Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Charlotte Becker sprinted to third place at the end of the second stage of the 2014 Ladies Tour of Qatar, between Al Zubara and Madinat Al Shamal, as part of a four-rider breakaway.
The quartet escaped from a much larger, 21-strong group in the last of four 13.5km finishing circuits but, having worked hard for much of the 112.5km, Becker was unable to challenge Amy Pieters (Liv-Shimano) at the finish, and was narrowly beaten into third by Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv).
Giorgia Bronzini, Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s former two-time road World champion, also made the break, and was able to mark the chasers as Becker’s wining quartet escaped.
“It started directly from the start, but I thought it would be something like this because the wind was really bad,” Becker explained. “It was hectic, like always, because all the girls want to be in front, but it was good for me to see all the other girls bring Giorgia to the front.
“After five or six kilometres the break was gone, and I was happy that I could make it, and that Giorgia made it too.”
Having broken clear, and with most of the race’s strong teams represented, the group of 21 riders worked well together to build up a decisive lead over the rest of the peloton. Only when the finish line approached did the break’s co-operation begin to falter and efforts began to split the group.
“In the last 40km some didn’t want to work any more, and the attacking started,” said Becker. “The gap was so big then that nobody was scared that we would get caught. The plan was that Giorgia would stay a little bit with Kirsten [Wild - the stage one winner and race leader], and I would follow the attacks, and I think we did it pretty well.
“We were four girls, and three of us were working,” the former German champion added. “It was clear in the beginning that Amy Pieters didn’t work because of Kirsten. That was okay, but for me it was pretty sure that I couldn’t win the race because Amy was just sitting on, because she was obviously in good shape, and also a bit better.
“I was thinking ‘should I work now, for second place?’ but in the end I decided that Anna van der Breggen and the Lithuanian girl [RusVelo’s Inga Cilvinaite] were also working really hard so I just kept on working.”
With Pieters able to allow the others to do the work, the Dutchwoman was easily able to win the sprint for the stage, while tired legs meant that Becker was just unable to overcome van der Breggen on the line.
“In the end it was a third place,” said Becker. “It’s not too bad but for sure I would like to win, but it was almost impossible with all the work I did before.
“It’s cool to know that we have other options,” she added. “We have a real sprinter with Giorgia, and I always know that she’s in the back. Maybe next time we can play another card.”
“I said to Lotte that if there was a good opportunity for her to go in a breakaway that she should take it, because everyone was looking at me for the sprint,” Bronzini explained. “When there was that small breakaway, she turned her head to look at me and I said ‘go!’
“I’m really happy, because today we didn’t make any mistakes.”
The rest of the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling team finished safely in the main peloton, which eventually crossed the line almost 12 minutes later.
Pieters’ victory meant that she took over the gold jersey from teammate Wild. Time taken at the finish, as well as the fact that a number of the top riders from stage one had missed today’s break, meant that Becker climbed 29 places to 13th overall, while Bronzini rose to 18th.
“I wouldn’t talk about the jersey, but it’s good that we’re not all ten minutes behind!” Becker said. “Now we are with two girls in the top riders. Maybe the same might happen tomorrow; it might split into little groups, and then you never know what happens.
“We also have two stages left, maybe for a stage win. That would be cool.”
Result stage 2
1. Amy Pieters (Liv-Shimano)
2. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv)
3. Charlotte Becker (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
Image 1 and 2: ASO/Bruno Bade
photos Janos Schmidt