Trixi Worrack of the German national team sprinted out of an elite group of leaders Monday to take the seventh stage of the 2001 HP Women’s Challenge as it finished atop a long climb up to southern Idaho’s Pomerelle ski area. The 19-year-old’s win did little to alter the overall standings of this race, with Saturn’s Lyne Bessette now leading by more than three minutes. But included in the group of top finishers was Worrack’s teammate Judith Arndt who has moved past Acca Due O’s Rasa Polikeviciute to take over second place.
Worrack and Arndt were among a group of five, including Bessette, Jeannie Longo (Office Depot) and Alison Dunlap, who finished well ahead a fractured group of chasers and 2:36 ahead of a group that included the Lithuanian Polikeviciute and her twin sister Jolanta.
Though just a short 57.7 miles, the ride to Pomerelle is regarded as one of the toughest of this 12-day, 13-stage tour through Idaho. With its steep, six-mile finishing climb, Pomerelle has forced riders to take dramatic risks in an effort to affect the overall outcome of the race. With the top spot already securely in the hands of Bessette, the likelihood of a major shakeup on this stage had already been reduced. But in some ways, the mere presence of the finishing stretch to Pomerelle had already influenced the race on Sunday when Bessette and four of her teammates joined in a decisive break and put nearly 10 minutes on then-second-placed Longo.
Longo, disheartened by Sunday’s events, was back at the starting line on Monday, uncertain of her form and wondering how she might handle the brisk crosswinds on the flat stretches of open Idaho prairie leading to the climb.
“I don’t know how I feel,” Longo said before the start. “I’m here, so I’ll see how it goes.”
With the lead secure, Bessette stayed relaxed in the field, protected from the wind by the rest of the Saturn squad. Despite a number of attacks on the flats from other teams, the field stayed bunched until the short climb leading to the feedzone at mile 46. Small as it was, the hill served as something of an indicator of things to come as Longo, Bessette, her teammates Kim Bruckner and Anna Millward and both Polikeviciutes moved to the front and upped the tempo.
Riders quickly began falling off the back of the field. Longo stayed up front and charged ahead for climber’s points a few miles later, but Bessette and the others stayed with her.
At mile 50, the course took a hard left turn toward the mountain; a signal that the climb had begun in earnest. Longo stayed at the front and powered into the climb, with a group of 14 behind her.
Over the next mile, that number was gradually whittled down to four: Longo, Bessette, Arndt and Worrack, with Bruckner, Dunlap, Caroline Alexander (Intersports), Roz Reekie-May (Boise Cascade) and Jolanta Polikeviciute spread out not too far behind.
Rasa, who began the day in second place at 2:17, was back in the main chase group, with a surprisingly strong Petra Rossner (Saturn) glued to her wheel.
By the closing miles it was clear that neither Longo nor the two Germans could shed the competition and the lead group settled in for the finish. One final effort by Longo with two miles remaining left Dunlap struggling to catch on.
“I don’t have the acceleration that I used to,” said the former road star turned mountain-bike racer, “but I just kept it steady and caught up with them by the finish.”
As the group approached the finish, Worrack charged off and took the win, with Bessette, Longo, Dunlap and Arnt right behind. Bessette and Saturn had staved off all efforts to narrow her lead and Arndt had managed to leapfrog over Rasa Polikeviciute to earn second place in GC.
Tuesday’s stage again ends with an uphill climb, but the atop nearby Magic Mountain is not as difficult as the road to Pomerelle and Bessette’s grip on the overall HP title seems even more certain after today.
1. Trixi Worrack (G), German National, 2:30:05; 2. Lyne Bessette (Can), Saturn; 3. Jeannie Longo (F), Office Depot; 4. Alison Dunlap (USA), Boise Cascade Office Products; 5. Judith Arndt (G), German National, all s.t. 6. Ceris Gilfillan (GB), British National, at 0:36; 7. Kimberly Bruckner (USA), Saturn, s.t.; 8. Amber Neben (USA), Earthlink, at 1:03; 9. Caroline Alexander (GB), Intersports, at 1:16; 10. Petra Rossner (G), Saturn, at 2:36; 11. Jolanta Polikeviciute (Lit), Acca Due O Hewlett – Packard; 12. Joan Wilson (USA), Office Depot; 13. Vera Hohlfeld (G), Acca Due O Hewlett – Packard; 14. Roz Reekie-May (NZ), Boise Cascade Office Products; 15. Rasa Polikeviciute (Lit), Acca Due O Hewlett – Packard, all s.t.; 16. Sandrine Marcuz (F), Canadian-French Composite, at 3:04; 17. Sandy Espeseth (Can), Intersports, at 3:11; 18. Alison Sydor (Can), Canadian-French Composite, at 3:27; 19. Cybil Diguistini (Can), Canadian-French Composite, at 3:31; 20. Catherine Cardwell (USA), 800.com, at 3:36.
OVERALL AFTER SEVEN STAGES
1. Bessette, 14:31:57; 2. Arndt, at 3:13; 3. Bruckner, at 4:01; 4. Rasa Polikeviciute, at 5:00; 5. Rossner, at 7:34; 6. Hohlfeld, at 8:24; 7.
Chantal Beltman, at 8:29; 8. Millward, at 8:43; 9. Ulmer, at 9:52; 10. Longo, at 11:31.