Monia Baccaille (MCipollini-Giordana) has made her return to competitive action at the Ladies Tour of Qatar after breaking her collarbone at the European Track Championships in November.
The double Italian road champion crashed while competing in the omnium in Pruszkow, Poland. After undergoing an operation on her return to Italy, Baccaille spent the winter recovering and was only able to return to full training early in the new year.
"I'm only back training for less than a month," Baccaille told Cyclingnews in Doha ahead of stage two of the Ladies Tour of Qatar. "I broke my collarbone at the European Track Championships in November, and I had to undergo an operation. They had to insert a plate, so I started back training a little bit later."
Baccaille explained that she is still searching for form after her truncated winter preparation, and that she is in Qatar without any aspirations of personal glory, but rather to help her MCipollini-Giordana teammates.
"I'm here to try and help Nicole [Cooke] and Rosella [Callovi], who are our riders for the overall here," she said. "For me here in Qatar, the only real objectives are the team's objectives. I'm also using the race to train and gain condition and above all to get rid of the fear of being in the middle of the peloton after that accident."
After a relatively calm opening day's racing, the wind was a huge factor on stage two as HTC-Highroad split the race, and such conditions may well have an impact on Friday's finale.
"It's difficult when it's windy here," Baccaille said. "There'll certainly be echelons and you'll need to be in front."
On returning to Europe, Baccaille will begin to turn her attention to objectives later in the season. While April sees a number of races well-suited to her characteristics, the Umbrian also has ambitions for the world championships in Copenhagen.
"I'm hoping to be on form for the races in Belgium and Holland in April, to get some good results there," she said. "Then I want to be going well in the second half of the season for the Worlds in September."
The ban on the use of earpieces has come into effect in Qatar, and although Baccaille doesn't believe that it will have an overly significant impact on the nature of the racing itself, she voiced her concern that it will hamper rider security.
"It's not more difficult to race without them, because we still manage to organise ourselves and talk during the races, but the radios are very useful for security," Baccaille said. "In fact, they're fundamental."