Jane Ciprelli, whose overall lead through eight stages of the Ore-Ida Women's Challenge has been trimmed to 31 seconds, charged that U.S. cyclists are ganging up on her because she's a foreigner.
The U.S. cyclists, many of whom will be in Utah next week for the U.S. Cycling Championships, said Thursday that while they would prefer an American wins, their goal is simply to keep Ciprelli of Team Weight Watchers from running away with the eighth annual Women's Challenge."I thought things had changed but they haven't," said Ciprelli, 32, the legendary French champion who retired in October 1989 but returned for the Idaho race.
"When there is a foreign leader, they (U.S. cyclists) don't care about their classification (standing). They're just here to beat the foreign leader."
"Do I want an American to win? said Sally Zack of Team Shaklee-Ritchey. "Well, since I'm American through and through, why not? But since she's got the lead, we're trying to catch her."
Thursday's stage, the 68-mile Portneuf River-Arbon Valley Road Race, was a southeastern Idaho roller-coaster ride that included rain, headwinds, tailwinds, crosswinds, missed turns, a broken elbow and a decisive breakaway.
Tea Vikstedt-Nyman of Finland, a Weight Watchers teammate of Ciprelli's, won the stage in 2:47.01 despite sliding through a turn. Daiva Tchepeliene of Team Lithuania was second followed by TGI Friday's Dede Demet and Jan Bolland of Team Shaklee-Ritchey.
Demet, of Milwaukee, Wis., is second overall. She picked up two minutes and 12 seconds in Thursday's stage. Tchepeliene is third, trailing Ciprelli by 53 seconds.
TGI Friday's, Lithuania and Team Kahlua lead the team competition in the 11-stage, 588-mile race.
Ciprelli, who finished eighth Thursday, said U.S. riders blocked her throughout the stage.
"That's part of bicycle racing," said Henny Top, the U.S. women's national coach. "That's the game. If an American team was in France, I'm sure the French would be against us. It goes both ways."
Joann Burke of Team Kiwi broke an elbow when she crashed on a turn. It was doubtful whether she would continue the race.