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With Bessette riding against former Saturn team, H.P. Women’s Challenge begins

North America's largest stage race, the Hewlett-Packard Women’s Challenge, begins Saturday in Boise, Idaho. Formerly sponsored by Ore-Ida, the Women’s Challenge was introduced in 1984 by Army veteran Jim Rabdou, and is infamous for its flaunting the arbitrary limits of the UCI, which ruled the distances too difficult for a women’s stage race and would not sanction the event until 1995. The 543-mile course weaves through Idaho’s southern mountains and high deserts, with a total of 11,000 feet of climbing. Of particular interest this year is 2001’s overall winner Lyne Bessette, who will be

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By Neal Rogers

North America’s largest stage race, the Hewlett-Packard Women’s Challenge, begins Saturday in Boise, Idaho. Formerly sponsored by Ore-Ida, the Women’s Challenge was introduced in 1984 by Army veteran Jim Rabdou, and is infamous for its flaunting the arbitrary limits of the UCI, which ruled the distances too difficult for a women’s stage race and would not sanction the event until 1995. The 543-mile course weaves through Idaho’s southern mountains and high deserts, with a total of 11,000 feet of climbing. Of particular interest this year is 2001’s overall winner Lyne Bessette, who will be riding for the Canadian National Team after leaving Saturn earlier this season. Sixteen teams of no more than six riders will be competing for over $75,000 in total prize money. Contenders for the Overall Classification: 1. Lyne Bessette, Canadian National. Bessette surprised the cycling community earlier this season by leaving the talent-rich Saturn squad in hopes of developing further as a team leader. As the defending 2001 H.P. champion, and without the arsenal of support she’s accustomed to, Bessette has her work cut out for her. 2. Judith Arndt, Saturn. Winner of the early season Redlands Classic, Arndt has the speed, endurance, and team strength to run away with the overall. Last year’s H.P. runner-up, the German won’t be working for anyone this year. 3. Anna Millward, Saturn. Twice the winner of H.P. (1996 & 2000), as well as silver medallist at the 1999 road race and time trial world championships, the 30-year-old Australian would surprise no one if she finds herself again atop the podium. 4. Genevieve Jeanson, Rona. Touted as the future of women’s road racing, Jeanson makes her first appearance at the H.P. as the team leader of the French-Canadian Team Rona. Whether or not the 20-year-old will be able to ride consistently for nine days remains to be seen, but her combined time trialing strength and impressive climbing are sure to animate the race, and after stage three’s individual time trial, Jeanson may find herself in an all-too-familiar stage-race scenario – defending the leader’s jersey early on. 5. Rasa Polikeviciute, Lithuanian National. Winner of the H.P. in 1997, the 2001 road race world champion is as capable as any of lighting up the race, and if she can shake off the rainbow curse, the 31-year-old could take substantial time out of her opponents in the hilly opening stages. Twin sister and teammate Jolanta will be there to assist, and may find opportunities to ride away for the stage. 6. Amber Neben, T-Mobile. A former mountain-bike racer, Neben came into her own at H.P. last year, soling in for a stage win atop Magic Mountain. No longer a revelation, Neben will find herself marked by the competition, and must devise an early strategy to defy her opponents this time around. 7. Mari Holden, T-Mobile. Five-time US time trial national champion, 2000 world time trial champion, second-overall at H.P. in 1999. Alongside T-Mobile’s Neben and Katrina Berger, Holden may yet turn in the performance she’s capable of at H.P. 8. Kimberly Bruckner, Saturn. While capable of racing with the best of the field, the current U.S. national road and time trial champ may, once again, find herself in a worker’s role. Look for the former triathlete, along with teammate Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, to dominate in the flatter stages, while setting the pace for Millward and Arndt in the mountains. 9. Caroline Alexander, British National. First a mountain-biker, Alexander has proven herself capable on the road as well, as evidenced by her tenth-overall last year at H.P. and 15th at the World Road Race. Her climbing strength may keep her in the hunt, but whether or not her team has what it takes to compete remains to be seen. 10. Susan Palmer-Komar, Canadian National. At 35, and as a teammate of Bessette’s, Palmer-Komar may be an outside chance, but must be considered a threat to take any mountainous stages. With several top-ten overall H.P. finishes and four consecutive mountain jerseys (1994-97), not to mention a surprise win at this year’s Sea Otter Fort Ord road race, Palmer-Komar can’t be counted out. The H.P. Women’s Challenge, in stages:

Stage 1 – Saturday, June 15 – Boise to Idaho City – 69.5 miles
Stage 2 – Sunday, June 16 – Lowman to Stanley – 58.5 miles
Stage 3 – Monday, June 17 – Stanley Individual Time Trial – 25 miles
Stage 4 – Tuesday, June 18 – Stanley to Ketchum – 62.3 miles
Stage 5 – Wednesday, June 19 – Shoshone to Pomerelle – 87.9 miles
Stage 6 – Thursday, June 20 – Burley to Magic Mountain – 60.7 miles
Stage 7 – Friday, June 21 – Twin Falls to Buhl – 84.5 miles
Stage 8 – Saturday, June 22 – Boise Statehouse Criterium – 38.5 miles
Stage 9 – Sunday, June 23 – Emmett to Hyde Park – 56.5 miles