Thursday, 6 February 2014


Start: Al Zubara
Finish: Madinat Al Shamal
Distance: 112.5km (sprints 72k + 99k)
Team: Georgia, Bea, Emilia, Lotte, Shell and I

It's pretty obvious that you've performed badly on the first day when as one of the top women's teams in the world, you draw number 14 in a convoy of 15 cars with only China-Giant Pro Cycling behind us. It was disappointing for many reasons, but mainly that we didn't put our trust in our new DS Frankie. After a short debrief last night we knew we had to work better as a team. The key message from him was 'individually you can do nothing, but if you work as a team you can do anything'. And so it was that the mission for the day was to stick together, communicate more, and for Georgia to throw in the 'nice-girl' towel and yell at us. If we succeeded at just one task- teamwork - then the race would not be in vain.

The jersey holders lead the way in Al Zubara
Photo courtesy ASO/B.Bade

It was a decent drive to Al Zubara where we were greeted with the usual- sand, barren desert, some camels and some seriously strong winds. Our team plan was that we would be alert through the first 9k of head-wind, then start to work an echelon when the cross-wind really kicked in. The first 3k was neutral and Georgia was unlucky to have some problems clipping her foot in. It was impossible to move up at this point so Bea and I flanked her until the flag dropped, and as the race was thrown straight into the gutter, we pulled together but could only deliver her half way. I fell back through the bunch, but eventually recovered and went to grab Georgia again and after a massive sprint effort I dropped her off in the leading echelon as the race split. Lotte and Georgia had made the lead split of 20...hooray!

The 21 leaders including Lotte and Georgia share the workload
Photo courtesy ASO/B.Bade

From there it was a matter of finding your echelon on the road. The 88 girls split into five different groups, each chasing each other 30-40 seconds apart, with the tail girls using the cars in the convoy the best they could just to stay in reach. I found myself as the sole Wiggle in the third group and every time we found the gutter I was certain I would be dropped. I can't describe my pain face but it would have been a sight! I came so close to giving up a few times but reminded myself that the pain wouldn't last and when the echelon reformed I was back in the draft rolling turns. The pain eased when we turned for the tailwind and by the time the headwind greeted us the peloton had swelled to 54 riders.

Echelon heaven in the desert..
Photo courtesy ASO/B.Bade

The headwind was such a deterrent to the chase for the riders that had missed the move, including three top 10 riders from day 1, and the bunch were reluctant to help as there was no benefit in it for them. After having my ringer hanging out for 60k I was happy to roll along in the 'laughing bunch' for the final four laps of a 13k circuit, and even happier to have Bea, Shell and Emilia for company. I was proud of the job I had done for the day, albeit short-lived, and I know that every baby step I take gets me closer to where I want to be. Tomorrow I would love to finally be lead bunch, and if my positioning is right maybe it's possible, but I'm not too sure that my legs would agree..

Lotte looking strong before the winning break
Photo courtesy ASO/B.Bade
Meanwhile the lead group was motoring along and with a now 12-minute lead the only chance we had of seeing them again was if they lapped us! It wasn't until we finished that we heard the news- a break of four had escaped in the final 15k and Lotte had finished third! Her breakaway companion Amy Pieter's (Giant-Shimano) had won the stage and taken the yellow jersey off team-mate Kirsten Wild. It was a good result for us because the nature of the finish didn't completely suit Georgia's sprint style, and she has been plagued with sickness leading into the race. I finished 42nd a looong way behind..

Results: Via Cycling News
Garmin: Stage 2
Video: Via @Cycling_videos