Friday, 7 February 2014


Start: Katara Cultural Village
Finish: Al Khor Corniche
Distance: 93.5km (sprints 40.5k + 85k)
Team: Georgia, Bea, Emilia, Lotte, Shell and I

Today we started in the scenic setting of the Katara Cultural Village, with more beautiful buildings, some cobbled-like pavers, and still in high spirits. After a morning look at the wind direction, we thought the day was to bring a little relief with more headwind than the previous stages. This usually neutralises the race because the battle to get away is hard, and the war to stay away is even harder. In saying that, we were equally as prepared for the typical crosswinds the Middle East landscape provides, and despite knowing the pain that they bring, the sickness we all suffer from loves that sort of torture.

Just boot-iful :)
Photo courtesy ASO/B/Bade

To give you an insight into the peloton at the Tour of Qatar is difficult. When the speed first starts to increase you sprint for every possible gap, rubbing legs and braking hard and waiting for your opportunity to move up and around through the continuous washing machine effect of the peloton. When the echelon first starts there is only enough room for six to eight riders before you hit gravel, but at this point the roll through is still easy enough for the strong girls to ride the long way around in the wind. The echelon is continuously swamped and you find yourself falling back, then trying to push out and around to sprint to the front and do it all again. As the speed ramps up, girls don't just rub past you..they push and shove and chop and yell, riding desperately to hold a wheel and make the split. At this point it's already super hard. 

To the naked eye it's a normal bunch, but it's a wild world in there!
Photo courtesy ASO/B/Bade

Then Orica-AIS come to the fore, so in sync with each other and strong enough to do such viscous damage. Their echelon is a little bigger and they allow a few extra girls to share the load, which means it's a hell of a lot faster and eventually there is nowhere to hide. One by one we line the gutter as the relentless crosswinds seem to blow harder. You grovel on the wheel in front knowing that only the strongest survive, and you so badly want to be one of those today. It's now that the smaller efforts to stay well positioned before start to catch up with you. You suffer so intensely that you know the only thing behind you is carnage, and while you can still hold on you thrive on the fact that others are disappearing behind. Even after the moment the rubber snaps and your heart is broken, you suffer equally as much in the next echelon 20sec behind, dangling just out of reach.

Another day, another echelon..
Photo courtesy ASO/B/Bade

As the time gaps grow the impetus is taken out of the chase. Those in the third or fourth echelons surrender and re-group to roll in to the finish, knowing that every wasted effort today is one less they will have in them tomorrow. But for the leaders the fun is only just beginning as they start to conjure up ways to defeat the race favourite, which is undoutably always Kirsten Wild (Giant-Shimano). So for the most part the days are on repeat, but today's finale was a little more exciting. Of the lead 12, Orica-AIS had four representatives and despite their efforts, Wild not only chewed them up but spat them out. To put that into perspective, she nearly single handedly dominated the number 1 rider and team in the World. Her victory today was truly amazing, and as a reward she takes back the yellow jersey.

This is me not winning,  3:45min after the leaders
Photo courtesy ASO/B/Bade

Today Lotte was our best placed Wigglette, finishing in the third group in 21st place after Georgia punctured in the lead bunch. I finished in the peloton in 56th, 3:45min behind the leaders, but I believe today was my strongest day. As a team, we communicated better and were more aware of each other on the road. They may seem like little things but they are important parts of a winning formula. I have to pinch myself and remember that after 5 years away, I've stepped back into one of the hardest women's tours on the calendar. I think I've been better everyday, and although my legs are smashed, I still look forward to tomorrow. It's another chance to try and succeed at the challenge of finishing lead bunch. If I may be back to try again next year!

Results: Via CyclingNews
Garmin: Stage 3
Video: Via @Cycling_videos