Former World time trial champion Ellen van Dijk took the honours in Madinat Al Shamal in today’s third stage at the Ladies Tour of Qatar. The Dutchwoman broke clear of nine remaining escapees in the final kilometre and crossed the line alone.
For the second consecutive day, crosswinds wreaked havoc, shredding the peloton within five kilometres, after which the winning break was fully established. Katrin Garfoot (Orica-AIS), who began the day wearing the leader’s gold jersey, was shelled from the group almost immediately as echelons formed.
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Also absent from the leading group, was any representation from Wiggle-High 5. They arrived in the Gulf with high hopes and a number of riders who had raced in the Australian summer.
Persistent efforts to catch the break nearly paid off, when they came within 40 seconds on the break. But, on the last of four passes of 13.5km finishing circuit, the lead went and with it Wiggle’s GC aspirations.
The team will start tomorrow’s final stage one rider down, after Welsh rider Amy Roberts failed to make the time limit and was ejected from the race, one of six who failed to finish.
“I started off well in what was then the second group,” she explained afterwards. “Then I went backwards and backwards and ended up in a big group. When we came onto a cross wind bit I lost it all. I just went. Once you lose it in there’s no getting back and I had nothing.”
“It’s ridiculous, you don’t realise how hard it is, especially on a day like this with how windy it is. It was horrible. Once you get in the echelon and in a group you can work, it’s not too bad, but if you miss it by a split second that’s it.”
Roberts had not been scheduled to ride in Qatar, but took her place at the last minute following an injury to team mate Audrey Cordon.
“I rode the Tour Down Under and then Cadel’s race and my connecting flight home was to Doha. Rochelle [Gilmore, team manager] was waiting and we heard that Audrey had broken her collarbone so I had to stay. I had to make sure my bags didn’t go on the flight to London and we had to make sure they brought a bike for me, so it was all last minute.”
At only 21, Roberts’ career has been largely track based until now, this year, however will see a change of focus.
“I think I needed bit of a change,” she told Cycling Weekly. “I was just outside the Olympic team on the track, so I thought for me it would be better to concentrate on the road and have one focus. I’ve had a good winter of training which has been different but hopefully it’s the right decision.”
With less then 30 road race days in the last two seasons Roberts still has plenty to learn and her experience this week will do nothing but help. “It’s definitely a huge learning curve and it’s a good experience to be here. I’m happy and it’s not like I felt really really bad, it was just missing things and learning from the experience.”
Van Dijk’s win was a carbon copy of her victory in the same town last year. In a pre-planned move the 28 year old broke clear with little more than a kilometre to race.
“I felt strong yesterday and the day before,” she told reporters. “But it’s hard to make a profit of it when you’re not a sprinter. I knew today was probably my last chance and I really wanted to play out here today and go full gas, but play it smart and wait for the right moment, so it worked out well.”
Finishing fifth today, German Trixi Worrack (Canyon-SRAM) now leads the general classification before tomorrow’s 73 km final stage which finishes on the Doha Corniche.
Ladies Tour Qatar 2016, stage three
1. Ellen Van Dijk (Ned) Boels-Dolmans in 2-48-56
2. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Hitec Products at 7 secs
3. Lauretta Hanson (Aus) Australia
4. Anouska Koster (Ned) Rabo-Liv at same time
5. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Canyon SRAM at 8 secs
6. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica-AIS at 11 secs
7. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon-SRAM at 13 secs
8. Romy Kasper (Ger) Boels-Dolmans at 19 secs
9. Shelley Olds (USA) Cylance Pro Cycling at 24 secs
10. Christine Majerus (Lux) Boels-Dolmans at 45 secs
General classification after stage three
1. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Canyon-SRAM in 8-15-28
2. Romy Kasper (Ger) Boels-Dolmans at 17 secs
3. Ellen Van Dijk (Ned) Boels-Dolmans at 31 secs
4. Katrin Garfoot (Aus) Orica-AIS at 34 secs
5. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica-AIS at 50 secs
6. Amy Pieters (Ned) Wiggle-High 5 at 53 secs
7. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon-SRAM at 56 secs
8. Lauretta Hanson (Aus) Australia at 1-32
9. Anouska Koster (Ned) Rabo-Liv at 1-34
10. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Wiggle-High 5 at 1-42