Many riders have a love-hate relationship with the Ladies Tour of Qatar, the first meeting of the season of the top female sprinters of the peloton. They love the warm weather, the posh hotels and the opportunity to begin applying their off-season training to competition, but are punished by the relentless wind, driving sand, and many crashes that inflict the peloton.
The race has mainly been the domain of Dutch rider Kirsten Wild, the defending champion and winner of four of the six editions of the race. However, this year Wild has set her focus on the track, and will skip the Ladies Tour of Qatar to prepare for the world championships in Paris, leaving the race wide open for other top sprinters to emerge. Last year's runner-up Amy Pieters will take her place as leader of the Liv-Plantur squad.
Lizzie Armitstead, last season's UCI World Cup winner and a gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games and former Tour of Qatar winner Ellen Van Dijk will lead the reinforced Boels Dolmans Cycling Team in the race. They will face an equally strong Wiggle Honda team, with former world champion Giorgia Bronzini and Australian Chloe Hosking, who has twice finished on the podium here.
Orica-AIS will field Emma Johansson and Italian Valentina Scandolara, winner of the Santos Women’s Tour earlier this season, while American Shelley Olds will lead the Bigla team. Expect to also see Lucinda Brand and Shara Gillow heading up the Rabo-Liv team, and Tiffany Cromwell, Lisa Brennauer and Trixi Worrack with Velocio SRAM at the head of affairs.