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Ina Teutenberg flew into the finish of the 10th stage of the HP Women’s Challenge Thursday at the head of this 12-day stage race’s first full field sprint, adding yet another win to a race that has been almost completely dominated by her Saturn team.
Saturn, which has pretty much controlled the race since the start more than a week ago, continues to protect Lyne Bessette’s very substantial 3:20 overall lead over second-place Judith Arndt (German national).
It was nearly 100 degrees and almost 100 miles at the HP Women’s Challenge on Thursday. And while the long trip from Twin Falls to Mountain Home offered a few good opportunities for escapes to develop, the mood of the day was one of “survival” and only a few very brief efforts marked the first 80 miles.
With the Intersports squad intent on protecting Catherine Marsal’s hold on the orange sprint jersey, most get away attempts were neutralized quickly. Only on the hills, with the promise of more climber’s points did the pace pick up when Jeannie Longo (Office Depot) went off to solidify her lead in that contest.
Longo tried to animate the field after the first of the day’s two mountain sprints at the top of the Snake River Canyon, but she found little help in her effort to ride off the front and the field was soon back together, with only a small group of ten chasing hard to regain contact. They eventually rejoined as the field was nearing the finish at Mountain Home.
One effort, near the end, looked as if it might just succeed. The combination was formidable: AutoTrader.com’s Julie Young, the Dutch National team’s Chantal Beltman and 2000 HP winner Anna Millward (Saturn). With about 15km to go, Young escaped off the front and dangled out front for a short time. She was soon joined by Millward and Beltman.
The two added muscle to the break and Millward’s presence ensured that the Saturn wasn’t going to chase. But there are still a lot of teams out there without a stage win and the trio was reeled in with about 5km to go.
Saturn then moved in, patrolling the front for the day’s designated sprinter, Teutenberg.
“They were a lot of attacks, but we always had somebody there,” Teutenberg said. “They did an awesome leadout.
And at 500 meters, Teutenberg grabbed the best wheel in the peloton, that of teammate Petra Rossner. The gap widened and with 200 meters to go, Teutenberg had a clear shot.
“It’s always nice to win a stage,” she said. “Of course, for all of us, the most important thing is the overall.”
And as a team, it’s beginning to look like they have a lock on that part, too.
Beware of brash promises
For years if you wanted to describe cycling photographer Jim Safford, you’d start with “the guy with the big bushy Walrus mustache,” which almost always elicited an “oh yeah…” Well, it ain’t gonna work for a while.
Safford has recently experienced a slight shift in priorities and spends less time shooting cycling than directing it… at least a part of it. Safford is the team director of the surprisingly successful Earthlink women’s cycling team. The team came to this year’s Women’s Challenge fresh of off a very successful U.S. road nationals in Redding, California in which the team’s Amber Neben finished second in the road race and teammate Dotsie Cowden took fourth in the road race and ninth in the TT.
But bringing a new team into a race like HP with teams like Saturn and climbers like Jeannie Longo, probably made Safford feel safe when he offered to shave off the mass of hair that has long graced his upper lip if one of his riders were to win a stage. Indeed, it must have been with mixed emotion when Safford followed Neben up the road to Magic Mountain Tuesday as she won the eighth stage of the Women’s Challenge in an impressive solo effort.
Surprisingly, Safford managed to fend off the inevitable for more than a full day before the team finally pressured him in to living up to his promise.
“I thought I could skate, but Dotsie wouldn’t let it go,” Safford told VeloNews in an exclusive post-shave interview.
It’ll probably be back, but not before Safford’s wife gets a look. She hasn’t seen that bare face before, either.
1. Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (G), Saturn 97 miles in 3:51:42; 2. Mirella van Melis (Nl), Dutch National; 3. Katia Longhin (I), Acca Due O-HP; 4.Judith Arndt (G), German National; 5. Angela Brodtka (G), German National; 6.Brooke Blackwelder (USA), Goldy’s-Grove Street Place; 7. Emma Davies (GB), British National; 8. Meshy Holt (NZ), Boise Cascade Office Products; 9.Vera Hohlfeld (G), Acca Due O Hewlett – Packard; 10. Jen Dial (USA), Office Depot, all s.t.
Overall, after 10 stages
1. Lyne Bessette (Can), Saturn23:56:01; 2. Judith Arndt (G), German National, at 3:20; 3. Rasa Polikeviciute (Lit), Acca Due O-HP, at 7:07; 4.Petra Rossner (G), Saturn, at 10:13; 5. Vera Hohlfeld (G), Acca Due O-HP, at 11:09.