Ore-Ida Women's Challenge / by Molly Schiot

The Women's Challenge bicycle race (most commonly known as the Ore-Ida Women's Challenge, after its leading sponsor of "Ore-Ida" brand frozen potato products) was held annually in and around southern Idaho, beginning in 1984 until its demise in 2002. 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 Cyclist Internationale, the international governing body for cycling, it developed into one of the strongest races in the world, attracting numerous World and Olympic Champions. 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.

The Women's Challenge bicycle race (most commonly known as the Ore-Ida Women's Challenge, after its leading sponsor of "Ore-Ida" brand frozen potato products) was held annually in and around southern Idaho, beginning in 1984 until its demise in 2002. 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 Cyclist Internationale, the international governing body for cycling, it developed into one of the strongest races in the world, attracting numerous World and Olympic Champions. 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.