(Road Bike Action & ASO)
Stage 1 of the 2015 Ladies Tour of Qatar was decided in a final bunch sprint by the beach in Dukhan. Well helped out by her Ale Cipollini team mates, Annalisa Cucinotta powered to her first ever success in Qatar. The Italian beat two of her compatriots to the line, Giorgia Bronzini (WHT) and Marta Tagliaferro (ALE), on her way to the overall leadership and a well deserved Golden Jersey.
Ideal conditions and almost no wind, a rarity in Qatar, welcomed the 87 riders at the start of the stage, just beside the splendid Museum of Islamic Art in the centre of Doha. While Canada’s Annie Ewart (OPW) failed to start due to illness, the pack took off just before 2:00, heading west.
Without the slightest breakaway attempt, the pack remained bunched all the way to the first intermediate sprint (km 28) won by Olds (BCT) ahead of Hosking (WHT) and Armitstead (DLT). At km 37.5, Xiu Jie Jiang (GPC) was the first to try her luck on her own. Her avantage went from 45’’ at km 42 to a maximum 1’20 at km 61 while the pack was hit by several crashes, one even forcing USA’s Maura Kinsella (OPW) to retire.
Stage leader Jiang went on to make it to the second bonus sprint (km 68.5) clear from the pack, before eventually being caught. Meanwhile Olds had again outsprinted her peloton rivals, beating Armitstead for precious extra seconds that could count a great deal in the GC.
The bunched up pack stayed that way until the final moments of the race. On the last straight by the beach in Dukhan, Annalisa Cucinotta was perfectly led out by her team mates and claimed her first stage win in Qatar. Present in the peninsula to prepare for the track World Championships in France, the Italian starts her road season in style with a first win at her first race of the year. Despite being caught in a crash earlier on, there was no stoping Cucinotta who beat two-time World Champion Giorgia Bronzini and her team mate Marta Tagliaferro.
As well as the overall leader’s Golden Jersey that she conquered, the Italian takes command of the points classification (Silver Jersey) while another Ale Cipollini rider, Arianna Fidanza claims the White Pearl Jersey for the best Young rider.
Photo: B. Bades