For the past five days the world's top mountain bikers have battled the dust, heat and grueling courses that surround Steamboat's Mount Werner.
On Sunday, Russian rider Pavel Tcherkassov and South American rider Jimena Florit rode away with the top titles at the fourth Mercury Tour Mountain Bike Stage race held in Steamboat Springs. But neither one had to win the final stage to take home the prize. Tcherkassov, who was 10th in the final stage, held a seven-minute advantage headed into the final race and pocketed $15,700 for his efforts. Florit, who was second in the Gondola Criterium, also held a six-minute advantage after three stages and earned a $10,125 paycheck after the final results were tallied.
"Fantastico," Florit said after winning her second-straight title. "I was a little nervous that not everything happened as planned. But it all worked out."
Florit cruised to a second-place finish in Sunday's Gondola Criterium race to become a two-time winner at the Steamboat races. She finished all the stages in a time of 6 hours, 24 minutes and 54 seconds.
The stage winner, Alla Epifanova was second in the overall with a time of 6:31:25 and Susan Haywood was third in the overall at 6:34:37.
"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."
Twice Tcherkassov has settled for second place at the Mercury Tour. But this year the 28-year-old Russian rider moved to the top step of the podium with his first Mercury Tour win.
Tcherkassov finished with a time of 6:26:48. He was followed by Carl Swenson who was 5:50 back and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski who was 6:34 behind the leader.
"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 said. "It was a long way to go, but now that I've won it is great."
Tcherkassov was able to take the lead in this year's Mercury Tour in the first stage where he overcame a flat tire to win the event. He added to his lead in the second stage, the Mount Werner Hill Climb, leading by more than 3 minutes and then secured it in Saturday's Thunderhead Circuit taking a seven-minute edge into the final. At that point he had the race won barring a disaster.
Florit was third after the first stage, but made her move in Friday's hill climb. In the race, event leader Mary Grigson pulled out and Florit passed Epifanova to take a 2:20 second advantage in the race. Florit increased her lead in Saturday's stage and cruised to the win on Sunday.
Florit, like many of the riders in this year's Tour, will be headed to California on Sept. 8-10 for the U.S. National series finals.
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.