Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling is looking to capitalise on recent successes in Australia as the UCI Elite Women’s season begins with the Ladies Tour of Qatar on Tuesday. Former two-time road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini dominated January’s Mitchelton Bay Classic – the Bay Crits – and hopes to use that sprinting form to take her fourth stage victory in the desert race.
Bronzini also finished second overall in the 2009 and 2010 editions of the Tour of Qatar and, with time bonuses available at stage finishes and intermediate sprints, the Italian hopes to finish strongly again this time.
“I don’t think it will be like my last race in Australia because here it is another kind of race,” Bronzini said. “In the last month I’ve worked hard in my preparation for the Track Worlds so I have had good training and hope to feel good in the race.
“Overall, tomorrow will be the first long road race of the season, with the best riders in the peloton too. So it will be hard to try to be perfect on the first day. Normally in a stage race I feel better from day to day, so tomorrow will be hard for me, but I will try to be at the front.
“I will try to be present at the focus point of the stage, and I know I will have my teammates around me,” Bronzini added. “For sure the best girls will be the Australians, and those that have been in the warm weather until now.”
Alongside Bronzini will be Australian Criterium Championship Silver Medallist Peta Mullens, who will make her international debut for Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling after some outstanding performances in the Australian summer season. German Charlotte Becker, like Bronzini, has finished second overall in the Tour of Qatar, and was also a key part of the black and orange team last month, while Swedish champion Emilia Fahlin will be showcasing her blue and yellow Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling jersey for the first time.
Italian Beatrice Bartelloni will make her 2014 road debut in the race, having ridden a strong Track World Cup season for the Italian National Team and, having ridden strongly in the Australian summer, Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling team manager – and 2011 Qatar stage winner – Rochelle Gilmore steps in to replace Linda Villumsen.
The race will also see new Directeur Sportif Franky Van Haesebroucke behind the wheel of the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling team car for the first time.
“The girls are really motivated,” said Gilmore. “They’re here with new staff this year, and they really like Franky. They think he’s bringing a lot of positive qualities to the team.
“There’s a new Campagnolo EPS system, and new kit, so everyone’s really excited and ready to race,” she continued. Obviously, we know that Emilia, Lotte and Peta are really strong, because they raced in Australia and they’ve got good form, and they’ve been training in Australia. Giorgia’s been training with Bea in Spain, so the team’s strong and everybody’s motivated.
“I think we’ll have a good race,” Gilmore added.
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling line up for the Ladies’ Tour of Qatar (4th-7th February)
Beatrice Bartelloni (Italy)
Charlotte Becker (Germany)
Giorgia Bronzini (Italy)
Emilia Fahlin (Sweden)
Rochelle Gilmore (Australia)
Peta Mullens (Australia)