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Chloe Hosking so close to victory in Tour of Qatar final stage

Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Chloe Hosking came within less than half a wheel of winning the fourth and final stage of the 2015 Ladies’ Tour of Qatar, between the Sealine Beach Resort and the Doha Corniche, as she was narrowly beaten to the line by Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans). The two riders pulled clear of the rest of the sprinters, with both the stage and the race leader’s Gold Jersey at stake, and crossed the line side by side at the end of the 85km stage. Italian Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM) led the rest of the peloton home in third.

Victory on the stage meant that Armitstead was to secure the overall victory, but accumulated time bonuses meant that Hosking finished the race in second place overall, just 12 seconds behind the British rider. Armitstead’s teammate Ellen van Dijk finished third.

“It was really close!” Hosking smiled. “Elisa [Longo Borghini] watched it on TV and she reckons that, if the line was a metre further, I would have had it. You say ‘if only…’ but I was so proud of the team today. We really gave it everything, and we never gave up. To come that close; it’s bittersweet, but it’s also satisfying, because I know we tried our hardest, and it’s no shame to lose to somebody like Lizzie Armitstead.

“She’s a quality bike rider and she’s in really, really good form, so I don’t think I can be angry or disappointed.”

The early kilometres  saw the bunch split into several pieces, but it reformed again as the stiff coastal headwind made it tough to attack the peloton. Because of the strength of the wind, the first hour was raced at an average speed of just over 33kph, and it was all together on the approach to the first intermediate sprint, in Al Wakra after 38km.

Hosking was unable to beat Armitstead to the line in Al Wakra, but the two-second bonus for second place lifted the Australian into second place overall; leapfrogging van Dijk.

“That was a bit of a blow!” Hosking admitted. “Jolien [D’hoore] rode up to me afterwards – after she’d done a fantastic lead out – and asked ‘how did it go?’ and I just had to hang my head and say ‘oh, I got second.’ We both had our heads down for a little bit, but then Gio came up to me and said ‘don’t give up; keep pushing; keep going,’ and when someone like Giorgia Bronzini comes and says that to you, that’s just a little bit motivating!

Xiu Jie Jiang (China Chongming-Liv) escaped shortly after the sprint and, since the Chinese rider was of no threat to anybody’s overall position, was allowed to build a healthy lead on her own. Across the finish line for the first time, starting the first of the five 5.5km finishing circuits, Jiang was 1’34” ahead of the peloton.

The second time over the line Jiang’s gap was still 1’35” as Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling hit the front, with France’s Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Sweden’s Emilia Fahlin working hard to pull the Chinese rider back. Jiang was just 47 seconds clear at the end of lap two and, as riders began to attack the peloton, she was caught with 14km to go.

Hosking took first place on the fourth time across the line, with just two laps to go, taking the intermediate sprint and the three bonus seconds. Belgian Champion D’hoore managed to beat Armitstead into second place to rob the British rider of another second and cut Hosking’s deficit to eight.

“We really came back at them in the second sprint, and I took that one out and Jolien was second,” Hosking explained. “We just rode past each other, and sort of looked at each other with a little smile, and we thought: ‘this isn’t over yet!’”

There then followed several attacks as small groups and individual riders tried to break free, but Fahlin was policing everything that got clear. Armitstead was led into the finish by her team, however, as D’hoore brought Hosking onto her wheel. As the sprint began the Australian managed to pull alongside the British rider, but Armitstead just managed to keep her tyre in front, to win the stage by a little under half a wheel.

“In the end Lizzie was there in the finish and rode really well, as she has been all Tour, so you just have to say congratulations to them really,” Hosking conceded. “They rode a fantastic race.

“Obviously we’re like a new team, we’re coming together for the first time,” Hosking explained. “Gio, Emilia and I have been racing together in Australia, but when you throw in three more girls in the mix you’ve just got to come together, learn how to communicate with each other, and learn what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are.

“For sure, I think, every day we got better. Nothing much could have gone better today. The girls were so great. I finished second, but I finished second by a centimetre, so I can’t complain. I think we’re definitely on the right track, we’re just going to keep improving.”

Consistent racing – with D’hoore also securing sixth place overall – meant that Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling comfortably won the Team Classification, which the team had held since stage two. The team was presented with its prize by cycling legend Eddy Merckx.

“That was really cool,” Hosking smiled. “We won the team classification, and I think it’s really well deserved. I know that all the girls deserved that, so to have them all up there was great; with Eddy Merckx.

“I know Jolien was pretty stoked to get a photo with him!”

Result Stage 4
1. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
3. Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM)

Final General Classification
1. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling) @ 12s
3. Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) @ 22s

Photo credit (pics 1, 2, 4): Dion Kerckhoffs/Cor Vos
Finish photo: Qatar Cycling Federation/Paumer/B.Bade


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