HP Women’s Challenge – 13 – 25th June 2001
Wednesday 13th June – Stage 1 – Birds of Prey to Idaho City – 111km
Conditions: really strong head and crosswinds – 10°–16°C. I decided to race with knee warmers and arm warmers.
I was quite nervous. I hadn’t slept too well – I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep. I warmed up for about 5km along the plateau and hill.
I stayed up in the top 20 down the hill and out onto the first part of the 50km square. The wind was really horrendous. I got pushed to the back and made an effort to get back into the top 30. I saw Anna and tried to sit near her. I find it hard to keep my position, girls keep moving around me. This cost me because I drifted back a bit as we did another turn and someone attacked. The bunch was strung out everywhere. I got caught behind a group and a gap developed. I saw someone go around to bridge across the gap. I jumped on. She waved me around but I couldn’t work. She made it across and I just sat on trying to get a good sit. The bunch was echeloned out into the gravel. We had 4-6 working hard and I sat on. We caught the next group and then the next one. (so we were now 1min behind the break away group of 6 riders). About 1km later I was pushed into the gravel and nearly lost it. It took me 50m of gravel riding to get through the soft gravel and onto the tar. I got back onto the highway and chased, but my heartrate was 195bpm and I was dying. A Boise Cascade girl had also dropped off and she waved me through for a turn, which I did and then blew up. We were only 5 metres off the bunch. Four of us joined up and worked hard right up to the foot of the hill and then I blew up again. My team mate, Joan’s group came through and I couldn’t hang on to them, as I had just worked so hard before.
I formed a small group of 6 and we had another 50km to do into a headwind. If I’d managed to stay with the bunch in front, as they had 20 in their bunch, it would have been a lot less work. I hope I haven’t expended too much energy and will race better tomorrow.
I lost 13min6sec today. The bunch in front of me lost 10min57sec, while the bunch behind the break away lost 2min5sec. I am placed 50th on GC. I hope to be able to do better tomorrow.
Our accommodation, log cabins without telephones, are located 1.5hrs from Idaho City. We jumped into the creek for a quick splash and then settled in for the long drive. I had a headache and was really dehydrated. I drank 4 bottles of water in the car. I did a quick ride once we arrived and then spent 30min stretching.
Thursday 14th June – Stage 2 – Lowman – Stanley – 93.6km
Conditions: 1°C at 8am but it warmed up quickly to about 14°C by the time we started racing.
We had a 90km drive from our cabin back to Lowman to the race start. Ren, Jen and I got out with 25km to go and rode to the race start. My legs felt good, although my quads were quite sore. I ate my bread roll with banana and honey at 10am and spent 20min on my stretching mat making sure everything was stretched and ready to go. Todays race climbs for 50km and then is relatively flat and slightly downhill for 43km, with the last 8km of the climb being a bit steeper.
Positioning was really important today given my mistake yesterday. I focused constantly on pushing up towards the front and stayed about top 10-15. Joan attacked at the 10mile mark with 3 others. They died and left Joan out on her own. I stayed in the main bunch, trying to conserve energy, and stayed there until 44km of the climb, and then blew up. I couldn’t breathe – I just felt as though I couldn’t suck enough air in. I was then in a small group that was chasing the main bunch down. They all got across but I just couldn’t get across the last bit. I was right in amongst the convoy and only 50m off the back. I need to try and push a bit harder when I am so close, because dying at this moment effectively cost me the 5min gap that this bunch had on our bunch by the end.
I climbed by myself until I caught Kristy Scrymegour and a Goldy’s Girl. We climbed together until the bunch behind caught us. We had 20 in our bunch to work with, which was fortunate, given the strong head and crosswinds we had for the final 40km. I wanted to conserve energy and save myself for some later stages.
I finished in 58th place, 6min28sec behind the winner.
Friday 15th June – Stage 3 – Stanley to Ketchum – 99.7km
Conditions: 18°C, cross and headwinds. I wonder if the winds will ever let up. Stanley is 6700ft above sea level and I was puffing just walking to the car to pack our bags. We will be staying in Sun Valley for the next two nights. The altitude is taking effect and I’ve had slight head spins whenever I bend down to pick something up. I didn’t feel quite as co-ordinated as I usually do.
We started today’s stage in the main street of Stanley, the only street in Stanley, and had a neutral zone down the street and onto Highway 75. No sooner had we turned the corner into a cross/head wind, then someone attacked. I couldn’t believe it! We were all strung out but regrouped within a few minutes. This scenario repeated itself for the next 40km to the base of the climb. However, at the 10km mark, some girl rode straight across my front wheel and hooked her quick release in my spokes. I nearly lost it. She bent two spokes causing it to buckle badly and tore off my magnet for my odometer, leaving me with no reading on our far we’d done. I released my front brake but realised after I’d finished the race that the wheel had been badly rubbing the brake on every revolution. No wonder if felt so hard trying to climb and push along the flats. Nothing like a bit of resistance to make it tougher.
