Minneapolis, MN- The seventh edition of the Women's Prestige Cycling Series gets underway this week when the Redlands Bicycle Classic begins Thursday in Redlands, Calif.

Defending Women's Prestige Cycling Series individual champion Alison Powers (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) will be a starter at Redlands, as will 2007 Series champion Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12), last year's runner-up and Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 teammate of Abbott, Katharine Carroll, and Katheryn Mattis (Webcor Builders), who was third in the standings last year. Also on the start list for Redlands is past national road champion and 2008 world time trial champion Amber Neben, who will guest ride for the BMW-Bianchi squad.

The retirement of national criterium champion Tina Pic means there will be a new champion in the Sprint competition. Chasing the red jersey are some of the riders who finished in the top five last year, including Joanne Kiesanowski (Team TIBCO/To The Top Pro Cycling), Gina Grain (Webcor Builders) and Powers.

Returning to defend her Best Young Rider jersey is Rebecca Much (Team TIBCO/To The Top Pro Cycling). Abbott, who claimed this title in addition to the overall crown in 2007, will also contend for the white jersey in her final year of eligibility in the competition that rewards riders whose racing age is 25 or younger.

Traditionally, the teams vying for the Series team classification are among the top squads in the nation. This year shapes up to follow that pattern, with defending Women's Prestige Cycling Series champion Team TIBCO/To The Top Pro Cycling returning, along with Powers's Team Vera Bradley Foundation and the well-rounded Webcor Builders and Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 squads.

"With all the roster changes in the off-season, the only thing that's certain is that the competition this year will definitely be fierce," Women's Prestige Cycling Series co-founder David LaPorte said. "Like last year, I expect several of the classifications will not be decided until the final event."

Four events in four different states comprise the Women's Prestige Cycling Series. The other three are: SRAM Tour of the Gila, April 28-May 2 (New Mexico), Nature Valley Grand Prix, June 16-20 (Minnesota) and Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic, July 20-25 (Oregon). The Series awards the top overall individual, best young rider, best sprinter and top team. Clothing manufacturer Champion System provides special jerseys to identify the leaders in the individual classifications.

For more information about the Women's Prestige Cycling Series, visit the official website, www.WomenCyclists.com, or send an e-mail to: [email protected]

About the Women's Prestige Cycling Series

The Women's Prestige Cycling Series was created following input at the 2003 Women's Cycling Summit Conference, hosted at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. The inaugural edition of the Series was held the following year. The goal of the Series is to promote women's racing by giving them a spotlight that they do not have to share with men. The Women's Prestige Cycling Series is considered the heir apparent to the HP International Women's Challenge, a fabled women's stage race that ended its 19-year run in 2003.