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Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood: Bessette, Zabriskie and that Lusby woman

Congratulations are in order to Saturn’s Lyne Bessette and Mark McCormackon their performances in Philly last weekend — Bessette for her LibertyClassic win ahead of former teammates Petra Rossner and Judith Arndt (bothnow with Nürnberger) and McCormack for his fourth-place at the USPROChampionships, good enough for a year in the stars-and-stripes jersey. In addition to being long-time Saturn athletes, both are down-to-earth,hard-working riders from the Northeast deserving of their successes. 2002wasn’t an easy year for either of them: On April 1st of last year, McCormackwas struck by a car

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By Neal Rogers

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Congratulations are in order to Saturn’s Lyne Bessette and Mark McCormackon their performances in Philly last weekend — Bessette for her LibertyClassic win ahead of former teammates Petra Rossner and Judith Arndt (bothnow with Nürnberger) and McCormack for his fourth-place at the USPROChampionships, good enough for a year in the stars-and-stripes jersey.

In addition to being long-time Saturn athletes, both are down-to-earth,hard-working riders from the Northeast deserving of their successes. 2002wasn’t an easy year for either of them: On April 1st of last year, McCormackwas struck by a car in a training accident, resulting in neck and backpain, road rash and two facial lacerations that required stitches; Bessettetook a sabbatical from her Saturn team that May, feeling somewhat overshadowedby Arndt’s addition to the squad.

For Bessette, the win in Philly (see “Bessetteliberates Wachovia Liberty Classic”) came as confirmation aftera series of second-place finishes this year, including second overall ata stage race she has won twice in the past, the Tour de l’Aude (23 secondsbehind Arndt) and runner-up last week at her hometown stage race, the GrandTour of Montreal, just three seconds behind T-Mobile’s Amber Neben. Sure,Bessette, would have liked to win at home — at either the May 31 WorldCup or the Grand Tour — but she takes it all in stride.

“It’s a World Cup, you never know what can happen,” Bessette said. “Peoplewere asking me before the race, ‘What’s going to happen if you lose?’ I told them ‘I can’t lose. I’ve never won.’”

“Montreal is such a special race because it’s at home, but that’s theonly chance for the media to talk to me, because I’m never really home.It’s a good opportunity for me to be in touch with those people. The WorldCup was really important for me, and the team was supporting me, but Ididn’t have such good legs. I started to cramp, and eventually I told Katie[Mactier] to do what she wanted, and she ended up fourth.”

After finishing seventh, 31 seconds behind Montreal’s other cyclingstar — Genevieve Jeanson of RONA-Esker — Bessette looked toward the Tourof Montreal, which started just two days later.

“Even though it wasn’t a really big goal for our team,” Bessette said,“I couldn’t not race hard, because it’s at home. Not a lot of people havethe chance to race at home. It’s hard to understand the feeling you get.Manon [Jutras] is also from the area, and she did awesome.”

At the opening prologue, Bessette finished second, to Jeanson. But itwas on the pivotal Ville de Rigaud stage — a hilly 111km course — thatBessette gave it her all, and fell just short. Heading into the steepestclimb of the day (18 percent in sections) the main bunch remained intactuntil Jeanson picked up the pace, splintering the group and pulling aheadof Bessette and Neben.

As a chase group reached the leaders on the descent, T-Mobile’s KristinArmstrong launched a fierce attack that quickly grew to 50 seconds. Goingfor broke, Bessette powered up to Armstrong, towing along Neben and Jeanson’steammate, French national champion Magalie LeFloc’h. Once contact was made,it was Bessette and Armstrong doing the bulk of the work, driving the breakclear of a furiously chasing Jeanson. Coming into the finishing steep sectionNeben lead out the sprint, but a well rested LeFloc’h came by her for thewin. Still, Neben’s second place was enough to move her into yellow bytwo seconds over Bessette.

“I made a mistake,” Bessette admitted of her heavy investment in thebreak, “and it cost me the three seconds I lost. Armstrong was pulling,but Amber wasn’t working, and she’s a strong rider. It was good for [T-Mobile]to work too, since Genevieve was the race leader. I should have gottenthem to work a little more.”

The silver lining in Bessette’s hard effort turned out to be her improvedfitness, as evidenced by her Liberty Classic win — a race that has beendominated by Rossner for the past five years.

