DOHA (VN) — Argos-Shimano is charging boldly into the new year. With a license to race in the men’s WorldTour, and Kirsten Wild on a tear at the Ladies Tour of Qatar, the Dutch team’s top brass are enjoying happy times.
After Wild took her second stage win in two days in Thursday’s stage 3, team owner Iwan Spekenbrink called to offer his congratulations, said sports director Marc Reef.
“They were all able to follow from the stage from the office because it’s live on TV,” Reef said. “They were happy. I’m really happy. Kirsten is really happy. All the ladies did the work and it was a team effort.”
The women’s Tour of Qatar is in its fifth year, run by Tour de France organizer Amaury Sport Organization. ASO also runs the men’s stage race, which kicks off Sunday in Doha.
“It’s really important,” Reef said. “It’s the first stage race for the women [and] it’s an ASO race, which means a lot for our team because of the men’s team and its new place in the WorldTour.”
Wild gave her flowers to local men after winning in Madinat Al Shamal. The wind blew hard while the announcer mispronounced her name and called her Australian. Nevertheless, the 30-year-old Dutchwoman was all grins, because the win and bonus seconds ensured she took the overall lead from Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products-UCK) by three seconds.
Her second win and the golden leader’s jersey also underlines Argos-Shimano’s place in cycling’s hierarchy.
“For every team it’s good to win races,” Wild told VeloNews. “I’m happy I got [the first one] and I’m happy it’s the women’s team. It’s nice.”
The wind blew the women north from the start in Al Thakhira. Wild won the first intermediate sprint ahead of Hosking to take the bonus seconds. After a right turn, crosswinds pushed the peloton to the left and jangled everyone’s nerves. Riders touched wheels, crashed and split the already cracking group into four pieces along Qatar’s western shores. Wild and Hosking made the front group, but several riders struggled and lost time.
Wild took third in the second intermediate sprint and won the overall, gaining 11 more seconds. Hosking punctured in the run to the finish, but the mishap occurred in the final 3km and she kept her overall time.
“That’s bike racing, what can I say?” Hosking said. “I got a puncture.”
Friday’s final stage offers two sprints en route to Doha, and Argos hopes to deliver Wild to her third overall Tour of Qatar title.
Three seconds isn’t much of an edge, but Wild is confident in her team.
“My girls are strong enough,” she said.