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Judith Arndt of Germany poses on the podium after receiving the leader’s gold jersey at the end of the second stage of the Ladies Tour of Qatar cycling race at Madinat Al Shamal in this 2012 file photo. Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Thani, President of Qatar Cycling Federation is also seen. Arndt was the overall winner of the 2012 edition of the competition. BELOW: The cyclists in action in Doha in this 2012 file photo.
Doha: Race organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has confirmed that the 2013 edition of the Ladies Tour of Qatar will be four stages long, one more than the four previous editions.
The stage race, which opens the women’s season in the northern hemisphere criss-crosses the Arab peninsular country and, like the equivalent men’s race, offers tough windy stages to riders preparing for the Spring Classics.
With the men’s Tour of Qatar starting on February 5, the extra day on the women’s race will be tackled on at the beginning, meaning that it will start on January 29, instead of January 30 as originally scheduled.
With very little topography on the Qatari peninsular, the route features no climbing whatsoever, and the crosswinds that dominate the desert roads make it an ideal event for the sprinters and the more powerful riders.
The first two editions - in 2009 and 2010 - were won by Dutch sprinter Kirsten Wild, who will be among the favourites for a third title as she returns with her new Argos-Shimano team.
Unlike the men’s race, however, the shorter distances, and the more aggressive style of the women’s peloton, mean that stages - and the overall race - can be taken by breakaways.
Powerful Dutch rouleur Ellen van Dijk took the 2011 edition, thanks to a group staying away on the second stage, while a similar break saw German World time trial champion Judith Arndt win last year’s race.
Having retired at the end of last year, Arndt will not be on the Qatar start line to defend her title, but van Dijk is expected to ride once more this year in Qatar as part of Specialised-lululemon.
Also likely to be at the start is two-time former World champion Giorgia Bronzini, who finished second behind both Wild’s victories.
She holds the record - with Wild - for stage wins with three. The Italian will doubtless be joined in the new Wiggle-Honda line up by 2011 stage winner Rochelle Gilmore.
The race will begin - as it did in 2009 and 2010 - at the Museum of Islamic Art in the capital, Doha, and cover 97km to the southern city of Mesaieed.
Stage Two will see the usual start at the Camel Race Track at the centre of the country, and cover an identical course to last year’s opening stage to the Al Khor Corniche on the east coast.
Stage Three will start on the nearby beach at Al Thakhira and cover a 112.5km route to Madinat Al Shamal on the very northern tip of the peninsular.
The final stage of this year’s competition will be an 86.5km blast between the Sealine Beach Resort and the Doha Corniche. THE PENINSULA