After a successful inaugural year in 2004, the U.S. Women's Prestige Cycling Series will run according to an identical program in 2005, starting with the PoolGel Redlands Bicycle Classic from March 31-April 3 and finishing with the CD&P Bermuda Grand Prix from September 22-25. The Nature Valley Grand Prix (June 8-12) and International Tour de 'Toona (July 25-31) will comprise the middle two rounds of the four round series. The CD&P Bermuda Grand Prix will again be a prize for the teams, with the top ten teams after the International Tour de Toona to receive housing and a travel subsidy to Bermuda.
Lyne Bessette, who won the individual title in 2004, appears to be out of the picture due to a 2005 program that includes mountain bike racing and racing for a number of different road teams. 2004 runner up Katrina Grove has retired from the sport, leaving third-place finisher Susan Palmer-Komar (Colavita/Cooking Light) as the highest placed rider returning to the series. However, only 30 points separated third through sixth in 2004, which should make for a much tighter race in 2005. Also look for a challenge from Quark Cycling's new recruit Annette Beutler, winner of the Nature Valley Grand Prix's challenging Stillwater Criterium in 2004.
Gina Grain (Victory Brewing) will return as the defending champion of the sprint competition. Grain won handily in 2004, despite missing the Tour de 'Toona. She'll face a stiff challenge from Quark Cycling's duo of Laura Van Gilder and Tina Pic. Ina Teutenberg (T-Mobile), who's returning from an injury that limited her 2004 season, may also be a contender.
There's no clear front runner for the series' Best Young Rider competition. Kate Sherwin (Victory Brewing), winner in 2004, will be 26 in 2005 and so is too "old" for this division. favourites include Bermuda Grand Prix champion Lauren Franges (Victory Brewing) and Erinne Willock (Webcor Builders), 2nd and 3rd in 2004, and 2004 World Junior silver medalist Rebecca Much (T-Mobile).
The team competition is also wide open in 2005. Equipe Rona dominated in 2004 but was disbanded at the end of the season. Teams that have already committed for 2005 include Quark Cycling, Victory Brewing, Webcor Builders, Ford-Basis Cycling, Colavita/Cooking Light, CRCA/Aquafina, TDS-Schwalbe and Team Diet Cheerwine.
More information: www.womencyclists.com