Sun, sand and a sumptuous five-star hotel: Katie Colclough discovered this week that starting her season at the ladies Tour of Qatar beats a weather-lashing at Het Nieuwsblad.
"I've really enjoyed it. I think I was a lot more excited than everyone else on my team about coming here. It's a life experience," the Specialized-lululemon rider said.
Even the fierce winds and echelons that characterise the racing in the Arab state didn't seem to phase her. "I was brought up in Lincolnshire and it's flat and windy there too," she joked.
The same couldn't be said of a Skil-1t4i rider Colclough saw one day. "She went into a crosswind section, couldn't turn and ended up facing the wrong way, going the opposite direction to the bunch. She turned 180 degrees. I actually laughed out loud," she recalled.
While helpingcaptain Trixi Worrack to a stage win on day two, Colclough placed twelfth herself. However, Worrack couldn't quite overhaul race winner Judith Arndt. "On the last day, we were trying to help Trixi at the sprints and the finish [for bonus seconds]. It didn't quite work out," she said.
The Tour of Qatar is the startpoint of a very important year for 22-year-old Colclough. She is one of the three expected candidates for the fourth and final spot on the Great Britain Olympic road race team, alongside AA Drink riders Lucy Martin and Sharon Laws.
Nicole Cooke, Lizzie Armitstead and Emma Pooley are strong favourites for the other three berths.
Colclough likened racing in Qatar to her experience in Delhi at the Commonwealth Games, and she feels the multi-event experience puts her in good stead for the Olympics.
"It was good to learn how not to get distracted. It's easy with different teams, different countries and a big buffet, but you need to learn to control yourself and realise it's no different to anything else," she said.
Blinking in the Doha sunlight after yesterday's final stage, Colclough is due a reality check.
As the mercury dips below freezing in England, she wondered aloud whether Manchester Airport would still be open for her return.
Related linksArndt seals Tour of Qatar victory
Worrack wins in Qatar
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