By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar
Giorgia Bronzini made history Sunday with her win the first ever women's professional race held in the Middle East. The Italian sprinted to victory in stage one of the Ladies' Tour of Qatar in Doha.
"It is something very, very special and it is an honour for me. I am very happy because it is the first time the women have raced here," Bronzini said to Cyclingnews.
The Ladies' Tour of Qatar is a bold gesture by a country where women still follow the Islamic traditions of wearing a veil or a full body covering, the abaya. The Qatar Cycling Federation President Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Bin Abdullah Al Thani created the stage race to complement the men's stage race, and to add to the growing sport's environment and help change the mentality towards women.
The morning of stage one, local girls from the Aspire Academy for Sports greeted the professional women. Organiser ASO and the Qatar Cycling Federation designed the encounter to give the young schoolchildren a first-hand look at professionals who are twice their age for inspiration.
"They are not so fortunate as the rest of us girls," said Bronzini. "I hope that in the future that the race can help open up the mentality towards the women – the possibility for women to be women. The fact that they have asked to have a Tour for the women is already something very special."
Team Italy's Bronzini leads the Tour of Qatar by six seconds over Kirsten Wild of the Cervélo TestTeam. She intends to keep the golden leader's jersey though the final stage on Tuesday.
The inaugural Ladies' Tour of Qatar is 313 kilometres long and welcomes 88 riders. It travels on roads around the country's capital city of Doha.
Also see the full results, report and photos from stage one.