The fourth and final stage of the ladies Tour of Qatar ended in a bunch sprint on the Doha Corniche. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle High5) bested Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products) for top honours while Monique van de Ree (Lares-Waowdeals) rounded out the podium. Chantal Blaak proved the quickest Boels-Dolmans rider in the fast finale, slotting into tenth place.
Slightly further back, Ellen van Dijk and Romy Kasper sprinted across the line on bunch time to confirm their places on the overall podium. Kasper finished the four-day stage race in second overall, largely thanks to her representation in a four-rider breakaway on the second day of race. Van Dijk, who won stage three, rounded out the overall podium for the second straight year.
“It’s amazing,” said Kasper, who is typically cast in a support role for her teammates. “I never dreamed about this. I never expected this. It’s just still like a dream but I’m really happy.”
“I cried already after my fourth place two days ago and also today,” Kasper noted. “I still can’t believe it. It’s a great start in the season for me because I’m fighting for an Olympic spot for Germany. It felt great to be with Ellen and Trixi [Worrack] on the podium. They are two really successful athletes. It’s just amazing.”
“The team did a good performance in Qatar,” added team manager Danny Stam. “They showed directly from the start that we work together and commit to each other. I’m happy with this start.”
The last day of racing was also the shortest stage of the week. The peloton rolled out from Aspire Zone for a 73-kilometre race that concluded with 11 laps on the 6-kilometre Doha Corniche circuit.
Less exposed to the wind than the previous stages, the fourth stage of Ladies Tour of Qatar seemed likely to end in a field sprint. Having started the stage with second and third overall, Boels-Dolmans was pragmatic about opportunities to challenge for the golden leader’s jersey.
“We knew that it will be 99 percent for sure a bunch sprint,” said Kasper. “It would be pretty hard for me or Ellen get away. That’s why we focussed on holding second and saving third.”
Van Dijk started the stage 31 seconds off the race lead. Stage two winner Katrin Garfoot (ORICA-AIS) was three seconds further back in fourth place.
“Garfoot was close enough to Ellen that she could pass her if she took some seconds in the intermediate sprint,” noted Kasper.
An early breakaway failed to materialise before the first intermediate sprint, and Van Dijk knew exactly what she needed to do. She won the sprint ahead of Anouska Koster (Rabo Liv) to add three seconds to her advantage over Garfoot.
A group of 13 riders broke clear of the bunch following the first intermediate sprint. The move was short-lived, and when the peloton overtook the temporary frontrunners, UnitedHealthcare’s Coryn Rivera went on the attack. The American pocketed a slim advantage quickly and diligently set to work to extend her lead.
“Because Ellen took seconds on the first intermediate sprint, that was third place saved,” said Kasper. “We didn’t really care about Coryn getting away. It wasn’t our job to catch her back. We focussed on the final and putting Chantal in a good position in the sprint. It was pretty clear that it would be a sprint. Teams like Hitec and Wiggle were hungry.”
The peloton overtook Rivera just before the start of the final circuit lap. With six kilometres left to race, the sprint trains were already taking shape.
“We tried to find each other to give Chantal a good lead-out,” explained Kasper. “The overall was already decided.”
Boels-Dolmans leaves Qatar with a pair of fourth-place finishes, a stage win and two on the overall podium.
“The level is good,” said Stam. “Some of them need to fine-tune and some of them know again that you can’t quickly be satisfied. We have some work to do, but I’m happy with the work already done.”
“It was the first race, but it felt already like the middle of the season,” added Kasper. “We all knew each other already from last year, so we started in the same way we ended last year. Everybody gives everything for the team victory. It doesn’t matter who is on the podium as long as it’s Boels-Dolmans.”