After strong performances in the Australian summer Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s season moves north to the Arabian Peninsular this week for the eighth edition of the Ladies’ Tour of Qatar. The team will be led by former stage winner Chloe Hosking, who has finished in second, third and second place overall in the last three editions. The Australian is keen to try to take the top step of the podium this year in a race that will preview much of the course of this year’s World Championships.
“It's not secret that I love racing in the desert,” Hosking smiled. “I love the winds, the echelons, the battle to make the front. And the Ladies Tour of Qatar is one of the only races on the calendar that offers that, day after day, for four days.
“This years edition is a big goal for me,” the Australian continued. “I've finished on the podium here for the past three years and I’d like to continue the trend, although the top step would be nice, if only so I look as tall as the other girls I race against!”
Having missed much of the end of last season with a hand injury, Hosking is looking forward to her return to the top level of the women’s peloton. Joining her from the recent races in Australia will be Britons Dani King and Amy Roberts, while Swedish Champion Emma Johansson and Dutchwoman Amy Pieters will both make their competitive debut in the colours of Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling.
Both new riders have an excellent record in the Tour of Qatar; Pieters having won the second stage of the 2014 edition and finished just ahead of Hosking in second overall.
“It's been a long time since I raced with the 'big girls' so of course I'm nervous to get back in the international peloton,” Hosking explained. “It's always hard to know if what you have done over the winter - or summer for me - is enough to stay with the top girls. Adding the whole comeback from injury just makes things doubly uncertain.
“It's also a bit nerve-wracking to line up with a fairly new lineup for Wiggle High5,” she added. “One third of our team is new and two of our returning riders in Dani and Amy Roberts haven't raced in Qatar before. Our strength however is how well we work together as a team so I think the next few days could potentially be really exciting and rewarding for all of us. I can't wait to get started.”
Also starting her first race of the year will be Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Italian superstar Elisa Longo Borghini. The Tour of Flanders champion sadly crashed out of last year’s race, but her considerable power should prove invaluable to her teammates as the usual Qatari crosswinds threaten to smash the peloton to bits.
“I'm really happy to start the season with Qatar,” Longo Borghini said. “I've been really sick the past week and I'm there to find my form and to help the team as much as I can. I hope to be useful for the team performance.
“We have some strong girls for this race and I hope we can have a really good result!”
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team for the Ladies Tour of Qatar
Chloe Hosking (Australia), Emma Johansson (Sweden), Dani King (Great Britain), Elisa Longo Borghini(Italy), Amy Pieters (Netherlands), Amy Roberts (Great Britain)
Racing Photos Credit: Jarrod Partridge/JXP Photography
– but the sailors praise the new boats