Stage 3 of the Ladies Tour of Qatar was as fast as it was eventful. At an impressive average speed of over 45km/h, Kirsten Wild captured her second consecutive stage win and took command of the overall standings. The Argos-Shimano leader is just a day, and a stage away, from a third success after triumphing in 2009 and 2010. She however only has a slim 3» lead.
Stage 3: Al Thakhira â€“ Madinat Al Shamal, 112.5kms
86 riders at the start (Druyts (VLL), non starter). Cloudy and windy
The 86 riders remaining in the race took off from the Al Thakhira harbour for the 3rd stage of the Ladies Tour of Qatar. It would be another tough day across the peninsula under the influence of strong winds. Despite several attempts, the pack remained bunched all the way to Al Zubara, north-west of Qatar. After having covered close to 48 kilometres during the first hour due to the strong tailwind, Kirsten Wild (SKI) claimed the first intermediate sprint (km 60) and the precious 3 bonus seconds, beating Golden Jersey, Hosking (HPU) and Becker (SKI) to the line.
As the pack headed up north and the wind started blowing sideways, several riders failed to keep up with the pace. While a crash occurred in the peloton, a group of 18 ladies pulled away including race leader Hosking, Wild, Elvin (GEW), Van Dijk (SLU) and Worrack (SLU). The front group enjoyed a 40â€ť lead at km 83 on a group of 22 including Cromwell (GEW), Gilmour and Bronzini (both WHT).
With 25kms to go, as the riders entered the final circuit, the first two groups bunched up together again. 8 riders gave it a go but where rapidly caught before reaching Madinat Al Shamal for the second bonus sprint won by Brennauer (SLU) ahead of Blaak (TIB), who had both broken away just before crossing the line. Kirtsen Wild powered to third spot ahead of the pack, 5â€ť adrift.
With 10 kilometres to go, Brennauer and Blaak could still enjoy a 10â€ť lead. Both were first caught by Fahlin (HPU) and Cantele (BPK) and then by the whole golden jersey group with 5 kilometres to go.
Just under 40 riders moved closer to the finish line. With under 3kms to go, race leader Chloe Hosking suffered a puncture. Despite being eventually given the winner's time, she could no longer hope for stage victory and extra bonus seconds. Well helped out by her Argos-Shimano team mates, Kirtsen Wild powered to a second consecutive stage win, beating Van Dijk and Bronzini.
The Dutch lady claimed her fifth victory in Qatar and took command of the overall standings. With just one day to go, Wild has a 3â€ť lead over Gilmour and 16â€ť over Elvin, while she also leads the points' standings. Hosking remains best young rider of the event and will carry the White Pearl jersey tomorrow.