The 8km climb was torturous due to its steepness and due to the difficulty in breathing. My heartrate was 180bpm and I felt like my lungs were being squeezed. The top of the climb was just under 9000ft.
I descended alone until 3 girls caught me and we worked together to the finish. It was hard work pushing into a head/cross wind for another 60km. My adductors and quads were hammered by the time we finished. I lost about 11mins today.
I am now 72nd on GC and about 28min down. Definitely not in a position I am happy with, but mechanical problems today certainly didn’t help. I should have dropped back for a wheel change but I didn’t release how badly the wheel was buckled.
Saturday 16th June Stage 4 – Sun Valley “head to head” Time Trial – 5.1km
Conditions: very little wind, 20°C, sunny – sensational weather. Trying to breathe while warming up was the biggest challenge. The air is just so thin. I did a pyramid warmup with my heartrate on the windtrainer. I took it up to 165 for a few minutes, then back to 150 then tried for 170+. It wouldn’t go above 165. A bit tired and means I haven’t recovered fully from yesterday, which I knew the instant I woke up this morning. I certainly didn’t bounce out of bed.
The plan for this time trial was to conserve energy and only go hard enough so as not to lose too much time. It is better to lose a little time on the time trial and be less tired for the circuit race this evening.
I finished in 70th place for the 5.1km in a time of 8min22sec, 1min19sec behind Lyn Bessette. I am still 72nd on GC. We will now spend the afternoon sleeping, stretching, and most importantly keeping the feet up.
Saturday 17th June Stage 5 – Ekhorn Circuit Race – 46.1km
Conditions: 24°C Windy (again)
This is a brutal course, a 2.5km circuit through the snow village with a nasty 3000ft climb every lap. I was in agony on lap 1. On lap 2, I lost the main bunch and was with a small group of 8. Each lap was worse and worse. Our group lasted 10 laps before we were lapped. I was so relieved to be pulled out! I finished 80th – not a sensational result.
Sunday 18th June Stage 6 – Shoshone to Burley – 128km
Conditions: 25°C Windy (again)
Slept really poorly – am so glad we’re going down to a lower altitude (back to 4000ft as opposed to 6000ft). As it was windy I decided to sit right on the front (especially since I hadn’t warmed up well) and set a comfortable pace. Some girls are just dangerous to ride behind when it’s windy. I felt good today. I could breathe and my legs were okay.
The attacks started after 20km and continued every few km’s. The bunch was echeloned and splintered to pieces. Ren got into the breakaway but unfortunately flatted. Lyn Bessette was in the break, without Longo, so I was sent to the front with Joan and Jessica to drive the main pack. The break was represented by Saturn, Autotrader, Dutch national team, Goldy’s, and Intersport, so our team, Office Depot only had Boise Cascade and the combined French/Canadian team who were willing to work. I felt so strong today, and driving on the front felt great. It didn’t hurt half as bad as a motorpace session. I didn’t push too hard, because although I had to work for Longo, I still want to have a good result on a few stages. I actually wanted to attack and get away, across to the breakaway, but knew today that wasn’t possible. With 15km to go, I flatted, but got back on within a few minutes.
I eased the pace after this, as I saw there was no hope of catching the breakaway and no-one was willing to work, so the time gap increased rapidly. I sat in the wind to lead Longo to the front for the final 5km and finished 13th in our bunch sprint, 25th overall. Finally, I feel okay though. I hope now I can start to do something in this tour.
Monday 19th June Stage 7 –Burley to Pomerelle – 92km
Conditions: 22°C REALLY windy
My roommate Jessica and I both slept in until nearly 8am today. I have been waking at 5.30am every morning, so we were both really tired from our work on the front of the bunch yesterday. We ate at Perkins, a local diner, (typical American food), but I found cereal, toast, hash browns and juice to kick start the day. I followed it up with my usual white bread and honey before the race.
Today was predominantly flat for 70km, with a lovely 22km 6% climb to the finish. Given it was so flat to start with I planned on doing most of my warm up in the first 10km of the stage. But I really suffered for it by doing this. We had ridden only 50m out of the parking lot and an Autotrader girl attacked. I jumped on her wheel and almost died with pain as we hammered along at 50km/hr into a cross wind. Luckily they bunch soon caught us, but the pace picked up as everyone wanted to be on the front, due to the crosswinds. So we rode through the outskirts of Burley at 60km/hr. It was a quick way to warm up. The pace stayed fast and furious right out to the climb. As soon as one rider attacked, it was followed by counter attacks, but no-one was letting anyone get away. We changed direction a few times so I made sure I was up the front, as I didn’t want to be caught at the back of the bunch and dropped.
