By Neal Rogers
Under the figure of Boise’s Idaho State Capital building, Saturn’s Anna Millward took stage eight of the H.P. Women’s Challenge Saturday in a two-up sprint against T Mobile’s Katrina Berger. It was Millward’s second win – and Saturn’s seventh – of the nine-stage tour.
The annual Saturday event, which circumnavigates downtown government buildings, drew out the local Boise cycling community to cheer on the riders and seek out autographs from the world-class field.
With the overall GC more or less decided – Saturn’s Judith Arndt in first, 1:20 ahead of Rona’s Genevieve Jeanson, and Saturn’s Kimberly Bruckner 14 seconds behind Jeanson – the 48-lap, 38.4-mile criterium offered an opportunity for other riders to attempt a stage win.
Still in contention, and keeping the race interesting, were Lithuania’s Diana Ziliute and New Zealand’s Sarah Ulmer, separated by just two points in the Hot Spot Sprint competition, with Boise’s Gina Grain six points behind the orange jersey of Ziliute.
Early on, Ulmer showed that she’d come out to race, leaving the pack for a solo stretch of the legs. “Just a bit of a pull, really,” Ulmer told VeloNews. “I was trying to get something going, but nobody would join me. I was ready to race.” However, the Lithuanians, riding for Ziliute, weren’t having it, and Ulmer was quickly reeled in.
Soon after, Rona’s Mellissa Holt and T Mobile’s Berger sped off, opening a gap that extended to 12 seconds. But Saturn, led by Ina Yoko-Teutenberg and Catherine Marsal, wasn’t in the mood to let any breaks get away, and after a few laps the field was back together.
As excitement grew for the midway point Hot Spot Sprint, a crash with 29 laps to go disrupted the field, taking Ulmer – third overall at the 2000 Women’s Challenge – down, and out of the race.
“It was a bottleneck turn,” Ulmer explained. “The pace slowed down, and riders were coming from the outside and the inside. I was in the middle, locked up handlebars, and down I went.”
Needing treatment for a torn elbow and hip, Ulmer left the course, erroneously believing she would be pro-rated the remaining laps and allowed to finish the tour at Sunday’s final stage. “It was my mistake,” she explained. “I abandoned the race. I would have had to get back on my bike and allow myself to get lapped in order to stay in and finish tomorrow.”
With Ulmer gone, Ziliute and Grain were left to fight out the mid-race sprint. Starting two laps from the points, Ziliute opened up a five-second gap, courtesy of work from Sponsor Services’ Monica Valen. Grain nearly caught Ziliute at the line, but would have to settle for seven sprint points to Ziliute’s ten; Ziliute now leads the contest 50 to 41 with one stage remaining.
Once the sprint contest was over with, Rona’s Melissa Holt took another flyer, possibly trying to set up a future push for Jeanson. Saturn remained vigilant at the front, marked closely by Jeanson and Canadian National’s Lyne Bessette (fifth in the overall), and Holt was quickly reeled in.
Next to have a go at it was T Mobile’s Amber Neben, sixth in the General Classification. Neben, known to most as a climber, went off the group solo, opening a gap of five seconds. “I was just racing, having fun,” Neben said later. “I thought I could make people chase, and possibly set up Katrina. You can’t win if you don’t take chances.”
And Neben’s gamble worked out for T Mobile. When a hard charging Saturn caught out Neben, Berger again attacked, followed by Millward, who, like her teammates, had been staying with Arndt.
“We were told to look out for the blue [leader’s] jersey,” Millward told VeloNews , “but were free to go with five laps to go. It was going to be set up for me or Ina [Yoko-Teutenberg], and I was going to set Ina up by chasing every break, but the first break I chased ended up with a big gap.”
As for Berger, she knew she was outgunned.
“I was hoping she would lead it out,” Berger said. “But a smart rider wouldn’t lead it out, and Anna’s a smart rider. I attacked two corners from the finish, but she stayed with me, and coming into the final straight I knew she had it. She is a former World Cup champion.”
Stage Eight Results, Statehouse Criterium, 38.4 miles;
1 Anna Millward (Aus) Saturn, 1:29:04;
2 Katrina Berger, T Mobile, at s.t.;
3 Sarah Konrad, Mercy, at 0:05;
4 Lyne Bessette (Can), Canadian National, at s.t.;
5 Priska Doppmann (Swi), Goldy’s, at s.t.;
6 Diana Ziliute (Lit), Lithuanian National, at s.t.;
7 Monica Valen (N), Sponsor Services, at s.t.;
8 Genevieve Jeanson (Can), Rona, at s.t.;
9 Anita Valen (N), Sponsor Services, at s.t.;
10 Svetlana Samokhvalova (Rus), Itera, at s.t.;
General Classification, after eight stages;
1 Judith Arndt (G), Saturn, 19:47:49.;
2 Genevieve Jeanson (Can), Rona, at 1:20;
3 Kimberly Bruckner, Saturn, at 1:34;
4 Valentina Polkhanova (Rus), Itera, at 3:52;
5 Lyne Bessette (Can), Canadian National, at 4:18;
6 Amber Neben, T Mobile, at 5:06;
7 Rasa Polikeviciute (Lit), Lithuanian National, at 10:08;
8 Sue Palmer-Komar (Can), Canadian National, at 11:40;
9 Leah Goldstein (Can), Boise, at 12:04;
10 Caroline Alexander (GB), British National, at 14:48;