May 11, 2005 – Two-time winner Lynne Bessette will seek to regain the top spot on the podium in the upcoming Tour de l’Aude, which kicks off this Friday and will wind through castle country in the south of France from May 13 through 22. Bessette, who last claimed top spot in the race in 2001, will be part of a Canadian contingent that, while weakened by injuries, will seek to end three straight years of Australian dominance in one of the premier women’s stage races in the world.
Bessette, who rides for Elicycle/Sports Experts/Louis Garneau, is beginning the first year of a more multi-disciplinary approach that she hopes will bring her back to the top in time for the Beijing Olympics. Joining Bessette will be:
– Erinne Willock (Victoria BC), Webcor’s young climbing ace is making a return to Aude seeking to improve on last year’s excellent 15th place overall. The hills of Aude should suit her well in what has often been a breakout race for up and coming Canadian stars.
– Felicia Greer, Webcor’s “neo-veteran”, who at age 35 is starting only her third full season in cycling. The Fresno, CA resident and physiology professor from Fresno State is seeking to build on solid results last year, including two wins.
– Leigh Hobson (Cambridge ON), who is making a return to the race for the first time since 2000. The Ontario provincial road champ last year, Leigh has finished as high as 15th in the 1998 edition and 18th the year after.
– Lisa Sweeney (Vancouver BC), who in riding at Aude will accomplish what she had described as a long-term goal a little ahead of schedule. After completing her bachelors degree in biochemistry last year, Sweeney is hoping to make 2005 a watershed year.
Late withdrawals on the Canadian team included Sue Palmer and Amy Moore, who are recovering from illness, as well as Laura Yoisten and Gina Grain, who are suffering from a broken collarbone and rib, respectively, subsequent to a crash at the Pan-Am Games.
The race begins on what riders hope will be a lucky Friday the 13th with a 4km prologue in the medieval town of Gruissan, and will end on Sunday the 22nd with highlight stages being the 28km time trial on the 18th and severe climbing tests on Friday the 20th and in the final stage.