I sheltered Jeannie where possible and tried to keep bringing her towards the front of the bunch. She later told me I still didn’t sit out into the wind enough to shelter her. She only has a 48cm frame so my 58cm bike towers over hers. I am sure I still give her a good sit out of the wind. But she is angry that the Saturn team are dominating the race and has been upset ever since she lost the leaders jersey.
I was happy with my climbing today. We climbed to almost 8000ft and I managed to control my breathing well and kept a rhythm going.
I finished 60th in 2hrs40min14sec, 10mins5sec behind the leader. I am now 66th in GC.
Tuesday 20th June Stage 8 –Burley to Magic Mountain – 97.1km
Conditions: 25°C Minimal Wind
Finally, the Idaho winds have died down however at 8am it was already feeling warm and looked to be a hot one out on the road today. After another breakfast at Perkins I decided to do 30min on the wind trainer just in case someone decided to attack in the first 30sec again!
Bettina, our team manager, wired us up at 10.30am and confirmed what we wanted to feed on today. I had half coke/half water yesterday, but decided on straight water today. After the first hot sprint, we can feed from the van at any time and on today’s stage there was one feed zone but they had it right at the base of the final climb, so I fed from the van today, for both myself and Jeannie.
Our ride started at a more leisurely pace than yesterday which was a relief to everyone. Once we were out of Burley, we headed south for 50km along a straight rode with potato crops on either side. Occasionally, the huge irrigation sprinklers sprayed us which was a relief to the rising temperature.
The attacks started after 15km or so but the bunch was vigilant in chasing down every attempt. At about the 40km mark, a small group managed to establish a break which our bunch allowed to hover in front of us. I moved to the front and tried to bridge across with Meshy Holt (Boise Cascade). Lyn Bessette (Saturn) called out to the bunch to let us go, but they chased us down anyway. Once back in the pack, Meshy attacked again, however I was boxed in about 12 back. This time they let Meshy go and with a lot of work she bridged the 3mins30 across to the break.
Our bunch picked up the pace as we approached the climb which started gradually from the 64km mark. We crossed four cattle grids which were clearly marked and easily crossed without incident in the bunch. The terrain changed as we started climbing and we found ourselves in a very narrow rocky cannon with huge rocky barren terrain on either side. The climb steepened from 85km to the finish at 97km. The bunch started to stretch out here and each little group found their only rhythm.
I finished in 2hrs56min, which was 9mins4sec down on the winner, who was from the break away group. My legs felt quite tired today, so I was happy to have stayed with the bunch right up to the last steep section of the climb. The results of our other Aussies: Kristy Scrymegeour was also in the break and finished 2mins17sec down, Anna Millward (Wilson) finished 5mins down while Naomi Williams finished 10mins39sec down.
We had a 45min car trip to our new motel at Twin Falls and then went through our afternoon routine of a light wind train session to ease the pain, lots of stretching, a good massage, tonnes of food and sleep.
Wednesday 21st June Stage 9 –Twin Falls to Buhl – 107.2km
Conditions: 30°C Only minimal winds
Today we headed out of town northwards at a leisurely pace after crossing the Swan River bridge. A base jumper jumped from the top railing of the bridge just as the bunch passed the centre section of the bridge, causing an interesting reaction by all us girls. He let out this deathly scream as he jumped out – half of us didn’t know if he was suiciding or what he was doing!!
The terrain was again potato crops with plenty of irrigation sprinklers and freshly bailed hay. The road was wide, in good condition and predominantly straight.
After 20km the attacks started. No team was letting any other team get away. I was keen to form a break and tried to get away with a Boise Cascade girl and later with an Autotrader girl but the bunch chased us down.
We started the first climb as a bunch. This climb was 4km long with a 5% gradient but we rode it at a pretty fast tempo. The mountain sprint at the top was won by our team mate Jeannie Longo. I was just off the back as the bunch crested the top and managed to chase back on. We did a 15km loop and went up this same 4km climb again. Just before our 2nd time up the climb there was a crash in the bunch which took down my teammate Joan Wilson. Kristy Scrymegeour was also involved in the crash. Joan managed to chase back on before the end of the race.
I was again just off the back over the top of the 2nd 4km climb but got back on with a bit of chasing through the convoy (or caravan, as they call it over here). We did the same 15km loop again and then had the 4km climb for the final time before the finish.
My legs were really tired but I managed to form a small group just off the bunch over the last climb. Our group worked hard over the last 8km to finish 2mins36sec down on the leader. Anna Wilson finished 40sec down, while Kristy and Naomi finished 10mins30sec down.
At the finish there was a local Buhl pool, and we all jumped in (in bike gear) to cool off. The water was great. Buhl, the trout capital of America, put on a trout BBQ for us during the presentations which was great. We ate platefuls of fish, salad, bread and ice-cream! Then we drove 45min back to Twin Falls to stretch, eat more and recover.
