It’s the final weekend of big racing for 2016 (and our final previews!). Much has been written and said about the fact of Qatar’s hosting the World Championships this year, and many our previous fears have come to pass. Spectators during the Time Trials and Junior and Under 23 races have been hard to spot, and it’s been worse than the usual thin crowds seen at the start and finish of stages of the Tour of Qatar. Hopefully the headline events that are the road races over the weekend, which keep a lot of the action in Doha rather than in the desert, will draw at least a few more people out onto the hot, sweltering streets!
The women’s race on Saturday is, typically and annoyingly, much shorter than the men’s. The course itself more closely resembles a technical criterium than a major one-day race. Ella Cycling Tip’s SHEcret Pro summed up ours and many riders’ concerns for the 134.5km course:
“You ride 23 kilometres (14.3 miles) to a lap of 15.2km (9.4 miles) with 15 corners and a shitload of roundabouts. Then do that lap seven times!”. “In a lot of riders’ opinions, it shouldn’t be a World Championship Road Race course. Because honestly, it isn’t really a ‘road race’ course – it’s more of a kermesse.”
So we have a hot, fast and potentially crash-strewn race ahead of us on Saturday for the Women’s road race. The nature of the course will naturally favour the sprinters and, unlike the Men’s race on Sunday, there will be no exposed riding in the desert — so the breakaway won’t be able to take advantage of crosswinds.
Here, then, are our top four riders for the rainbow bands:
Wild has won half of the Ladies Tours of Qatar to date (four in total), so these will feel like familiar roads for her, and, with ten stage wins in Qatar, she knows how to win a sprint in the dry heat of the desert. She might have to keep her teammate Ellen van Dijk on a leash, as she powered to a solo stage win in Qatar earlier this year and she could feature in a breakaway move towards the later stages of the race.
Defending champion Deignan (née Armitstead) started off 2016 in dream form, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Tour of Flanders, Boles Rental Hills Classic, and then a stage and the overall at the Aviva Women’s Tour (phew!). The latter half of 2016 has been a period she would rather forget (racing-wise that is, as she also got married last month!), with a well-documented and much-discussed third missed drug test overshadowing her final prep for the Rio Olympics. She missed out in Rio, and thus missed out on her major target for the season. She isn’t the fastest in an all out sprint, but she will still be amongst the ones to beat on Saturday, and a podium place is a huge possibility.
Australia has a great chance of having its first female world road champion in the guise of Chloe Hosking. She’s twice a winner of the Ladies Tour of Qatar and a winner of both La Course and a flat stage at the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile this year. A downtown sprint in the desert is something she will excel at, and she seems to be in great shape.
The ‘Belgian Bullet’, as she is known, has spent this year focused on the Rio velodrome, where she won bronze in the Omnium. However, she made an immediate impact on her return to the road, taking the final event in the inaugural Madrid Challenge . We’ve seen the positive impact that training for the track has had on Mark Cavendish’s form this year at the Tour, and no doubt D’Hoore will be hoping for the same payoff!
Ones to watch: The Dutch and American Teams are really strong with the likes of Chantal Blaak, Anna Van Der Breggen, and Marianne Vos, and Megan Guarnier, Carmen Small, and Coryn Rivera all capable of taking a sprint win. Italy also have Giorgia Bronzini, Marta Bastianelli, and Elisa Longo Borghini who will be in the mix for the podium places.