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Time bonus hunt moves Chloe Hosking into the Tour of Qatar top three

Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Chloe Hosking moved herself into the top three overall of the 2015 Ladies’ Tour of Qatar, after successfully hunting time bonuses in the third stage between Souq Waqif and Al Khor Corniche. The Australian took first place at both of the 93km stage’s intermediate sprints to move to within one second of the overall lead, but unfortunately missed out at the finish as she was beaten into fourth place.

Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) took the stage, ahead of Shelley Olds (Bigla), with Lucinda Brand (Rabobank-Liv) just pipping Hosking into third place. Time bonuses on the finish line meant that Armitstead took over the race leader’s Gold Jersey from teammate Ellen van Dijk, but leads Hosking by just nine seconds going into the final stage.

“Today everything was going perfect until the 72km mark,” Hosking explained. “I had fantastic support in the intermediate sprints from all the girls. Gio [Bronzini] and Jolien [D’hoore] did a great job of lining me up and I managed to win both sprints with the girls picking up some of the minor seconds which was the ideal situation for us.

“Unfortunately we got caught out a bit with the cross winds with a little more than 20km to go and that cost us a little bit, but at the end of the day I left the sprint too late and got swamped from behind,” she continued. “It’s frustrating because I have been doing this a long time and should know better. Sometimes the head and the legs just don’t click and for me that’s what happened in the final km right when it counted.”

After staying together – aside from some brief one-rider attacks, the race stayed together for most of the first half of the stage. The peloton briefly split, but reformed again shortly after the first intermediate sprint, in Tembek after 49km. Hosking was first across the line, ahead of Armitstead and Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Belgian Champion D’hoore, to take three seconds and move to within four of van Dijk overall.

At the second sprint in Ras Laffan with 30km to go Hosking was across the line first once again, with teammate, former two-time Road World Champion Bronzini, taking second place; Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) too third to deny Armitstead the final bonuses. Hosking was now just one second away from van Dijk’s gold jersey as the peloton approached the most northerly part of the course and the turn south.

As the direction of the course changed, it saw the peloton hit the wind from the opposite side and the front group began to shatter, as it had done the previous day. Unfortunately Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini was brought down in a crash, just as a group of 14 riders was pulling away at the front. Hosking and D’hoore were present, however, with the Belgian champion marking any moves that got clear.

D’hoore first managed to get herself into a group of four riders and, as the front group came together into a 35-strong peloton, was part of a five-rider break that escaped with five kilometres to go.

Into the final two kilometres the front group came together again, with 35 riders heading for a bunch sprint in the Al Khor Corniche city centre. Hosking was led into the finish by her Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling teammates, but unfortunately Armitstead’s powerful sprint took her past the Australian to take the stage and race lead.

“Despite that however I’m really happy with the team and our effort,” Hosking said. “Four of the six girls here are new so we’re still coming together as a group.

“I did move up into third overall only one second off second and moved into the lead in the sprints competition so there is a silver lining, and the jersey is silver so that’s slightly ironic.”

With D’hoore in seventh place, and Bronzini taking 12th, Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling maintained its commanding lead in the Teams Classification, while Hosking will start the final stage in the Silver Jersey of the Points Classification.

Unfortunately, due to her crash, Longo Borghini finished in the third group on the road alongside teammate Emilia Fahlin, who had also been the victim of a crash. The Italian time trial champion lost her sixth place overall, but was replaced in the general classification by D’hoore, who moved up two places.

“My ‘pasta pomodoro’ came down in a crash with about 20km and was a little shocked,” Hosking explained. “She said the last thing she remember was being on a climb, we had to tell her she obviously wasn’t thinking of Qatar!

“We’ll see how she is in the morning but right now she wants to race,” Hosking added. “She’s my roomie so I’ll be keeping a close eye on her. When it comes down to it the most important thing is her health and making sure she is okay.”

1. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Shelley Olds (Bigla)
3. Lucinda Brand (Rabobank-Liv)
4. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)

7. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)

Photo credit: Dion Kerckhoffs/Cor Vos

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