard, B.C. Canada, 2:22.00 (7.23); 14, Christopher Decker, USA, 2:22.06 (7.29); 15, Jess Swiggers, Colorado Springs, 2:22.40 (8.03); 16, Chris Eatough, Baldwin, Md., 2:23.24 (8.47); 17, Benjamin Zambrana, Steamboat Springs, 2:23.24 (8.47); 18, Ziranda Madrigal, Mexico, 2:25.06 (10.29); 19, Mike West, Boulder, 2:25.38 (11.01); 20, Adam Craig, Colorado Springs, 2:25.38 (11.01); 21, Daryl Saul, USA, 2:26.09 (11.32); 22, Ken Helgeson, USA, 2:26.57 (12.20); 23, Gabriel Blanco, Argentina, 2:27.00 (12.23); 24, Ross Schnell, USA, 2:27.31 (12.54); 25, Jamie Morgan, Steamboat Springs, 2:28.09 (13.32)
Just how much energy Florit spent will be evident today as the riders move into stage two the Mount Werner Hill Climb.
"We will see tomorrow," Florit responded Thursday when asked if she had saved anything for the hill climb. "I think I can do some damage. I like the hills."
Grigson will take a 26-second advantage over Epifanova going into the stage. Florit is 1:46 behind the leaders.
The men's race also proved to be a battle of wills, as winner Pavel Tcherkassov overcame a flat tire to win with a time of 2:14:37.
Pete Swenson placed second after finishing the race at 2:15:03 and Seamus McGrath was third with a time of 2:15:36.
Swenson trails Tcherkassov by 26 seconds in the overall standings and McGrath is 59 seconds off of the pace.
Tcherkassov took the early lead in the race and stretched his margin to about 90 seconds before he punctured his rear tire near the summit of Mount Werner.
"I was really nervous after I punctured my tire," the 28-year-old rider said. " You just try to fix it as fast as you can. But the more you hurry, the harder it gets."
The Russian rider was able to fix the tire, but not before Steve Larsen and McGrath has raced past him. Tcherkassov was able to make up the 30- second loss and caught the other riders along Pete's Wicked Trail.
"Pavel had the engines going today," McGrath said after the race. "He was the best rider out there there's no doubt."
Tcherkassov, who has finished second twice in the Mercury Tour in 1997 and 1998, is focused on keeping his momentum until the final stage Sunday.
"I don't know what I had today, some small thing that I can't put my finger on. It's hard to say why you are good one day and better the next day," Tcherkassov said. "I knew this stage was really important. I'm just going to concentrate for the rest of the week and go home with the yellow jersey. "
McGrath was happy to stay with the top group of riders in the race and was next to Larsen for most of the 33-mile course. Larsen, who was suffering from cracked ribs, dropped back in the final decent.
"It was hard to tell if they (his ribs) were bothering him," Swenson said. "It didn't look like it, but I'm sure it was painful."
Painful was the word McGrath chose to describe the Mercury Tour Stage race. He said the riders don't really compete against one another as much as they do the mountain.
"It's all painful at 7,000 feet," McGrath said. "I'm sure tomorrow's stage will be just as tough."
The riders will start in downtown Steamboat at West Lincoln Park (6,795 feet) in Friday's race and climb 16.5 miles to an elevation of 10,568 feet to the finish line at the top of Storm Peak.
The men will start at 9 a.m. and the women will follow at 10 a.m.
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org