With Kirsten Wild concentrating on the track Amy Pieters (Liv-Plantur) lines up at the Ladies Tour of Qatar as the only rider to have won a stage in last year’s race.
The 23-year-old Dutch rider had a breakthrough season in 2014 with a stage win in Qatar [ed she went on to finish second overall] and victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and she returns to Qatar this week with hopes of repeating her success from twelve months ago. Last season she claimed stage two of the race with Wild dominating all three other stages and running away with the overall win.
Along with teammate Lucy Garner, Pieters leads a strong Dutch team in the four day race, and although she has aspirations of contesting the sprints, she comes into the race unaware of her current form.
“I hope the form is there. I’m not quite sure at the moment and I don’t think I’m quite where was I in terms of last year because I’ve had a different built up and changed trainers. I’m curious to see where my form is,” she tells Cyclingnews ahead of an easy training ride ahead of the Tuesday’s first stage.
Pieters and Garner will be expected to lead the line and Wild’s absence certainly opens the door of opportunity for her teammates.
“Maybe I have more chances now but we also have Lucy in the team and she’s a really strong sprinter. She can prove herself a lot because Kirsten is not here and she can make a big step this year. We’ve got some really strong young riders on the team and Lucy and are I are different types of sprinters.”
Pieters’ path into the sport is an interesting one. Her father is the former rider, Peter Pieters, who won Paris-Tours, and raced for a number of teams including TVM, Tulip and Skala – Skil in the 1980s and early 1990s.
His son, Roy, is also a rider but it is Amy who managed to go one better than her father in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, after he was second to Johan Capiot in 1992 – a year before Amy was born.
“I’m too young to remember his good years. I can remember some races but not many,’ she says with a smile.
“It’s funny because he wasn’t there when I won. He’s almost always been there but he was away with the Belgian national track team, as he’s a coach, but he called me and he was really proud of me.”
And despite her father’s career, Amy took her time to find her cycling legs.
“First I really didn’t like cycling. Then a friend of mine started to get into it and I got suck in. I got an old helmet, some old shoes and a bike. My dad thought that I’d be done after just trying it once but I went from there. Cycling has been around me my whole life, watching my dad and my brother.”
Her father will be watching closely from back home in Europe as Pieters takes on the best sprinters in Qatar this week, and although the Liv-Plantur rider is tentative over her form, she believes that the conditions will be a major factor in determining the race.
“There are a lot of good sprinters here. With this race, so much depends on conditions and the winds. There are a lot of strong riders but of course you don’t know how everyone is going because it’s the first race for a lot of riders. Wiggle have three sprinters with them but you’ve got Bigla and a lot of teams have come with improved line-ups.”