The Dutch National Team’s Chantal Beltman sprinted out of a lead group of three to take a stage win at the HP Women’s Challenge Elkhorn Circuit Race Saturday. However, the big news of this fifth stage is that overall race leader Lyne Bessette (Saturn) was among that group of three that finished 1:20 ahead of the field and second-placed Jeannie Longo (Office Depot).
Bessette had just moved into the leader’s jersey Saturday morning in a head-to-head time trial against Longo. As the 18-lap, 28.8-mile stage began on Saturday evening, Bessette enjoyed just a small 12-second advantage over the woman who had led the race for the first three stages.
The hilly 1.6-mile circuit around the Elkhorn resort would usually favors a rider of Longo’s talents. She’s won on this course before, but this time Longo is battling a remarkably well-coordinated Saturn squad, working for Bessette’s lead.
The race was punctuated by series of attacks early on, but it wasn’t until Bessette’s teammate Ina Teutenberg charged at the halfway mark, that any of those breaks had an effect on the outcome.
With nine laps to go, Teutenberg, a short powerful sprinter, went off the front, apparently in pursuit of climber’s points. She stayed away, building her lead to about 1:00.
“No I didn’t think I would stay out there so long,” Teutenberg said. “I wasn’t feeling all that good and didn’t even think I was going to finish today.”
Teutenberg’s effort off the front, gave some riders the impression that they could relax. The Saturn sprinter posed little GC threat, since she started the stage in 45th place at 17:35 out of first. She held her lead for about four laps before Boise Cascade’s Alison Dunlap moved off the front and attempted to bridge up to the 26-year-old German.
Bessette monitored the effort and radioed to team director Gianna Roberge to find out where in the field Longo might be.
“When I found out she was sitting at the back, I went hard,” Bessette recalled. “I didn’t wait at all. I figured this was the time to do it.”
Only Beltman and Acca Due O- Hewlett-Packard’s Rasa Polikeviciute joined. When Teutenburg learned that her teammate was in pursuit she slowed and timed it so that Bessette and company joined her at the top of the circuit’s toughest climb.
“Then I did what I could,” Teutenberg explained. “I pulled for as long as I could and then that was it, Lyne took over.”
Polikeviciute was tired and still recovering from a serious crash in Philadelphia’s Liberty Classic, so she offered little help. Beltman aided the effort a little, but Bessette really drove the charge over the next three laps, putting 1:20 on the main field …and her closest rival, Longo.
With about 100 meters of an uphill sprint to go, Beltman sprinted off for the win. Bessette rolled across eight seconds later, just ahead of Polikeviciute and 1:20 ahead of the Longo and the main field.
“This was a good chance for us,” Bessette said. “We needed to get more time… especially with stages like Pomerelle (with its long 3500-foot climb) coming up. This was good.”
Longo, tired and frustrated, is still not one to be written off. This race continues for another week and features two stages – Pommerelle and Burley to Magic Mountain – in which she is expected to perform well.
The race resumes Sunday afternoon with a flat 80km race from Shoshone to Burley.
1. Chantal Beltman (Nl), Dutch National, 1:18:24; 2. Lyne Bessette (Can), Saturn, at 0:08; 3. Rasa Polikeviciute (Lit), Acca Due O Hewlett – Packard, at 0:08; 4. Andrea Ratkovic (USA), 800.com, at 1:23; 5. Petra Rossner (G), Saturn, at 1:28; 6. Alison Dunlap (USA), Boise Cascade Office Products; 7. Jolanta Polikeviciute, (Lit), Acca Due O-Hewlett-Packard; 8. Jeannie Longo (F), Office Depot; 9. Katia Longhin (I), Acca Due O Hewlett-Packard; 10. Roz Reekie-May (NZ), Boise Cascade Office Products; 11. Caroline Alexander (GB), Intersports; 12. Dotsie Cowden, (USA), Earthlink; 13. Sarah Konrad (USA), Boise Cascade Office Products; 14. Ceris Gilfillan (GB), British National; 15. Sandrine Marcuz (F), Canadian/French Composite; 16. Kimberly Bruckner (USA), Saturn; 17. Ghita Beltman (Nl), Dutch National; 18. Trixi Worrack (G), German National; 19. Judith Arndt (G), German National; 20. Muffy Roy (USA), Voler, all s.t.
OVERALL AFTER 5 STAGES
1. Bessette, 9:06:03; 2. Longo, at 1:39; 3. Rasa Polikeviciute, at 2:15; 4. Arndt, at 3:10; 5. Bruckner, at 3:16; 6. Chantal Beltman, at 3:35; 7. Berger, at 4:51; 8. Millward, at 4:55; 9. Rossner, at 4:59; 10. Sarah Ulmer (NZ), Autotrader.com, at 5:03.