The Women's Challenge bicycle race (originally known as the Ore-Ida Women's Challenge, after its leading sponsor of "Ore-Ida" brand frozen potato products) was held annually in the western United States in southern Idaho, beginning in 1984 until its demise in 2002. Later primary sponsors were PowerBar and Hewlett-Packard.
During much of its 19-year history, it was the most prestigious women's cycle race in North America. From 1995, when it first obtained sanctioning from the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the international governing body for cycling, it developed into one of the strongest races in the world, attracting numerous World and Olympic Champions. Prior to that, in 1990, the UCI had refused to sanction the event, citing as their reason the "excessive climbing, stage distances, number of stages, and duration of event." The race that year was 17 stages and 663 miles (1,067 km), won by Inga Thompson.
The following year (1991) marked the debut on the international scene of a team representing Lithuania, which had just recently declared its independence and was still awaiting recognition as a country. Professionals were allowed to compete beginning in 1993.
The race, which was run almost entirely by volunteers, set a very high standard in terms of technical administration and conduct of the race itself. Jim Rabdau, the race founder, served as chief organizer of the race throughout its entire history.
By the late 1990s, the race was able to attract sufficient sponsorship money to offer the richest prize fund ever in women's cycling and, for a while, was the richest prize fund race in North America, men's or women's. At its peak, it offered $125,000 in prizes.
However, cuts in sponsorship forced a reduction in prize money to $75,000 in its last year (2002) and no title sponsor could be found to replace the outgoing sponsor for the following year, forcing the cancellation of the race. Race organizers cited a downturn in the economy as the reason.
Women's Challenge winners
|Year||1st Place||2nd Place||3rd Place|
|1984||Rebecca Twigg (USA)||Cindy Olavarri (USA)||Inga Thompson (USA)|
|1985||Rebecca Twigg (USA)||Inga Thompson (USA)||Sally Kittredge (USA)|
|1986||Rebecca Twigg (USA)||Madonna Harris (NZL)||Susan Ehlers (USA)|
|1987||Inga Thompson (USA)||Katrin Tobin (USA)||Susan Ehlers (USA)|
|1988||Katrin Tobin (USA)||Jane Marshall (USA)||Sara Neil (CAN)|
|1989||Lisa Brambani (GBR)||Ruthie Matthes (USA)||Jane Marshall (USA)|
|1990||Inga Thompson (USA)||Ruthie Matthes (USA)||Lisa Brambani (GBR)|
|1991||Jeannie Longo (FRA)||Dede Demet (USA)||Diana Cepeliene (LTU)|
|1992||Eve Stephenson (USA)||Inga Thompson (USA)||Jeanne Golay (USA)|
|1993||Jeanne Golay (USA)||Eve Stephenson (USA)||Karen Kurreck (USA)|
|1994||Clara Hughes (CAN)||Anne Samplonius (CAN)||Karen Kurreck (USA)|
|1995||Dede Demet (USA)||Jeanne Golay (USA)||Mari Holden (USA)|
|1996||Anna Wilson (AUS)||Clara Hughes (CAN)||Dede Demet (USA)|
|1997||Rasa Polikevičiūtė (LTU)||Linda Jackson (CAN)||Zulfiya Zabirova (RUS)|
|1998||Linda Jackson (CAN)||Valentina Polkhanova (RUS)||Diana Žiliūtė (LTU)|
|1999||Jeannie Longo (FRA)||Mari Holden (USA)||Zulfiya Zabirova (RUS)|
|2000||Anna Wilson (AUS)||Diana Žiliūtė (LTU)||Sarah Ulmer (NZL)|
|2001||Lyne Bessette (CAN)||Judith Arndt (GER)||Rasa Polikevičiūtė (LTU)|
|2002||Judith Arndt (GER)||Genevieve Jeanson (CAN)||Kim Bruckner (USA)|
- "Women's Challenge canceled". Velo News. January 27, 2003. Retrieved October 12, 2014.
- Finkel, Michael (June 16, 1997). "The Ultimate Torture". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
- "Thompson wins Ore-Ida race". Idahonian. (Moscow). Associated Press. July 9, 1990. p. 3B.
- "Lithuanians win at Ore-Ida". Idahonian. (Moscow). Associated Press. June 25, 1991. p. 8A.
- "Cycling race reborn - with pros". Spokesman Review. Spokane, Washington. June 21, 1993. p. C2.
- Stephen, Marti (April 17, 2008). "Rabdau reflects on the Women's Challenge". Velo News. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
- "Women's Challenge bikers arrive Tuesday". Idaho Mountain Express. (Ketchum). June 12, 2002. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
- "Twigg leads Idaho bicycle race". Deseret News. Salt Lake City. Associated Press. July 11, 1985. p. 6D.