Ladies Tour of Qatar: Hosking leads powerful Wiggle-Honda squad

Defending champion Wild misses the race to focus on track

The Ladies Tour of Qatar makes its annual return with another impressive line-up for the four-day race but with defending champion Kirsten Wild concentrating on the track, a host of names will be looking to add the race to their palmares.

The race, which runs from February 3-6 will showcase a number of the world’s best women’s teams with Giorgia Bronzini, Jolien D'Hoore and Chloe Hosking leading Wiggle-Honda. The team has already tasted success this season in Australia and will be confident going into Qatar and with Hosking’s history in the race – she has been on the podium twice –and she Bronzini will be a match for anyone. Early season racing in Australia provided the team with the chance to hone their lead-out skills, which will put to the test in the windblown landscapes Qatar offers.

Although Wild is concentrating on the track this year, the Dutch have ace sprinter and 2011 winner Ellen van Dijk making her season debut with Boels Dolmans. She will be joined by 2014 World Cup winner Lizzie Armitstead. The British rider picked up three top-10 places in last year’s race and is a match for even the pure sprinters, however it could be her aggressive, attacking nature that provides the most concern for her opposition should the race hit crosswinds.

“This is one of the Tours that’s generally won on bonus seconds, “Wiggle’s Chloe Hosking tells Cyclingnews.

“The intermediate sprints and then seconds at the end play such a massive role because you have the echelons that will go but you’ve got to be consistent and you’ve got to make that first echelon every single day.”

Orica-AIS will field Emma Johansson and Italian Valentina Scandolara, winner of the Santos Women’s Tour earlier this season. The Australian outfit were a formidable force when racing on their own turf, even looking to split the field whenever they were tested with crosswinds, and they’ll look to repeat that play once more.

Last year’s stage 2 winner Amy Pieters - the only rider to win a stage in 2014 other than Wild - will lead Team Liv-Plantur with Lucy Garner, while American Shelley Olds will lead the Bigla team.

“I think Orica will be super strong. We saw at the Women’s Santos Tour that when there was crosswind action they were forcing the pace. Then you have Rabobank, Boels, Wiggle and Velocio as the dominant teams,” Hosking says.

Ladies Tour of Qatar - Route

The race kicks off with a 98-kilometre test from Museum of Islamic Art to Dukhan Beach, in a repeat of last year’s starting stage venue. Leaving Doha, the peloton will face two intermediate sprints before the final bunch sprint.

Stage 2, from Al Zubarah Fort to Madinat Al Shamal is the longest stage of the race at 112 kilometres, and is a replica of 2014’s win for Pieters, with the race heading north before completing four laps of a circuit.

The penultimate stage runs from Souq Waqif to Al Khor Corniche, a 93-kilometre stage with the race again heading north from Doha with one intermediate sprint up for grabs. If the wind picks up, even at early stage, the race could be split to pieces by the likes of Orica-AIS and Liv-Plantur.

By the time the fourth and final stage starts the overall should be sown up but an exciting criterium finish could yet through up surprises. These are the road that will be used in the 2016 World Championships and a host of riders will be looking for a morale-boosting performance as they look to impressive their respective national selectors.

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