Wiggle Honda riders make the selection in stage one of the Ladies Tour of Qatar
Gilmore and Kitchen made the decisive break in first stage Tour of Qatar. Team hopeful for remaining stages.
In their very first race together as a team, Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Rochelle Gilmore and Lauren Kitchen both finished safely in the main group at the end of the first stage of the Ladies’ Tour of Qatar, between Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art and Mesaieed, after a hard day in the desert wind. The stage was won by Australian Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products) after she escaped in a group of four riders with just ten kilometres of the 97km stage to go.
The group led by 45 seconds with two kilometres to go but, thanks to hard work from Wiggle Honda’s Kitchen and Argos-Shimano rider Amy Pieters, it was down to just ten seconds as the chasers crossed the line.
“There were teams represented in that front group and it was left with no one else to chase,” Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling directeur sportif Simon Cope explained. “Lauren tried but, when you’re left with one or two riders to try and pull a group back, it just wasn’t going to happen; not that close to the finish.
“For the first race of the year it’s not too bad,” Cope added. “We had two riders in the front group. Originally we had everyone there, but as it got whittled down by a couple of teams a few riders went out the back. But we’re on course for the overall so it’s not bad.”
With the stage heading straight into a fierce headwind for the first 35km, the peloton stayed together until the intermediate sprint at the first crossing the finish line; Gilmore took second place, and two bonus seconds towards the general classification.
It was at this point that the course turned inland, switching the headwind to a crosswind, and the big teams in the race began to apply the pressure. This began to split the peloton into several groups, with the main peloton reduced to around 50 riders; all six of the Wiggle Honda riders were present but, as the race turned back towards the coast with - changing the wind direction again - with around 40km to go, the group split in two and only Gilmore and Kitchen made the front half.
With just 20 riders left at the front of the race it appeared to be heading for a sprint but, with 10km to go, Australian champion Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) attacked, and was joined by Hosking, Lisa Brennauer (Specialized-lululemon) and Liesbet De Vocht (Rabobank-Liv Giant). With several teammates in the chasing group, the four riders were able to build a substantial lead and, despite the best efforts of Kitchen and Pieters, stayed away to contest the stage victory.
With the time bonuses already taken by the breakaway riders, Gilmore decided not to contest the sprint for fifth, in order to save her legs for the stages to come. The Commonwealth Games Champion was 12th on the line - with Kitchen 14th - but, thanks to the two-second bonus taken at the first intermediate sprint, she sits seventh overall, just 20 seconds behind Hoskins.
Anna-Bianca Schnitzmeier and Emily Collins were both victims of crashes early in the stage, but both were able to remount and rejoin the peloton. The rest of the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling team finished in the second peloton, 1’55” behind the stage winner.
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