GreenEdge-AIS’ performance at the Ladies Tour of Qatar was always going to be a bellwether moment for the predominantly Australian squad.
The Jayco Bay Classic series, the Australian Road National championships and the Santos Women’s Cup had all been unblemished success stories. But even the team would admit that the level of competition there would be incomparable to what they were expecting in Europe, and in their first race in Qatar.
Dave McPartland was thus a justly proud director at the finish to stage 1 of the race, with the GreenEdge-AIS women placing three riders; Judith Arndt, Alex Rhodes and Loes Gunnewijk in the decisive seven-rider break, and setting the team up well for a strong bid at the general classification.
"The depth of the field here is a higher quality than what we faced in January in Australia," admitted McPartland. "That said, I’m especially impressed with how the team rode together today.
"They split the race and put three riders in the top seven. In Australia, we could dictate the entire race. Here, we can’t really do that, but we rode in a really, really good position."
Kirsten Wild (Netherlands) won the stage, with Specialized-lululemon's Chloe Hosking and Elen Van Dijk completing the top three.
McPartland said the team would be chasing the bonus seconds on offer over the next few days to improve the positions of Arndt, Rhodes and Gunnewijk. The race can likely only be won now by one of 19 riders, and GreenEdge-AIS have five in that group. Though they missed the win today, there's nothing to suggest the team won't be standing on the top step of the GC podium in two days time in Katara.
"We missed the stage podium today, which is disappointing, but as we saw, the team is strong and in a good position to make their mark on this race," said McPartland. "We have the strength and the numbers to race aggressively over the next two days and that’s what we plan to do."