Ladies Tour of Qatar 2013
Stage 3 - Wild wins sprint again, Hosking punctures out of overall
Al Thakhira - Madinet Al Sharmal, 112.5km
Kirsten Wild (Argos-Shimano) won the bunch kick to secure another win and the overall lead. Stage 3 was fast and furious right from the start. Despite a number of attempts to get away in the early stages the high tempo ensured the peloton stayed together until they reached the first of the bonus sprints at the 60km mark when the course also switched to a side wind.
The rough road conditions meant a number of riders punctured. As the peloton approached the first bonus sprint. The speed was high. Kirsten Wild (Argos-Shimano) was first ahead of overall leader Hosking and Charlotte Becker (Argos-Shimano).
Echelons and attacks began almost immediately. Tibco were one of the first teams to try to go with an attack 40 km. It did not go anywhere. Emilia Fahlin (Hitec) decided it was time for her to try and tried to go but again the teams of Orica-AIS, Specialized-lululemon and Argos-Shimano ensured it stayed together.
Just as Orica-AIS went on the attack again, a crash in the middle of the peloton splintered it. Fortunately the big favourites made the front group. The leading group of 42 riders were all battling to stay together. Initially it split to form a leading group of 17 riders.
After 75km of racing the leading group was represented by all of the top teams, Orica-AIS, Specialized-lululemon, Hitec, BePink, Wiggle and Tibco. The leaders had a 25 second lead at the 78 km point.
As riders battled to get to the lead group the chase was led by Bronzini and Rochelle Gilmore (Wiggle). They were getting support from MCipollini who missed the break.
As the race moved back together, 39 riders formed the front group. At the second sprint, Lisa Brennauer (Specialized Luluemon) crossed first ahead of Chantal Blaak (Tibco) and Wild. Accelerating for the sprint, the wind meant that the riders were on the right hand side of the road and using the hard shoulder. The sprint point was the first passage of the finish line. Road cones and then barriers funnelled the course in to the wide, two lane finish line. Inevitably though, some riders failed to move from the shoulder back into the road in time to avoid contact with the cones, or they swerved into the line of others inside the line. Several riders went down in a spectacular impact, bikes flew into the air and riders scudded across the road surface. Liesbeth De Vocht (Rabo Women) was hurt; she was later taken to hospital to check for suspected broken ribs. Malgorzata Jasinska (MCipollini) took some time to get up, but did remount. She finished, but was clearly in a lot of pain. Her day ended with a trip to hospital to check for a broken collarbone.
Amongst others, Rochelle Gilmore (Wiggle) and Li Na Shi (Giant Pro Cycling) remounted and chased back to the leaders. These two, individually, took tow by holding on to their respective team cars and have been disqualified from the race. Their Directeurs Sportif have also been removed from the team cars on the final stage.
The closing lap of 13 kilometres was marked by attack after attack. The race was all together with 4 km to go. On the run in to the finish overall leader Chloe Hosking (Hitec) punctured with under a kilometre to go. Her main competitor for overall classification, Kirsten Wild, was already in control of the sprint and took it from Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-lululemon) and Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle). Although awarded the same time as the winner, the lost opportunity to gain time bonuses on the finish line meant that Hosking relinquished her gold jersey to Wild.
Regaining the general classification is still a possibility for Hosking, who has ridden with intelligence and confidence in this race. Wild will be watching her though. Typically on the final stage, which includes 5 laps of an out-and-back circuit along Doha's Corniche (waterfront), a breakaway enters the circuit, having taken the time bonuses on the way and a bunch sprint eventually ensues. This may not happen in 2013, Wild and Hosking have their own unfinished business with only 2 seconds separating them, whilst Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) and Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-lululemon) (at 16 and 17 seconds respectively) will perhaps want to break away and stay away in order to leapfrog the other pair and rise up the podium themselves.
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