Australian rider Chloe Hosking joins her Hitect Products team-mates for a training session with Qatari women’s squad at Losail International Circuit yesterday. Qatar coach Pia Sundstedt was also present as were Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF) officials. PICTURES: SALIM MATRAMKOT
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: Australian cyclist Chloe Hosking will rely on power riding to stop Dutch title favourite Kirsten Wild from winning her fourth yellow jersey at the Ladies Tour of Qatar.
Hosking, who missed out on the Qatar yellow jersey after a promising start last year, will aim for the title by joining a group of 90 riders that also includes three-time Doha champion Wild.
The Bendigo-born has arrived in Doha with sufficient gas in her tank and willpower to seal her first win in Doha where tackling strong winds remains the key for the riders.
“This race favours my style of riding. I am a power rider, less sprinter. So to have the wind is to my advantage,” Hosking said yesterday. “You have hill climbers who can’t ride in such strong winds and I can drop them here (laughs),” the 23-year-old added.
“Yes, sure,” Hosking said when asked if tackling winds in Doha was the key to dominating the four-day race.
“You have to be able to race the wind. That’s the main factor in this race. I love it - I love the wind. I race here every year,” she said with her trademark smile in place.
Hosking’s brooding confidence is not misplaced. The diminutive rider has already shown some early season form in Australia at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic last month and the St Kilda Super Crit in December which she won.
Prior to booking her tickets for the Qatar trip, Hosking joined her Hitec Products team-mates for a training stint in Europe.
“We just had a 10-day training camp in Spain,” Hosking said. “I was really impressed with two new girls on the team - Audrey Cordon and Lauren Kitchen. They are both strong riders. I am really confident in my team. Everybody had a great winter season. I think we have come to Qatar with the right team,” the Australian added.
When reminded of her punctured tyre on the final day last year in Qatar, Hosking said: “Hopefully there will be no punctures this year (laughs). Losing the jersey last year was disappointing but look, I won the young rider classification. That set me up for the season in Europe. Hopefully I can do one better.”
Hosking, bronze winner in the women’s road race at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, said Qatar field in 2014 would be tough to handle for any rider or team.
“Wild has won a number of times in Qatar so obviously I will be watching her very closely,” Hosking said when asked about her rivals.
“Then there’s Gerogia Bronzini, the double world champion (from Italy). I will be watching these riders. The Italians also have a great side.
“I think there are very competitive teams here this year. The strongest build-up Qatar has ever had. I think that also shows how the races (in Doha) are growing.
“As a female cyclist, I love coming here and supporting this race because they (QCF) do such a good job with this race,” Hosking said.
The 90 cyclists, representing 15 teams, will start the Tour from the iconic Museum of Islamic Art and finish in Mesaieed after a ride of 97kms.
Wild has been the most efficient and regular since the creation of the race, winning six stages and three titles (2009, 2010, 2013).
World number one in 2013, Emma Johansson, assisted by the recent champion of Australia Gracie Elvin, are likely to be Wild’s main rivals besides Hosking and Bronzini.
The Doha yellow jersey will also be the sole objective of Ellen Van Dijk, the winner in 2011, or Bronzini who finished second in 2009 and 2010.
Hitec Products team manager Karl Lima endorsed Hosking’s sentiments on the field in Qatar for the next four days.
“It’s the toughest field I have ever seen in Qatar, there are so many strong teams with potential winners,” Lima told cyclingnews.com. “I will be really happy if we can get something out of the race,” he said.