Rochelle Gilmore (Lotto-Honda) credited an off-season spent racing on home roads in Australia for the fine form that carried her to victory on stage 1 of the Ladies Tour of Qatar. She out-sprinted no less a figure than world champion Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) to take the first golden jersey of the race in Dukhan.
"I had a really busy summer in Australia," Gilmore explained after the finish. "I've already done about 20 races this summer and I've come off a really big block of racing so coming here and taking the first stage is really unbelievable."
Gilmore captured the Commonwealth Games road race title in Delhi in October, and has enjoyed a successful spell of racing in Australia in recent months, capped by two stages and the overall classification of the Jayco Bay Classic.
After finishing second in stages of the Tour of Qatar in both the 2009 and 2010 editions of the race, Gilmore was delighted to finally taste victory on the peninsula.
"It's getting to be a bigger race every year here in Qatar and there's gorgeous weather as well," she said. "It's very similar to Australia."
Given her rapid finish and her obvious good form, Gilmore is in a very strong position to defend her race lead over the remaining two stages. The Australian was reluctant to discuss her overall chances but admitted that she can ride the remainder of the event free of pressure.
"My aim was to win the first stage," she said. "Whatever happens now, I'm happy with taking the jersey in Qatar on the first stage."
Gilmore was also keen to praise her Lotto-Honda teammates for their role in her win. With riders of the calibre of her fellow countrywoman Tiffany Cromwell and the day's early attacker Veronica Andreasson, Gilmore is not lacking in support in Qatar.
"We've got a really strong team and all the girls were up there near the finish and motivating me," Gilmore said. "We were all very calm but very positive at the start of the stage and to come here and take the win on the first day is just unbelievable."
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