In Her Own Words: Loes Gunnewijk Previews Ladies Tour of Qatar

Tue 29 Jan 2013

ORICA-AIS starts the Ladies Tour of Qatar on Tuesday as the defending overall champions. Although the team returns without last year’s winner Judith Arndt, they expect to challenge for top honours in the race that marks the official start of the international race season. In her own words, road captain Loes Gunnewijk, an integral part of Arndt’s win last year, previews the fifth edition of the race. 

The team is here to win. We’ve already had a strong start to the season winning the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic overall and two Australian national champion jerseys. We showed how strong the team is in Australia, and now we want to demonstrate this internationally. We’ll make the race hard. Qatar is a good way to start the season and prepare for racing in Europe.

This is the first time the six of us will race together, and it’s the first time any of us will race with Emma (Johannson). Over the four days of racing, we’ll begin to get to learn how each rider races and how we race together. We know how to be strong individually, and now we’ll learn to be strong together. A lot of riders switched teams between the season, so we won’t be the only team in this position during the first part of the season.

Whenever we start a new season, there’s always pressure. There’s pressure for the team to perform well, and most riders put pressure on themselves, too. The pressure comes with the excitement to start the season and make a good impression  from the beginning. The pressure we have here is less because we are the defending champions of this race and more because we want to start the season off on a winning note and head over to Europe with a good spirit.

I’m praying for wind – a lot of wind. Other teams might fear the wind, but we don’t. Strong winds will suit our team. The overall in Qatar is decided on seconds. Every single second counts, and the best way to gain seconds is to split the field. We need wind to make the race hard and force selections.

Without wind, the race can get rather boring. The streets are long and straight. We can ride 20 or 30 kilometres in one direction without a single curve. Even with a headwind, that gets boring quickly. With a crosswind, things get a lot more exciting. Last year, we had a cross tailwind on one stage that allowed us to average 70 kilometres/hour. We turned right and were hit in the face with the cross headwind. Suddenly, we were going only 25 kilometres/hour using the same power. It was fun. I hope we have enough wind to make this a hard race. The harder the race, the better it will be for our team.

The extra day may also prove decisive. Last year, we only raced three days. This year, they’ve added a fourth day of racing. Because it’s the first real race of the season, one extra day can make or break some riders. Those who had a good winter will handle the extra day with no problem. Those who have a little less condition may struggle with the extra day.

Follow us on Twitter (handles listed next to our name’s below) and you’ll hear just as much about the non-racing aspects of this trip as you will race updates. The culture here is very different than what we experience in most parts of the world where we typically race. It’s nice to get a peek at the culture here. You’ll also like here a lot about the hotel (the Ritz Carleton) and the food (a massive buffet). We are spoiled here. This is the best hotel and the best food we have all year.

ORICA-AIS for Ladies Tour of Qatar

Amanda Spratt (@AmandaSpratt)
Emma Johansson (@emmaprocyclist)
Gracie Elvin (@gracieelvin)
Jessie MacLean(@aussiejessmac)
Loes Gunnewijk (@LoesGunnewijk)
Tiffany Cromwell (@TiffanyCromwell)