“It was supposed to be an Ina race this year,” Bessette said, referringto teammate Ina Teutenberg, Saturn’s road captain and ace sprinter. “Weplanned our tactics around a field sprint for Ina. I was supposed to staywith her the whole race. As soon as the race started, Ina told me to stayat the front. The other teams didn’t want a field sprint, because theyknew Petra would take it.”

After a 30km solo break by Jutras, the field was all back together —including Arndt and Rossner — at base of the famous Manayunk Wall whenBessette made her first attack.

“On the last lap, Katie [Mactier] was covering,” Bessette said. “Petrawas right there, Dede [Demet-Barry, T-Mobile] was there going hard. I wentand got a big gap, but they caught me.”

The next attack – by upstart American Lynn Gaggioli — nearly stuck,but just as Bessette, Arndt and T-Mobile’s Kimberly Bruckner and Kim Andersonpulled her back, Bessette made her winning move with 3k to go.

“By the time they looked at each other it was too late,” Bessette said.“Ina was on the radio telling me ‘You can do this, you can do this.’ Theother girls were on the radio too, saying ‘Come on, come on.’ When I sawthe 1k sign I thought ‘They’re not going to get me.’ I was mostly scaredof Judith. I knew I had a pursuit to do, and that’s about 3k right there.It seems like [Nürnberger] really raced for Petra until the very end.”

Afterwards Bessette, Rossner and Arndt had a moment of ceasefire.

“Petra said she was really happy for me,” Bessette said. “I told herI couldn’t let her win another year. This year was a different kind ofrace. We know how important that race is for Saturn. We had a plan, butwe had to change it through the race. All the girls did such an awesomejob, it was really good teamwork.”

Looking back on the past few weeks of racing, one moment stands outfor Bessette: Before the Montreal World Cup, one of the throngs of localreporters asked Bessette “How can you explain that you’re always finishingin second?” Bessette’s response? “If you look at it that way, then yeah,I guess it could sound bad, but it’s not. I’m really happy with the wayeverything is going, for myself and my team.”

•••

The following quote of the week comes from U.S. Postal’s David Zabriskie,who is recovering at his parents’ home in Salt Lake City after a near head-oncollision Nissan Xterra on May 26 landed him in the hospital for a weekwith a broken leg and wrist. (For full details of the incident and hisinjuries, see VeloNews issue 12, on newsstands next week.)

Although in no way a laughing matter, Zabriskie’s unique sense of humorcouldn’t be squelched by titanium screws, bedpans or heavy painkillers,as he clearly demonstrated when describing the accident.

“I’m pretty sure it was a hate crime.”

•••

A quick follow up on last week’s column about Alison Lusby (see “Beatby a girl“), the quiet 28-year-old woman that works in velogear.com’swarehouse, downstairs from the VeloNews editorial offices.

This past Sunday, June 8, was the Colorado State time trial championshipand guess who won?

That’s right, the unsigned, unsponsored Alison Lusby, still in her firstfull-season of racing. Behind Alison were three women who have placed inthe top-ten at the elite national time trials, including T-Mobile’s KatrinaGrove, who finished fourth — more than 2:30 back — on the mostly flat 37kmcourse. Grove took fifth at elite national time trial championships thisyear, while Lusby DNF’d after three mechanicals.

•••

For those who just can’t get enough of OLN’s “Road to the Tour” series,the network recently made the following episode changes for the month ofJune:

Wednesday, June 11th
12:30-1:00pm ET – Road to the Tour “Epic Climbs”

Thursday, June 12th
7:00-7:30pm ET – Road to the Tour “Miguel Indurain”
7:30-8:00pm ET – Road to the Tour “Epic Climbs”
2:00-2:30am ET – Road to the Tour “Miguel Indurain”
2:30-3:00am ET – Road to the Tour “Epic Climbs”

Saturday, June 14th
5:00-5:30pm ET – Road to the Tour “Miguel Indurain”
5:30-6:00pm ET – Road to the Tour “Epic Climbs”

Monday, June 16th
7:00-7:30pm ET – Road to the Tour “Rivals of the Tour”
2:00-2:30am ET – Road to the Tour “Rivals of the Tour”

Wednesday, June 18th
12:00-12:30pm ET – Road to the Tour “Rivals of the Tour”

Thursday, June 19th
12:00-12:30pm ET – Road to the Tour “Miguel Indurain”
12:30-1:00pm ET – Road to the Tour “Epic Climbs”
 



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