In his own words - Martin Barras previews the Ladies Tour of QatarMon 2 Feb 2015
The reflections and celebrations of a successful Australian season were short-lived for ORICA-AIS as they boarded a flight to Qatar at midnight on Saturday just hours after Valentina Scandolara’s second place at the women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
The first international race of the season beckons and the team is ready.
The Ladies Tour of Qatar, which begins on Tuesday, often plays out as one of the most stressful races of the season. The roads may be flat and straight but the wind is ferocious and is a major factor in race outcomes, echelons a familiar sight across the four-stages.
ORICA-AIS sends a strong team to kick off their international campaign for the race where they have previously twice-won the team’s classification.
They welcome Swedish champion Emma Johansson into the line up for her 2015 debut as she joins Gracie Elvin, Loes Gunnewjik, Amanda Spratt and Scandolara who each have solid Australian seasons under their belt.
Having arrived in Qatar and completed the team's first training session, sport director Martin Barras previews the Ladies Tour of Qatar in his own words:
It's a good question.
I am just back from our first training session here in preparation for the 7th edition of the Ladies Tour of Qatar. Bligh me, I spent 90 minutes attempting to protect our training group from the insane nature of Qatari driving by basically stepping in the way of speeding vehicles in an attempt to push them wide and slow them down. Some folk tried to assist by blocking the passing lane with his Range Rover.
On the upside, my defensive driving skills are being upgraded significantly.
In a country having a massively larger male than female population and where gender division means women normally conduct most of their activities in private, the presence of Lycra clad female riders on public roads also means that passing vehicles will often slow down to film the event.
The Emir's love of cycling and endlessly deep pocket is obviously a factor in having us here and it serves the promotion of Qatar in Europe and other cycling loving nations. But as we venture out there every day we are also "selling" our sport to people and nations that otherwise get little exposure to it and we feature the benefit of sport and activity on the health of it's participants.
Above all, we promote a healthy and very public image of strong and competitive women and, without pretense of any kind, it is an important image around here.
On the race front, this four-stage race will be fought ferociously into echelons and time bonuses and stage 2 starting in Al Zubarah on the West Coast stands out as carnage in a sand storm. Pat (our mechanic) is already having nightmares about finding Qatari dust and sand into all crevices of the bikes and wheels well into the rest of the season. I suggest he should be more concerned about digging the said dust and sand from his "outta control" beard!
The riders will get four days of free skin peels.
We have a very experienced team here, having won the team classification on two occasions: Emma Johansson, Amanda Spratt, Loes Gunnewijk, Gracie Elvin and Valentina Scandolara will form a formidable group with the latter four already battle hardened in the Australian summer.
This promises to be an exciting and hard fought race and we certainly aim to make it so!