British rider takes Jebel Hafeet QOM, deletes Strava file

Claire Steels's bike was the fastest to the summit, but she wasn't riding it

Claire Steels finishing on Jebel Hafeet
(Image credit: Getty)

Israel Premier Tech Roland rider Claire Steels looked puzzled when she was told she had taken the Strava QOM at the top of Jebel Hafeet. 

At the UAE Tour Women, the 36-year-old had climbed to an impressive 11th place on Saturday’s third stage. The ride, however, had been far from smooth. 

“I had mechanical issues at the bottom, so had to stop a couple of times,” she told Cycling Weekly at the start of stage four. “It was just an issue with the bike. The gears jammed, the chain jammed, I couldn’t pedal.

“The group was getting further and further away. I closed a little bit, then had to stop, closed a little bit, then had to stop again.”

Steels’s account of the climb sounded nothing like a smooth stab at the QOM. So how, given the dominance of Trek-Segafredo duo Gaia Realini and Elisa Longo-Borghini, did she take the segment? 

Well, as it turns out, she didn’t. After Steels finished her pre-race interviews, one of her Israel Premier Tech Roland mechanics approached Cycling Weekly.

What had really happened, he explained, was that after Steels's first mechanical, her bike, along with her GPS computer, was loaded onto the team car. From there, it was driven to the finish line with her ride data still recording. Her bike may have gotten to the finish fastest, but she wasn’t on it. 

Strava top five on Jebel Hafeet

All of the top five Strava times on Jebel Hafeet were taken at the UAE Tour Women. 

(Image credit: Strava)

In the end, the 9.22km segment went to Realini, who had powered clear on stage three with her team-mate and compatriot Longo Borghini in tow. The 21-year-old's climb time of 30 minutes and six seconds now stands as the fastest ever recorded by a woman on the platform, over a minute quicker than second-placed Esmée Peperkamp of Team DSM. 

Steels has since deleted her Strava file - which gave a time of 29 minutes and 46 seconds - so as to not influence the leaderboards. 

Asked if she was bothered about the QOM, the former duathlete came across as nonplussed. “At the end of the day, it’s a Strava segment, isn’t it?" she said. "It’s not a race result."

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.