cycling utah October 1999

Florit-Juarez, Chiotti take Mercury Tour crowns

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO-It was another double win for Team GT at the Mercury Tour mountain-bike stage race at Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Alison Dunlap scored her third-straight stage win in the women's Gondola Criterium, and Jerome Chiotti wrapped up his third consecutive overall win when he outlasted underdog breakaway partner Bryan Miller (3D-Easton). Jimena Florit-Juarez (RLX Polo Sport) of Argentina survived an aggressive ride by Ruthie Matthes (Trek-Volkswagen) to take the women's overall title.

GT's plan in the women's race was for world champion Laurence Leboucher to win, but Matthes kept a furious pace, trying to make up the 1:55 overall lead of Florit-Juarez. It was too much for Leboucher, so Dunlap took over. She went with Matthes when she attacked on the fourth of six laps, and then made a crushing move on the next-to-last lap.

Matthes added some drama to the race for general classification, taking more than 50 seconds out of Florit-Juarez's lead as they entered the bell lap. Although Florit-Juarez was losing time, she said she had it under control.

Florit-Juarez's final margin of victory over Matthes was 56 seconds. She called it the biggest win of her career.

Chiotti attacked on the fifth of 10 laps in the men's race, and to the delight of fans gathered around the .8-mile course, Colorado rider Miller went with him. "I was super-motivated today to try and make some money," said Miller, who dropped off Chiotti's hectic pace on the seventh lap, but hung on for second, ahead of a charging Chris Sheppard (Catera) of Canada. "I'm probably the fastest hairy-legged guy in the country!"

Competing with Miller for crowd favorite was U.S. cross-country champion Travis Brown (Trek-Volkswagen), who rode on his front rim for three laps after flatting twice. He hung in long enough to only drop three places in G.C., from sixth to ninth.

Barring disaster, Chiotti had the overall win locked up before the start, but he said he felt strong and motivated to win Sunday. "It's the first time I win the criterium stage, so it's very nice for me."

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