SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (September 14, 2003)-World class bicycle racing made
its return to the city by the bay Sunday morning as the T-Mobile International
took over the streets of San Francisco. The race, formerly known as the San
Francisco Grand Prix, is considered to be the toughest one-day race in America.
Under the moniker of the T-Mobile International for the first time in the race's
three-year history, women took center stage in an early morning contest in the
dense fog and cool temperatures characteristic of San Francisco.
For the first time the women were able to face the same course as the men,
nearly 50 miles that included 18% grades, testing the mettle of some of the best
women in the world, including World Cup titlist Nicole Cooke, former World
Champion Diana Ziliute and Tour de L’Aude winner Judith Arndt, and of course
the strong teams of both T-Mobile and Saturn.
The grueling course, a 49.6-mile jaunt through the streets of San Francisco,
was expected to cause a race of attrition thanks to the four trips up the
infamous Fillmore Street. Add to that five times up the equally steep and
challenging Taylor Street and only the strongest women in the peloton would be
present at the end.
As early morning runners and recreational cyclists enjoyed the run rising
over the bay, splashing onto 140 women lined on
under the jumbotron TV. Although a startlingly early start at
, spectators began to line the streets, enjoying the cool air before the heat
settled on the city. With the smell of the fish and salt in the air, the
race got off to a brisk start with everyone eager to get to the main feature of
the day – the leg busting climb on Fillmore. Prior to getting there the
women raced two laps of a 1.3 mile loop and a one mile of a five mile lap
climb. As the women worked their way through the first 8 miles of the
race it was clear there was no hesitancy as the group headed out of the wharf
area to do battle in the streets of the city.
The race began with Ina Teutenberg (Saturn) launching a solo attack that was
soon caught, only to be followed by a small break that again contained
Teutenberg along with Katia Longhin (Acca Due) and Kristin Armstrong (T-Mobile).
As the trio approached the base of the Fillmore climb for the second time they
were absorbed by the field as everyone worked to position themselves at the
front of the peloton. With several T-Mobile team members on the front, led by
Dede Barry, Kristin Armstrong and Mari Holden (Colorado Springs, Colo.) the
field continued to lose members off the back as the pace intensified up the
impossibly steep inclines.
After cresting Fillmore Street for the second time, a natural selection of
roughly 50 riders had formed with all of the pre-race favorites present. As the
field made its way through some of San Francisco's most famous districts such as
North Beach, the Embarcadero, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Presidio, the peloton
was assaulted by a frenzy of attacks in an aggressive display of determination
in search of a victory. T-Mobile instigated, or was present in, most of the
attempts, but each time the feared climb up Fillmore approached, the field
managed to come together.
As the main group tackled Fillmore Street for the third time, a small group
which included perhaps the three strongest women in the bunch, Barry, Cooke, and
Ziliute, began to sneak off the front shortly after the summit. Looking as if
this move had the gas to succeed, Ziliute crashed on the ensuing descent
resulting in a trip to the hospital for an injured knee. With one-third of the
horsepower gone from the break, the remaining field quickly caught up.
But again Cooke went on the climb, this time Mactier went with her. The
group became seven riders, and not liking their odds, the Saturn Team had
Mactier sit on. In the final lap, the Saturn Team still had sprinter Laura
Van Gilder, Amy Moore, and Manon Jutras in the bunch. Moore and Jutras dialed up
the pace, bringing back the 40 second gap in time to recover before the final
climb. Cooke, content to wait until the road went up, paced herself in the
group. Hitting the base of the climb the young rider stomped on the pedals
and the gap widened, shattering the field. Over the top, Demet-Barry tried
to make it on her own, with Mactier and Arndt chasing hard behind to try and
reclaim time lost, but Cooke was in full cry for the finish line. Coming
around the final corner it was clear she would chalk up another impressive
victory to pad her already sizable list for the 2003 season. Mactier
dashed to the line coming around Arndt for second, and a strong finish for the
Barry, known for her aggression on the bike, was disappointed with her
placing afterwards but raved about the event and the support of T-Mobile in
bringing world class women's racing to San Francsico. "I knew Nicole would
attack on the last lap and when she went, I gave it everything I had to go with
her, but she just had so much snap," said Barry. "She is just so
strong right now and it showed. It was hard because I was eight seconds behind
her for so long and just couldn't make it up to her. I was racing for the win,
not second place, so when the others caught me I didn't have anything left for
the sprint. T Mobile's support of this event and the team is unbelievable, not
only for women, but for cycling as a whole."
For many the T-Mobile International marked the end of their season, but for
the top riders, like Cooke, Mactier, Arndt and Ziliute, this race was the
perfect preparation for the upcoming World Championships, held in
Photos of Sunday's T-Mobile International are available at the USA Cycling picture