ORICA-AIS Aiming For Stage Wins and Overall Podium in QatarSun 2 Feb 2014
ORICA-AIS harbours dual objectives for the first international race of the season. Melissa Hoskins represents the team’s main hopes for stage wins in the bunch kicks and could challenge for the overall should the majority of the four day stages end in sprints. Aggressive racing over windswept roads could produce surprises, and Hoskins’ teammates are well-prepared to chase results of their own if field sprints don’t materialise.
“We are really coming into this race with a strong team,” said Sport Director Gene Bates. “Unlike in previous years, we bring a sprinter this year, which just adds another card for us to play. Mel has come out of the Australian National Track Championships with some great form, so we are hopeful she will be right in the hunt in the bunch finishes. We also have five additional riders who are all capable of producing great results in their own right.”
While the roads in Qatar are pan flat and the stages are often run over long, straight stretches of roads through the desert, gusts of winds can wreak havoc on the peloton. Team often throw down attacks in the crosswinds in the hopes of creating major splits in the field.
“We are expecting wind – and lots of it!,” said Bates. “This race can be one of the most stressful of the season because when crosswinds come up, everyone wants to be in that front group. The wind certainly characterizes the event.”
Last year, the Australian outfit won the team classification, placing four riders in the top ten overall. Gracie Elvin was the team’s best-placed finisher on the general classification in fourth place. Kirsten Wild (Giant-Shimano) won the overall last year after winning three of the four days of racing. It was the third time Wild won the general classification. She also won the first two editions of the race (2009, 2010).
Wild lines up as one of two former winners in the field. Ellen van Dijk, making her debut for Boels-Dolmans in Doha, previously won the overall while racing for HTC in 2011. Now in her second year of retirement, Judith Arndt took the first international victory for the GreenEDGE family when she stood atop the podium in 2012.
“It’s always interesting going into the first major race of the season,” noted Bates “There’s a lot of speculation about fitness and team chemistry. We can never tell until the racing starts how things are going to unfold. We treat all our opponents with respect while racing to win every day. After the first stage, I suspect we’ll be able to identify our main rivals.”
“Obviously, we want to achieve the best result possible – in both the stage results and the overall,” Bates added. “It is still very early season, but the team, apart from Emma Johansson, have had a few race days already in Australia, so I think stage wins and a good overall result are achievable.”
ORICA-AIS for Ladies Tour of Qatar: