There was no answer to Kirsten Wild (Argos-Shimano) on the third stage of the Ladies' Tour of Qatar, from Al Thakhira to Madinat Al Shamal, as the Dutch woman sprinted to her second win in a row.
Orica-Greenedge threw everything they had at her, as they had done the previous day, when they dominated the race-winning break. On Thursday they were joined on the offensive by Specialized-lululemon, but still it was no good: Wild and her team countered everything.
Specialized have their own rapid finisher in Holland's Ellen van Dijk, but even she was no match for Wild, leading it out but fading as her compatriot thundered past her in the final 100 metres. Giorgia Bronzini, the Italian former world champion riding for the British Wiggle-Honda team, was a distant third.
Wild also took over the gold jersey of race leader after Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products), the winner of stage one, punctured in the final 2km. That ensured the Australian was given the same time as the leaders, but meant she couldn't contest the sprint and scrap for the time bonuses on offer. With just one stage remaining, Wild has a three-second lead.
"That's bike racing, what can I say?" said Hosking. "It's still open, so for sure, I'll contest the intermediate sprints and the finish. And maybe we'll go for another stage win.
"Everyday has been really aggressive. The team was really really good today, we pulled back an early move with Gracie [Elvin, who was second on stage one and second overall at the start of the day] and controlled it. We'll take on Argos tomorrow."
Hosking and Wild had both survived the big crash, after 60km, which came when the bunch turned into a stiff crosswind. "I didn't even see it," said Wild. "At this race I always try to stay at the front and avoid the dangerous points. It's dangerous here with the spots [of sand] on the side and in the middle of the road. I'm not surprised there were some crashes."
Wild also paid tribute to her team. "The girls took control amazingly. I felt so proud being part of the team. In the last circuit, the girls covered it all, then Charlotte Becker led me out.
"Ellen Van Dijk started the sprint, I was on her wheel and I thought, stay there as long as no one is coming. She's so strong, she had such a big gear, I thought ahhhhh. I didn't know if I could pass her."
But she did, to take her haul of stage wins in Qatar to a record five.
Ladies Tour of Qatar 2013, stage three: Al Thakhira to Madinat Al Shamal, 112.5km
1. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Argos-Shimano in 2-28-15
2. Elen Van Dijk (Ned) Specialized-lululemon at same time
3. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Wiggle Honda at 2 secs
4. Marta Tagliaferro (Ita) MCipollini-Giordana at same time
5. Shelley Olds (USA) TIBCO at 4 secs
6. Simona Frapporti (Ita) BePink at 5 secs
7. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon
8. Emma Johansson (Swe) Orica-AIS
9. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica-AIS
10. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Orica-AIS at same time
Overall classification after stage three
1. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Argos-Shimano in 7-30-43
2. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Hitec Products at 3 secs
3. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica-AIS at 16 secs
4. Elen Van Dijk (Ned) Specialized-lululemon at 17 secs
5. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon at 26 secs
6. Emma Johansson (Swe) Orica-AIS at 29 secs
7. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Orica-AIS at 31 secs
8. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Specialized-lululemon at 1-52
9. Marta Tagliaferro (Ita) MCipollini-Giordana at 1-58
10. Lauren Kitchen (Aus) Wiggle-Honda at 2-02
23. Katie Colclough (GBr) Specialized-lululemon at 5-25
Stage two: Kirsten Wild wins
Stage one: Hosking wins Tour of Qatar opener