Who will be the new queen of the desert?
The Ladies Tour of Qatar, a not-to-be missed event at the start of the cycling season, will be holding its 7th edition this year. In the absence of Kirsten Wild, a four times winner of the race (in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014), the competition seems more open than ever, all the more so since most of the leading lights of the women’s pack have already announced their presence in Doha from 3rd to 6th February to do battle on the windy roads of the Qatari emirate…
With one year to go before the world road cycling championships that will take place for the first time in Qatar, 90 riders (15 teams of 6) will be arriving in Doha in several days’ time. The race represents an opportunity to test their legs during pursuits over terrains blasted by the wind before the sprinters take centre stage on the final straight. With four stages on the menu, there will be plenty of opportunities for the riders to lay down a marker to the competition, pick up a stage win or even try and conquer this prestigious stage race. The battle for the leader’s jersey promises to be especially open this year in the absence of the formidable Kirsten Wild, four times winner of the race and nine times winner of stages in the emirate. There are many pretenders to the Dutchwoman’s crown this year, which promises a titanic struggle and suspense that will last right up until the last day on the Doha corniche!
Led by British rider Lizzie Armitstead, the UCI world cup winner and a gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games last year, as well as Dutchwoman Ellen Van Dijk, winner of the Ladies Tour of Qatar in 2011, the Boels Dolmans Cycling Team has especially good chances of success, as does the Wiggle Honda team led by Italian sprinter Giorgia Bronzini, a two times world champion and runner-up on this race in 2009 and 2010, who will be supported by Australian Chloe Hosking, twice the leading young rider on the event (in 2012 and 2013) and always well placed in the most recent years (5th in 2012, 2nd in 2013, 3rd in 2014).
However, they will have to keep a watchful eye on the riders of the Orica-AIS team, one of the biggest in the women’s pack and best team on the Ladies Tour last year, which boasts in its ranks none other than Sweden’s Emma Johansson, world number 1 in 2013, and Italian Valentina Scandolara, winner of the Santos Women’s Tour (the women’s Tour Down Under) just several days ago. Also, strong individual talents should not be forgotten, like Amy Pieters (2nd last year), Lisa Brennauer (world time-trial champion and world championship runner-up in 2014) or Lucinda Brand (Plouay Grand Prix winner in 2014), who all can legitimately lay claim to the status of pretender to become queen of the desert…
15 teams: the leading riders
Australia Australian national team: Wells (Aus) Orica – AIS: Johansson (Swe), Elvin (Aus), Scandalora (Ita)
Belgium Topsport Vlaanderen Pro-Duo: Druyts (Bel)
France French national team (FRA): Jeuland (Fra)
Germany Velocio SRAM: Brennauer (Ger), Cromwell (Aus), Worrack (Ger)
Great Britain Wiggle Honda: Bronzini (Ita), Hosking (Aus), Longo Borghini (Ita)
Hong-Kong China Chongming Liv – Champion System Pro: Jiang (Chn)
Italy Ale Cipollini: Tagliaffero (Ita) Italian national team: Cecchini, Ratto (Ita)
Netherlands Boels Dolmans: Armitstead (GB), Van Dijk (NL) Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team: Brand (NL), Gillow (Aus) Team Liv Plantur: Pieters (NL), Garner (GB)
Norway Hitec Products: Kitchen (Aus), Guderzo (Ita)
Switzerland Bigla Pro Cycling Team: Olds (USA)
USA Team Optum P/B Kelly Benefit Strategies: Kirchmann (Can)
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