‘Desert Queen’ defends Doha title

 08 Feb 2014 - 0:08


LEFT: Dutch rider Kirsten Wild receives her trophy from Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Thani, President of Qatar Cycling Federation, in Doha yesterday. ABOVE: Wild celebrates winning the fourth and final stage of Ladies Tour of Qatar and then takes pictures with a cellphone during the prize distribution ceremony. 

DOHA: Dutch rider Kirsten Wild yesterday added charm to her legend ‘Desert Queen’ by winning the Ladies Tour of Qatar for the fourth time in the event’s six-year history.
The tall Giant-Shimano rider yesterday won the fourth and final stage ahead of double world champion Giorgia Bronzini of Italy and dashing young rider Melissa Hoskins of Australia to wrap up her Doha visit on yet another impressive note.
The 31-year-old, winner in Doha in 2009, 2012 and 2013, successfully defended her title with a sublime finish at Corniche in extremely chilly conditions sweeping the Qatari capital.
Dominant right throughout the four-day event, Wild has now won an astonishing nine stages in Qatar. This week alone the Dutch won stages one, three and four to seal her fourth crown in Doha. The second stage held on Wednesday was clinched by Wild’s team-mate Amy Pieters who finished her Doha trip in second spot in the general classification.
With stage two win going to Pieters meant all four stages were dominated by Giant-Shimano riders.
“It feels good (to be called the queen of the desert) but I feel I have the queen’s team,” Wild said after picking up the golden and silver jerseys. “Our campaign was so very well organised. It was a hard stage (but) everything worked out fine. We had a great team. I am ready for the season now,” she added. 
“You never know where they (the opponents) are. I had to beat four (top) girls and I won. Of course I am very happy and very tired. We had a lot of headwind. It was really hard with the sidewind also.
“This is amazing. It feels wonderful. I am happy with this team. In a race like this, the girls put up a great show. Today we had a great round. I am happy with everything. 
“You can’t win a race like this without a strong team.”
“All the big girls were here and it is great to do well against them,” Wild said.
Hitec Products’ rider Chloe Hosking, the main challenger to Wild, admitted her Dutch rival was a powerful performer.
“We had a great team but we didn’t win,” Hosking said. “You know, we just have to go home, train harder and come back stronger next season,” the 23-year-old Australian said. 
“They are better experienced. We are still a young team. We are growing as a team,” Hosking said while defending her team’s performance. 
“This was our first race together. We had three or four new girls. 
“I am sure the more we race together the better we get. Hopefully we come back and win next year,” the affable Australian added with a smile.  
Earlier, Wild once again showed how powerful she was on the final day of the event, claiming a third stage success on the windswept Doha Corniche. 
Wild outsprinted Bronzini and Hoskins to win her ninth stage in Qatar.
Like in the previous years, the 85 remaining riders of the Ladies Tour of Qatar took off from the Sealine Beach Resort, south of Qatar, for the final stage of the event. 
They headed back to Doha and then did circuit laps on the picturesque Corniche before crossing the finish line after 85 kilometres. 
Under fairly cloudy skies, the pack remained bunched all the way to the first intermediate sprint (in Al Wakra, 38.5-km mark), claimed by Wild ahead of Christine Majerus (DLT) and Pieters.
At the 39-km mark, two ladies managed to break away from the pack: Jessie MacLean (GEW) and Alexandra Burchenkova (RVL). 
The two escapees saw their lead go from 25 second to a maximum 1 minute 10 seconds at the 50-km mark. 
However, as they entered the final circuit, their advantage had dropped down to 43 seconds and then 45 seconds as they crossed the line for the first time, with five laps to go. 
The front two were eventually caught at the 63-km mark. Several other riders and groups tried to take off, but the pack reacted immediately.
Eventually, Chantal Blaak (SLU) managed to break away just before the fourth crossing of the line, enabling her to win the second bonus sprint with a five-second lead over Wild and Pieters. 
The Dutch rider was eventually caught several kilometres later. 
Despite several other breakaway attempts, the pack remained bunched all the way to the final straight.
Time had then come for a “battle royal” between the fastest girls of the race, and again, like a year ago and like on two other occasions of this 6th edition, Wild flew to an impressive stage win. 
The three-time winner of the event claimed her ninth stage win in Qatar, beating Bronzini and Hoskins to the line.
By doing so, Wild secured her overall first spot and won the 2014 Ladies Tour of Qatar with a 22-second lead over team-mate Pieters and 36 seconds over Hosking. 
The Dutch sprinter also conquered the points classification (silver jersey) while Pieters finished as the ‘best young rider’, winning the ‘pearl white’ jersey. THE PENINSULA