In His Own Words: DS David McPartland on Ladies Tour of Qatar Stage 3

Fri 1 Feb 2013

Despite their best efforts, ORICA-AIS was unable to split the field on stage three of the Ladies Tour of Qatar. The earlier stages saw the Australian outfit rewarded for their aggressive tactics. Unable to isolate their opponents on stage three, the team came to the line in a group 40 strong for a bunch kick that saw Kirsten Wild (Argos-Shimano) sprint into the overall lead thanks to time bonuses. In his own words, Sport Director Dave McPartland describes the stage.

We had a tailwind during the first half of the race, so there’s not much to report on there. It was obviously quite fast the whole time. The closer we got to the 60 kilometre mark, the faster the race started to get. The first intermediate sprint came right at 60 kilometres. The field was anticipating the sprint and the right-hand turn following the sprint that put the race into the crosswind.

We didn’t contest the sprint. We were ready to light it up for the change in direction.

A few kilometres after the right-hand turn, there was a big crash. None of our riders went down, but Tiffany Cromwell was stuck in it. Jessie MacLean was caught behind it. Loes Gunnewijk went off the road in an attempt to avoid the crashed riders. She punctured and had to wait for a wheel change. While the other riders involved in the crash had a chance to get back on, Loes’ puncture put her out of the race, and we never saw her in the main bunch again.

The race came onto the finish circuit for two laps. During the first of these two laps, the group split into two groups of roughly 20 riders in each group. We had Emma, Gracie and Amanda Spratt in the front group. Jess and Tiff were in the second group.

Gracie managed to get herself in a little breakaway, and she was the leader on the road in her small group. At the same time Gracie went up the road, the two groups came back together. We had helped bring the groups together, and in hindsight this was a mistake. Wild had only one teammate in the front group. With the groups together, she had three teammates at her disposal. We shouldn’t have contributed to the chase.

The little move that Gracie had initiated did not stay away for long, and soon there was a group of 40-45 riders barreling towards the finish. There was a crash with one lap to go that eliminated a few of those riders. Spratt had a bit of bad lack with a mechanical in the last lap.

We did what could on the finish circuit to split the race again. Unfortunately, the wind was not working in our favour. It was either a headwind or a tailwind on most of the circuit. There was a three kilometre section with crosswinds, and we attacked there. We struggled to get anyone down the road. Wild’s teammates covered our moves until the last five kilometres when she covered everything herself.

Emma had a good little dig at two kilometres out. She got a gap with one Specialized-lululemon rider, and I was hopeful there for a second. Wild pulled the move back herself before going on to win the stage and move into the overall lead. She earned a ten second time bonus for the stage victory.

Chloe Hosking had a bit of bad luck with a puncture in the last kilometre. She finished on the same time as the group she was in when she punctured, but she was unable to contest the finish. It was to our benefit, I suppose, but we never like to get gains at the expense of a rider’s mechanical issues.

Emma was our top finisher on the stage in eighth place. Gracie slotted in just behind her in ninth place, and Tiff rounded out the top ten on the stage. All three crossed the finish five seconds behind Wild. Gracie remains our best-placed rider overall where she’s now third, :16 outside of the race lead. Emma is 29 seconds back in sixth place. Tiff is in seventh place, :31 down.

While it’s disappointing that we’ve lost places and time on general classification, we gave 100% effort today. Our number one objective was to split the race in the crosswind and ideally isolate the other overall contenders. Our goal was to come to the circuit with just Wild and Hosking. If we had outnumbered them, they would not have been able to respond to our attacks. Because we couldn’t isolate them from their teammates, our attacks at the end of the race proved ineffective.

We’re definitely not giving up yet, but the odds are stacked against us now. I don’t expect a lot of change on the overall tomorrow. We’ll come up with some sort of plan. If we go down, we’ll go down fighting.