No wind sees uneventful day for ORICA-AIS at Ladies Tour of Qatar

Wed 4 Feb 2015

ORICA-AIS have finished outside the top ten in the bunch sprint finish on stage one of the Ladies Tour of Qatar.

On a Tour known for it’s gusty conditions, the wind did not eventuate on the opening day of racing with the stage from the Museum of Islamic Art to Dukhan Beach never seriously threatening to break up.

Swedish champion Emma Johansson, in her first race for the season, was ORICA-AIS’ top finisher in 13th position behind Annalisa Cucinotta (Alé Cipollini) who claimed victory.

Sport director Martin Barras provides us his report on stage one action:

What do you mean, no wind?

A day without wind in Qatar is a little bit like an over whipped Pavlova served without fruit or cream - it’s dry and crumbly (just like the desert sand) and unappealing.

That’s the sort of day we had today!

Mind you, the peloton here was split in its opinion before the start. There were those that loved the idea of calm day (mostly bunch sprinters and their teams) and those who needed anti-depressants to get through the day (we belong to that group).

The first stage of the 2015 Ladies Tour of Qatar was staged between the magnificent Museum of Islamic art on the Doha Corniche and the oil town of Dukhan on the Qatari West Coast. The 99 km trek headed straight west across the entire width of the country. The stage had two intermediate time bonification sprints at km 28 and 69, which, combined with the final sprint, in Dukhan would provide all the action for this otherwise wind neutered stage.

For us, it was a matter of working out a way to come out of the day in contention by gathering any bonification we could claim. Without a dedicated bunch sprinter, the job was given to Emma to sprint for the team and we worked out a couple of scenarios we could use for those sprints, depending on circumstances.

The outcome for us was barren: We had a go at all three sprints in a couple of different ways, came close but ultimately got no reward. In between those sprints, it was a day mostly to forget. For the riders it was a constant game of pinball in the bunch, trying to avoid the multiple crashes caused by a packed nervous peloton. Annalisa Cuccinotta (Ale Cippolini) won that game and the stage and now leads the race.

In the race car, well… the highlights went from the sandwiches to a photo of Pat the mechanic uploaded on the Internet yesterday (Pat claims he is not vain but he was keen to point out he had a vein bulging from his forearm!!!) to the massive speed humps (the highest points in Qatar) and my decision to avoid them by driving the car across the desert instead. Oh, and I forget the sundown call to prayer, a definite highlight for me which I shared selflessly with my car companions at high decibels on the way back to the hotel.

On the eve of day two we find ourselves sitting a bit on the outside of the race and have modified our plans accordingly. We will still cater to the sprint game but are keen to try something a bit more enterprising. With current conditions, we could be excused for seeking the advice and comfort of a clairvoyant of the “habb” (to blow, in Arabic) but eh, the best Pavlova is the one you make yourself, isn’t it?

Here is my call to prayer for strawberries and cream… Tomorrow please!

Photo Copyright: Dion Kerckhoffs/Cor Vos