"It's disappointing," she admits, shrugging. "This is a race that's very well-suited to my strengths and I was going to wear number one…"
Set to line up for the event for Roxsolt, Rowney, arguably in the best shape of her life, was a pre-race favourite off the back of her second overall at the Santos Women's Tour in Adelaide. An evening 14-hour flight to Qatar to meet up with her Velocio-SRAM teammates following the 113km race on Saturday in tough, blustery conditions where Rowney was likely to be sprinting for the win, was considered to be too much for the 26-year-old.
"I'm in really good shape at the moment, but we still need to manage my fatigue," Rowney explained.
The Australian is part of a small percentage of people who are subject to recurring bouts of glandular fever. As an endurance athlete, repeatedly putting your body into depletion and stress, running on empty, the immune system takes a beating. With the Ladies Tour of Qatar starting on Tuesday and the classics starting at the end of February, Rowney needed to be thinking of the bigger picture. It was only a bit over six months ago where her season had started to really come together having recovered from her last battle with the illness.
Her first full season in Europe in 2013 resulted in Rowney racing more than she had planned with injuries to Ina-Yoko Teutenberg and Katie Colcough. It was too much, too soon and ended her season early. Still, Rowney managed her recovery, and had nearly two months off the bike before she began training with an eye to the Australian summer season.
"I think I got too excited, trained too hard in December," Rowney told Cyclingnews. "I went to Bay Crits and I'd had a blood test just before. It came back on the Portarlington day that, yes, I had glandular which made sense because I felt like crap and then it was well like 'well we have to re-evaluate the year again.'"
Rowney found her 2014 groove at the International Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen and went on to outsprint Giorgia Bronzini and Tiffany Cromwell at a stage of the Tour de l'Ardèche.
"I went and did a month with the Aussie team, got quite a few results, got that win and then went to Worlds," Rowney said. "Since then it's just carried."
Rowney, tall and strong, would like her form to hold for a while to come. "It's the classics that I want to have a crack at this year," she admitted. "I'm down for the whole of the spring so I've got a full schedule."
Her campaign will begin with Het Nieuwsblad, but the Drenthe events also pique her interest.
"It's just the racing… 180-200 girls and there's something happening every second of the race," she explained. "I love tours in the summer but there's something epic about racing the classics."
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