Twenty four hours earlier Elisabeth Armitstead (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team) had claimed she wasn’t within the sprinting elite at this year’s Ladies Tour of Qatar but after a comprehensive win on stage 3 - a win that moved her into the race lead with one day to go – the British all-rounder was forced to concede for the first time after a day in which she and her team once again proved their mettle, that she had underestimated herself.
“It was a plan to let it come down to a sprint. I had a really fantastic lead-out and it’s just as much about us being clever as well as fast here with the wind playing such an important role,” Armitstead said.
Armitstead’s teammate Ellen Van Dijk came into the stage as the overall leader but after winning two intermediate sprints Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda) had fought back bravely. She sat just one second down on GC ahead of the final sprint for the line, and with momentum on her side Boels Dolmans were faced with their sternest challenge yet in this year’s race.
"We didn’t really sprint well enough in the intermediate sprints and I was sprinting into the wind both times. I was determined not to do that at the finish so that gave me a bit more oomph for the final.”
The response to Hosking’s intermediate sprints was emphatic. After a long stint of riding into a headwind the Dutch team splintered the race with more aggressive cross-wind riding once the race turned east. They placed five riders in the lead group and continued to attack until the line.
“That was the plan before the stage. We remembered it from last year and we were there with five, and you can’t ask for more.”
Even when Hosking joined Armitstead in a dangerous four-rider move in the closing stages the British rider refused to panic. And when the move was eventually shut down it was Wiggle Honda who blinked first, opening their sprint far too early.
“They went first. They tried to attack, maybe, and it was a strange sprint from them but we kept our cool and stuck on the left side of Chantal’s wheel and waited until as late as possible.”
Armistead now leads Van Dijk by eight seconds with Hosking a further second adrift. The overall win is still not secure but Armitstead is within touching distance of winning her first Tour of Qatar.
“I think I have eight seconds so I just need to make sure that I’m in the seconds and in the bonuses tomorrow. As long as it’s me or a teammate I’m happy.”