Widely regarded as the season-opener despite a handful of January races in the Southern Hemisphere, the eighth edition of the Ladies Tour of Qatar begins on Tuesday. Last February, Boels-Dolmans dominated the race, winning three of the four stages and the overall. The Dutch-registered team returns to the Middle East with modest ambitions in relation to past success.
“To be totally honest, I always come to Ladies Qatar to look for what we’re missing,” said team manager Danny Stam. “Every year after Qatar we plan a training camp, also like this year, so that when we see where we’re standing at this point in the season, we can put work in on these things in the next training camp.”
“We didn’t go to Qatar last year with the intention to win,” added Stam. “I knew we did a good training camp, and everybody was in good shape, but we didn’t line up saying that we were going to the win the race. I think the team is on the same level this year like we were last year. The only change is that we didn’t bring Lizzie [Armitstead] here.”
The world champion won two of the three stages Boels-Dolmans won en route to the overall title.
"I trained pretty hard with Lizzie during the winter to make her sprint better,” said Stam. “We saw that work out directly in Qatar. Now we have to play a few of our other cards if we want to go for the wins, but I think the level from the girls is the same as it was last season at this time."
Ladies Tour of Qatar stage winner Ellen van Dijk has been tapped as a possible team leader alongside compatriot Chantal Blaak. The duo will be supported by Kasia Pawlowskia, Romy Kasper, Demi de Jong and Christine Majerus, who joins the team fresh off a top ten finish at the Cyclocross World Championships this past weekend.
“Maybe we will win a stage while we are there, but I will still use the race to look at what we’re missing in the season and what we have to train next for the spring races,” said Stam. “
Doha, Qatar plays host to the 2016 Road World Championships, and the opening stage on Tuesday serves as a test event.
“The good thing is that we race the course from the Worlds one day so that we can actually preview the race,” said Stam. “The other good thing is that I can look at the hotel and organise the logistics for the team time trial.”
Stam also looks forward to the luxurious conditions the women’s teams are treated to during their time in the Middle East.
“We’re going to have some fun,” said Stam. “I can’t eat too many cookies because I don’t want to get fat, but I’ll make good use of the coffee machine in my room.”
Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team for Ladies Tour of Qatar:
Demi de Jong
Ellen van Dijk