By Shane Stokes
Three road race champions will feature on the Columbia High Road team for the Tour of Qatar, which begins tomorrow and runs until Tuesday.
German champ Luise Keller, Swedish title holder Emilia Fahlin and Danish champ Linda Villumsen will be joined by the Australian Kate Bates, plus Dutchwomen Chantal Beltman and the world scratch race champion Ellen Van Dijk for the new event, which comes onto the calendar following the success of the men's race in recent years.
"The whole trip will surely be a cool adventure," Fahlin told Cyclingnews this week. "Qatar is going to be an experience, for sure.
"In general, our aims there are to get good training, get back to racing again, and grow together again as a team! And since people are in different stages of their training at the moment, we will see what it brings for us. But everybody is excited since its a new race, a new place and the first women's race organized by ASO."
At 20, Fahlin is the youngest member of the Columbia High Road team. She told Cyclingnews in January that she was satisfied with her training up until that point, and has followed through on her stated plan to head to warmer climes to get more kilometres in.
"Things went well after Majorca," she said. "I went straight from there on to another training camp on Lanzarote. I've been to Sweden for just one week in-between then and now...that was a good thing, because it was not really not nice weather there for the bike.
"My personal goal in Qatar is mainly to get into racing again. Because of some bad luck in December, I'm not totally race fit yet. I think its going to be a hard race in that wind so, for sure, it will be tough. But I think I will gain good experience from it, and I'm so happy to be back racing again!"
As regards aims for the season, she indicated she will target the European championships, winning a UCI race while in the Swedish champion's jersey and also trying to defend that title.
Team-mate Keller has different aims. She won two stages plus the overall in the Route de France last year, and was second in the Plouay World Cup. "As regards goals, I would like to improve, obviously. Maybe I can win a World Cup or win stages in bigger stage races...something like that."
Read the full feature on Keller and Fahlin here.