Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling endured a tough day in the wind in the opening stage of the 2014 Ladies’ Tour of Qatar, between Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art and the town of Mesaieed, as a 20-strong group of riders escaped to contest the victory.
Midway through the flat, 97km stage, as the course turned 90 degrees, the peloton split into several pieces, with the black and orange team just missing out.
Defending champion Kirsten Wild (Liv-Shimano) won the stage, ahead of Shelley Olds (Alé-Cipollini) and Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products). Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s manager Rochelle Gilmore was the team’s best finisher, crossing the line in the second group, alongside teammates Charlotte Becker and Giorgia Bronzini, 53 seconds behind the winner.
“Giorgia and Peta Mullens were the last ones to be dropped off the front group, and Lotte and I managed to close the gap to them, but it was a bit of a tough moment,” Gilmore said. “The front bunch was going away from us and obviously, because Giorgia was in that group, nobody else wanted to work, and we weren’t as strong as the 20 in the front that was working.
“We missed the split and there just weren’t enough people that were interested in closing it, so it just went away,” Gilmore added. “We were capable of being there, but we were maybe a bit too relaxed.”
In a race where splits in the peloton can widen to several minutes, the efforts of Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s riders - along with those of RusVelo and, latterly, Rabo-Liv - managed to limit the front group’s advantage to less than a minute.
“I had a pain in my leg today, but it’s the first race of the season on the road,” said Bronzini. “Everything happened on one corner, and the race was gone.
“I think it was my fault as I didn’t talk to the girls before the corner, to ask them to stay next to me, and try to be in front of me. The wind had been from the right side so, because we were turning to the right, I was expecting the wind to be from the front. I didn’t want to be at the front because I was expecting it to be a headwind, but it was a crosswind.
“I tried to get into the line, but I am Bronzini, so they didn’t leave me a space, and that’s normal” the former two-time road World champion added. “My legs were sore, but that’s normal for me for the first day of a stage race. I’m pretty sure that in the next days, all will be better.”
With Wild also taking time bonuses Gilmore, Becker and Bronzini trail by 1’09” in the general classification. Despite the gold jersey being all-but out of reach, however, Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling still has high hopes for the remaining three stages.
“Obviously, we’re all pretty disappointed, but we’ll just change our goals now to just stages,” Gilmore concluded. “GC’s out of reach, so we’ll just race a bit differently now.”
1. Kirsten Wild (Liv-Shimano)
2. Shelley Olds (Alé-Cipollini)
3. Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products)
37. Rochelle Gilmore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
42. Charlotte Becker (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
43. Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)