Lizzie Armitstead kept her cool under pressure to win stage three of the Ladies Tour of Qatar in windswept Al Khor Corniche this afternoon, and move into the race lead ahead of tomorrow’s final day.
Armitstead started the day second overall behind Boels-Dolmans team-mate Ellen van Dijk, but the gold jersey was at risk at moving to Wiggle-Honda’s Chloe Hosking by virtue of the six bonus seconds she gained at the stage’s two intermediate sprints.
After an uneventful opening hour, conditions became conducive to aggressive racing, but the 26-year-old from Otley remained unflustered as Wiggle and Orica-AIS put on the pressure.
“In the final kilometres I had to do nothing, because I knew I had four girls who could go with everything and attack if they had to,” said Armitstead. “I focused on saving myself for the sprint, and it all worked out.
“We’re very lucky we have Chantal Blaak as our road captain. Ellen and I had itchy feet in the stage, we wanted to try to put it in the gutter, but Chantal kept us calm, and told us what to do.”
Armitstead has never won on the road so early in a pro season before, and the biggest victories in her impressive 2014 season came either on her own (Commonwealth Games road race) or from small groups (Ronde van Drenthe). This win was different.
“I’m fast, but I’m not the fastest,” she said of her sprinting. “I’ve done strength training this winter but not any speed. I didn’t expect to do anything in the sprints here.”
Armitstead and van Dijk have been among the best riders in the race in windy conditions this year, and will need to be in tomorrow’s final stage to Doha’s Corniche. Gusts are expected to be significantly stronger than today for the race, which ends with five laps around the city.
“It’s just about being clever and fast when the wind is strong,” she added. “I just need to make sure I take seconds in the bonuses and have a good sprint.”
Ladies Tour of Qatar 2015: stage three, Souq Waqif to Al Khor Corniche
1. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans 93.5km in 2-27-45
2. Shelly Olds (USA) Bigla Pro Cycling
3. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Rabo-Liv
4. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Wiggle-Honda
5. Pascale Jeuland (Fra) France
6. Lauren Kitchen (Aus) Hitec Products
7. Jolien d’Hoore (Bel) Wiggle-Honda
8. Maria Confalonieri (Ita) Ale Cipollini
9. Emma Johansson (Swe) Orica-AIS
10. Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Velocio-Sram all at st.
Overall classification after three stages
1. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans in 7-35-24
2. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Boels-Dolmans at 0-08
3. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Wiggle-Honda at 0-09
4. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Velocio-Sram at 0-15
5. Emma Johansson (Swe) Orica-AIS at 0-17
6. Jolien d’Hoore (Bel) Wiggle-Honda at 2-14
7. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Velocio-Sram at 2-15
8. Pascale Jeuland (Fra) France
9. Amy Pieters (Ned) Liv-Plantur
10. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica-AIS all at st.