In amassing four overall victories and ten stages wins at the Ladies Tour of Qatar over the years, Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products) has made the difficult seem remarkably straightforward, to the extent that on winning the opening stage of this year’s race, she had to politely inform reporters that it really wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
It won’t be of any consolation, of course, but stage 2 from Sheikh Fasal Musem to Al Khor Corniche could hardly have illustrated her point any more clearly, as Wild endured a mechanical problem and a crash en route to losing her gold jersey and all hopes of overall victory on a day marked by crosswinds.
Wild’s travails began shortly after the first intermediate sprint at Sub Station when – and this was something of a collector’s item, such has been its rarity over the years – she was marked absent when an echelon of 11 riders forged clear in the crosswinds.
Worse was to follow for Wild, when her attempt to chase back on was brought grinding to a halt by a mechanical problem. As she stood at the roadside waiting for a replacement bike, the race was disappearing into the overcast haze up the road.
“First of all my derailleur broke when the race was in the gutter, that was the first bad thing,” Wild said afterwards. “Someone rode into me, while we were riding. I had to change my bike because it was broken.”
By the time Wild remounted, her deficit stood at over two minutes and the leading group had now swelled in size to 26 riders. Containing a plethora of pre-race favourites, including Chloe Hosking (Wiggle-High5), Tiffany Cromwell, Trixi Worrack (Canyon//Sram), Gracie Elvin, Katrin Garfoot (Orica-AIS), Shelly Olds (Cylance) and Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans), it was only natural that they found common cause in working together to distance Wild.
Wild never managed to peg back any of her losses, and her day was compounded with a little over 30 kilometres to go, when she was among the riders brought down by a crash in the main peloton, sustaining a wound to her face and bruises to her elbow and knee.
“I crashed over another girl. She crashed and she took down half of the bunch, including me. That was the second time,” said Wild, who required another bike change for good measure.
Wild would eventually roll home 3:51 down in 72nd place on the stage. It was only the second time in 19 total Tour of Qatar stages that she has failed to finish in the top six. Now out of the reckoning for a fifth overall victory, Wild nonetheless remains the leader of the points classification.
“I’m really disappointed,” Wild admitted at the finish. “But I got such great help from my team. They all waited for me and they helped me try to get back on the front. Unfortunately we didn’t make it. I’m proud of that effort but for all the rest I’m disappointed.”
Immediately after the podium ceremonies, Wild’s first priority was to travel back to the race hotel in Doha and have her injuries assessed, no doubt with an eye to the World Track Championships in London next month where she will line out in the Omnium, though she was confident there was no lasting damage.
“I’m just bruised. I just crashed on my elbow, my knee and I think on my face. But happily all of my teeth are OK,” Wild said. “I can still smile.”