Thursday 22nd June Stage 10 –Twin Falls to Mountain Home – 155.2km
Conditions: 38°C Hot dessert conditions
Today we again headed north through the same crops as yesterday. The attacks started at the 500m mark, with a number of us keen to get away. My team manager had formed alliances with Boise Cascade, 800.com, German and Dutch national teams to help try and set up a break for me. I love the long stages and am strongest over these extra long races.
I went with Meshy Holt (Boise Cascade) at the 500m mark, but the bunch chased us down within 2km. We counterattacked again but again the bunch were all over us, not letting us get away. We crossed the Snake River bridge and turned left. I attacked this time – stood up and dug as deep as I could. I looked back and Anna was on my wheel. She pulled around in front of me and sat up. I didn’t have the legs to reattack. The bunch again swamped us.
The attacks continued for the next 50km. I predicted that Saturn were keen for a stage win, and also the sprints and mountain jersey were still in contention, so many teams were keen to keep the bunch together.
The first 4km mountain climb was fierce. I had to dig really deep to hang on. The bunch split over the last 500m, but regrouped within 1km. The tempo eased slightly as the temperature rose and many girls dropped back to our team cars for more and more bidons. To feed, we raise our bottle, the Commissiare calls up our team car, and then we can take bottles from the car. Today, we were all going back for 3 bottles at a time.
The bunch stayed together over the 2nd mountain sprint and the next two sprints. It looked like a field sprint. With 5km to go, we did a hairpin turn onto a newly surfaced road which was completely covered in loose gravel. It was really slippery and dangerous. Gravel was being flicked up in our faces and all over us. I was not very comfortable doing 50km/hr without the ability to move quickly to avoid potential crashes. With 2km to go, the roadworks were over and I tried desperately to get towards the front, along with 70 other girls. The pace had increased to 55km/hr and I was running out of time. I chose the left side of the road, got half way around the bunch and got boxed in by slower sprinters. I had no-where to go. It was most frustrating. My two teammates chose the right, and one got through the bunch to finish in 10th place. The overall GC remained unchanged from this stage.
Friday 23rd June Stage 11 –Firebird Individual Time Trial – 15km
Conditions: 32°C dry, hot weather, light wind
Our time trial started along a straight stretch of road for about 1km and then kicked upwards into a 4km climb. This was definitely a hill to do in the small chain ring (particularly after having raced for 9 days now) which zig zagged up the hill at a 5% gradient. It was a grainy dusty road which was closed to traffic so we could pick the least steep corners to keep the momentum up.
Over the other side, we turned onto a highway and amazingly, had a tailwind. It is not often on this tour, that we’ve had the pleasure of a tailwind, but it was a welcome relief. We rode for 8km on this highway and then turned onto a racing car track for a final lap. This track was ultra smooth and very nice to ride on.
Jeannie Longo rode a great race and was leading the time trial until Lyn Bessette, the last rider to start, beat her by 24 secs. I rode hard but at about 80% of my maximum effort as I plan to give the criterium and last road stage a good go. I have 6mins on the next GC rider and will only move up a spot if I can gain at least 6mins on the 57th placed GC rider.
Saturday 24th June Stage 12 – Idaho Statehouse Criterium – 55.5km
Conditions: 35°C 4pm start.
The criterium was 45 laps which took 1hr 23mins to complete. It was one of the toughest criteriums I’ve done. After 15mins I was really struggling and kept losing my position. After every lap I was further and further back. At the 19min mark, I was dropped and rode about 40m off the back of the bunch. My heartrate was 190 and I was really dying out there. I couldn’t believe I was going to get dropped so early in the race. I knew Bettina wouldn’t be impressed. I stood up and sprinted back to the pack. It really hurt – but I luckily timed it when the pack was easing up and
I finished 44secs down in a bunch sprint. GC has moved to 56th overall.
Sunday 25th June Stage 13 – Middleton to Boise (Hyde Park) – 88.3km
Thankfully today is the last stage. I am starting to feel really tired from continuously preparing for each race, warming up, getting nervous, racing, cooling down, etc.
There was one 4km climb in the stage, with the bunch splitting into several groups up the climb. Within 5km of the hill however, all bunches had reformed and we rode into Boise as one peleton. The five laps of Hyde Park were fast and furious. The crowd lined the circuit 10 deep, so the noise was deafening as we rode through the finish zone. I wasn’t able to force myself into the Saturn lead out and finished 30th in the bunch sprint.
My GC has remained at 56th overall. I guess I am fairly happy with that, however, it is a shame I did so poorly early on in the tour, as it was quite hard to make up this lost time. I did move from 72nd on GC to 56th over the last 7 days which I was really pleased with. This showed that I was gradually finding form and feeling stronger as the tour progressed.