cycling utah July 1999


Hills, speed, crashes, cheaters, buzz-cuts

By Andrea Foster

Sweet! I finished this race and met the goals I had set for myself. First, I am much stronger physically and mentally. Second, I had a top-fifty stage finish and came in with the leaders on three different days. Finally, I maintained a positive outlook throughout the race and thoroughly enjoyed my endeavors. Moreover, I have some tales to tell about what went on and what went down during the 1999 Hewlett Packard International Women's Challenge.

I rode on a composite team -Team Scapin. We were Brenda Black, Jen Dial, Kerry Hellmuth, Andrea Ratkovic-Bowman, Erin Veenstra, and myself. Ken Wood from Bingham's Cyclery was our team manager/mechanic, and Mark Dauenhauer of Wisconsin was our massage therapist.

We met for the first time a day prior to the race. Considering that we were eight people thrown together as a team for twelve days, we were lucky. We got along wonderfully; I suppose we had more fun than any team there. The jokes rolled between us all twelve days. We went skinny dipping in the Snake River after the Team Time Trial.

We worked well together, promising to break our legs up anyone's a** that threatened our top riders' G.C. or team standing. Teammate Andrea Ratkovic-Bowman came to this race with newly dyed blue/purple hair. By the last few days the color was fading and looking rather gray. So I borrowed my brother's clippers, and we shaved her head. The press made light of her radical hair -or lack thereof -as she was awarded 10th place G.C. and Most Aggressive Rider. Ratkovic-Bowman, Veenstra, and Dial had top-fifteen stage finishes, which can be found at

None of our team crashed, though there were plenty of spills to go around. A couple crashes occurred going uphill -something I never thought possible and still do not understand! The most massive crash went down as we tore out of Massacre Rocks State Park on the way to Pomerelle Ski Resort (stage eight).

On a slight decline the pack was chasing a small break that went from the gun. The pavement was patchy, and an Ebly rider swerved to miss a pothole. I was in the back half of the pack, seeing the tide of crash mania rippling towards me. I was able to stop and avoid going down with everyone around me. The wreckage was so massive across the road that I had to dismount and run through the carnage. That stage turned into an all-out chase after those up front who had avoided the crash. I cannot stress enough the importance of riding at the front of the pack.

Riding at the front was not a problem for me until it came to the hills. I thought I had buffed out my hill-climbing ability in preparation for this season. While I may have improved over last year, I have a ways to go to climb with the likes of Jeannie Longo, Linda Jackson, and Alison Dunlap. The 5-6% grade hills that would span anywhere from five to twenty miles during several of the stages left me dropping off the back and wishing I were not so spankable. I should look into Mari Holden's hill training regimen. Not traditionally known as a hill-climber, Holden won this year's Green Mountain Jersey.

I was able to hang with the speed of the pack on the longer, flatter stages. I searched for a spot in the sprint line-up as we screamed into Idaho City from Kuna (69.5 miles). Though I did not weasel into contention for the sprint, I was thrilled to finish same time with the leaders for the first stage. Stage seven, 109 miles from Pocatello to American Falls, was a turn-around point for me during the race. I had struggled over the first few days, but by mile eighty of this longest stage I felt excellent. And finally, my best day came on the final stage from Middleton to Hyde Park (50.6 miles) - a course I knew well from training. I stayed at the front all day and chased down breaks that menaced our 10th place G.C. rider, Andrea Ratkovic-Bowman. I reaped the benefits of being up front going into the circuit of Hyde Park's narrow streets and corners and finished 40th.

While criterium racing has been my favorite event. I learned a new tactic during the stage 12 Statehouse Criterium from 1992 Olympic medallist Kathy Watt.

In Watt's case, cheating pays. Teammates Brenda Black, Kerry Hellmuth, and I worked furiously with Watt to pull our 20-woman chase group after the main pack, which was in turn chasing a breakaway that included Anna Wilson and eventual stage winner Ina Teutenburg.

With 18 laps to go, our cause was lost as the peloton passed us and the official whistled and instructed us off the course. Watt ignored the call and jumped in with the peloton as they passed. Six teams protested, and the chief official denied them all!

As a result, Watt received pack time, which put her in 14th G.C. Had she obeyed the official and received the pro-rated time that we did, she would have been far out of contention. All talk among riders, mechanics and managers alike for the next 12 hours centered on Watt's flagrant disregard for the officials and similar stunts of hers from the past.

The 1999 Hewlett Packard Women's Challenge was unique in its location, its blend of international competitors, and its challenges (who ever thought of placing a mile of 13% grade at the beginning of a 40K ITT?). I saw panoramas of Idaho and met generous locals along the way. I became acquainted with cycling greats Rebecca Twigg, Jeanne Golay, Linda Jackson, Jeannie Longo, Tracy Gaudrey, Petra Rossner, Mari Holden, and many, many others. Best of all, my racing benefited tremendously from 12 consecutive days of competing with the world's best cyclists. My first go at the Challenge certainly has me excited to race here again next year.

Editor's Note: Andrea finished 98th out of 128 starters and 107 finishers, including 40th place in stage 13. She finished at 1:33.44 off of winner Jeannie Longo. She helped Team Scapin to 11th of 21 teams in the team competition as teammate Andrea Ratkovic-Bowman, Team Scapin, finished 10th at 10.28. Brooke Blackwelder, Goldy's, of Boise finished 76th, including 7th in the Hotspot Sprints and 15th in the points competition. Theresa Korn, also of Idaho, dropped out in stage 7.

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