Romy Kasper rode herself into the race-winning move in the final three kilometres of the second stage of the Ladies Tour of Qatar. The German ultimately finished in fourth place and jumps up to fourth overall with two stages done, two stages still to race.
Heading toward the finishing stretch, Kasper was part of a four-rider breakaway that split from a group of ten. Former Ladies Tour of Qatar overall winner Ellen van Dijk attacked near the five kilometre mark, and when her breakaway attempt was negated, Kasper covered the counter-move alongside Amy Pieters (Wiggle High5), Trixi Worrack (CANYON//SRAM) and Katrin Garfoot (ORICA-AIS).
“The move of four had one rider from every team represented in that group of ten, so they stopped riding behind us,” said Kasper. “We weren’t working together well, but still the gap was getting bigger.”
Pieters stopped working in the final 1500 metres, and Garfoot attacked out of the last turn.
“I waited maybe one second too long to try to jump over,” noted Kasper. “So I couldn’t get to her wheel, and I was hanging between her and the other two. Trixi and Amy caught me with 300 metres, and I couldn’t do a sprint anymore.”
Garfoot soloed to victory to move into the race leader’s jersey. Worrack won the three-up sprint for second
place. “Unluckily, I ended up fourth out of the four,” said Kasper.
Wednesday’s race was far more action-packed and dramatic than the opening stage of racing in the Arabian desert. Boel-Dolmans started the stage with Chantal Blaak in fifth overall, but Kasper maintains that the overall classification is not her team’s objective.
“We are looking day by day and not at the general classification in the moment,” Kasper said. “We don’t save or protect anybody. The goal for us is to look at where we are coming out of our last two camps. It’s always difficult to know our condition until we do our first race, and that’s what we will find out this week.”
“If we end up with good results on the stages or the overall, we are happy,” Kasper added. “But that’s not the main goal.”
The peloton broke apart in the cross-winds following the first intermediate split. Echelons formed as a group of 11 worked to build an advantage over a chasing group of 15. With no Boels-Dolmans riders represented amongst the leaders, Kasper and Van Dijk led the chase from the second group on the road. Notably absent from either group was overnight race leader Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products), who had punctured as the peloton split.
“I don’t know how we missed that first split,” said Kasper. “I think we focussed a bit too much on the intermediate sprint, which was a stupid mistake, and we were not totally focussed on the wind direction afterwards. We spoke about it before, and we knew that something would probably happen there, so I don’t really know how it was possible that we all weren’t paying attention.”
Kasper and Van Dijk had a chance for redemption when the first two groups on the road rejoined at the mid-point of the race. Sixty kilometres from the finish, 26 riders had more than a minute on what had now become the second group on the road.
“We didn’t really talk about a specific plan at the moment,” said Kasper. “We agreed that it wasn’t up to us to work in the big group because other teams were better represented. We focussed on the next left turn before the intermediate sprint because we knew once we turned, we’d hit a hard side-wind again.”
“I didn’t want Romy or Ellen to work because they had to save energy for the final,” said Stam. “Also, we still had three riders attempting to get back to the front group.”
They didn’t work at first, but Boels-Dolmans duo stayed diligent, and when the opportunity arrived to reduce the size of the front group, Van Dijk took it. Countering the catch of Garfoot and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5), who enjoyed a brief spell up the road, Van Dijk pushed the pace.
“Ellen drove it through the corner to force the split,” said Kasper. “And it worked. We were only ten riders in the last 15 kilometres.”
The group of ten cooperated until they hit the five-kilometre mark when the attacks began in earnest. Van Dijk was briefly up the road, and when she rejoined the bunch, Kasper took her turn. The move Kasper marked would prove the winning late race breakaway.
Van Dijk sprinted in for sixth place with the chase group to give Boels-Dolmans two riders in the top ten on the stage. The Dutchwoman jumps up to eighth overall, 1:08 down on the new race leader.
Luxembourg champion Christine Majerus suffered a nasty spill yesterday and started stage two covered in bandages. Team manager Danny Stam noted she had a strong ride considering her injuries.
“Christine had some wounds on her hands that made it difficult to hold her handlebars,” said Stam. “It wasn’t an easy for her, but she did great.”