By Pierre Alain Scherwey
Thanks to the Qatar cycling federation, I was able to get a place in the Elite category of the race. I was up against 20 elites – including 9 from the Qatari National Team. I did wonder if I was in the correct race when I saw my number though (Ladies?)
The race consisted of 3 laps of a 36km dead flat circuit but with some serious winds. 1st half lap was tail wind, 2nd half 3/4 cross front to full on headwind. If you’ve ever watched the Tour of Qatar then you’ll know the winds out there are serious with the pros usually leveraging echelons to cope and break up the pack.
A bit over-excited, I attacked right from the start with a Qatari in my wheel. You feel always strong with a tail wind! Nobody was really keen for some action that early… 15km later a purple & white Qatari national train snatched me. The full National Team in line passed us a 50+km/h. I just had time to jump in it along with 2 other guests.
A 90° turn put us in the second part with 3/4 cross headwinds. The Qataris started to hammer and to deploy the group across the road to put the 3 guests in the wind with the result of the immediate dropping of 1 of us. 10 meters gap in this wind & you could never catch up & I so counted myself warned of the dangers of the wind. I played with the elbows to ensure my spot in the middle of the group and rolled along with the small group. This lasted the next 85km without too much trouble.
Onto the final lap and the headwindy part was the best action of the day. It was clear that the Qatari National Team were conspiring together to kick us out. I was quickly alone with them responding to the attacks. Everytime I bridged alone the front guys stopped kicking and when you bridged with someone in the wheel, the guy always launched a counter attack right away. Difficult to last very long in these conditions….
A couple more attacks and the bridging game ended up with me caught between 2 sepreate groups of 3 Qatari’s – 1 group ahead and 1 group 100m behind. It was clear that the 3 leaders were out of my reach at 8km to go & so my goal was simply to avoid the return of the 3 guys chasing me. Sadly they got me at the Flamme Rouge. 2 of them attacked then at the junction and the last one at 500m leaving me behind most of the Qatari riders in the classification.
Anyways, always good to race in new and unusual situations. This race was the last day race in Qatar before October. Temperature are rising up to 45° in summer. We got only 37° today. Summer in Qatar gives place to night crits. I hope I have opportunity to race again here!
Thank you to the Qatari Cycling Federation who make my registration smooth despite it being well after the deadline, and to the Qatari National Team who rewarded my efforts by gifting me a clock
We also got featured in the National press the next day.