HTC-Highroad women powered to a win in stage two of the Ladies Tour of Qatar on Thursday with Ellen Van Dijk taking out the sprint from a small breakaway group and moving into the overall lead. Teammate Charlotte Becker moved into second place overall and the team now has a 15-second lead over the next best rider.
The team woke in the morning to strong winds, which encouraged them to go out on the attack.
“I’m from Holland so I’m used to a bit of wind. This was a lot of wind and we wanted to make the most of it,” said Van Dijk.
Van Dijk and her teammates forced the pace in the crosswinds and formed a break of eight riders. She was joined by three of her teammates including fellow Dutchwoman Adrie Visser, Charlotte Becker and Chloe Hosking as well as three riders from Garmin-Cervélo and Loes Gunnewijk from Nederland Bloeit.
“Unfortunately we lost our sprinter Chloe to a puncture but we still had three in the break. The girls helped me get the intermediate time bonus sprints and worked really hard to make the break work so that I could sprint at the finish.”
The group finished two minutes ahead of the main bunch.
“For me this was absolutely great,” said team director Jens Zemke. “It’s my first race with the team and it’s nice to start this way. The girls were prepared to come here to win. We had a very good training camp in Mallorca last week and the girls were really motivated.
“We knew there would be a strong cross wind after the first sprint. We had checked out the spot on the course before the race and they followed the plan perfectly. They ended up with the race lead, the team GC lead, the points jersey and the young rider’s jersey.”
“It’s not over yet. We still have to defend tomorrow but we are motivated,” Zemke added.
Van Dijk dedicated the win to teammate Carla Swart, who died away two weeks ago.
“She died in an accident and it’s really sad and very hard for us all and we wanted to win for her here,” she said.
A funeral was held in South Africa on Thursday and a memorial service will be held next week in Swart’s U.S. home of Banner Elk, North Carolina.