cycling utah June 1999

Local racer stepping up to the Challenge

By Andrea Foster

The Ore-Ida International Women's Challenge began in Idaho in 1984 as an annual event for competitive female cyclists. After a number of title sponsors, it is now the Hewlett Packard LaserJet Women's Challenge. This year's affair will bring cycling's superheroes from around the world to compete for glory, UCI points, and mammoth amounts of prize money. This year I will know what it is to compete in this event.

I took up road racing as my days of competitive running waned, and the Women's Challenge caught my attention. Watching various stages of this race inspired me to attain the skills and fitness necessary to compete with these women. This January I was thrilled to receive an invitation to do so with the Pedaler's composite team. But I had doubts about whether I could step up to bat with 1999's event being twelve days and 693 miles long.

But no matter, I have always been one to go for it with respect to training. John, my husband, and I headed down to St. George, Utah for three weeks in January to ride innumerable hours and miles. Those three weeks were the perfect initiation for my season; the base I gained has allowed me to recover more efficiently from hard efforts, race long distances more easily, and train more consistently. Since then, I have increased my strength and speed via various interval workouts, and I have worked faithfully upon improving my hill climbing. During the last couple of months, I simulated stage racing with back-to-back days of intense training right around weekend races. It has been exhausting, but now that I am tapering, I feel good about my preparation and fitness for the Women's Challenge.

Training cannot replace the racing experience that I lack in comparison to most of the women with whom I will be competing. This is where local Idaho friends like Kim Boester and Brooke Blackwelder are invaluable. Kim has done the Challenge four times and has finished top forty, but does not have time to this year. She has given me bundles of tips about many of the courses. Brooke, 32, was on the National Team, has raced all over the world, and is competing in her fifth Women's Challenge on composite team Voler/Goldy's Bistro. Her advice as the 1994 Goodwill Games Criterium Points Gold Medalist and 1993 Idaho International Women's Challenge Sprint Champion and Most Aggressive Rider has been refreshing. She has prepped me on which groups to stick with throughout the stages and how to stay mentally fresh.

I am fortunate that an event of such prestige takes place in the local beauty of Idaho and that I have the opportunity to compete in it this year. My teammates for the race -Brenda Black, Kerry Hellmuth, Andrea Ratkovic-Bowman, Jen Dial, and Erin Veenstra and I- have worked arduously to be the best we can be. I have adjusted my own expectations a few times to insure that I have a positive and successful experience, and I anticipate frequent mental checks throughout the race. My goals are to finish strong and enjoy what I am doing every day and come out of this race tougher than ever. My dream is to have one or two top fifty stage placings. While I may not become one of cycling's superheroes during the Women's Challenge, I am excited to race among them.

Editor's Note: Look for Andrea's race diary in the July issue of Cycling Utah.

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