Guest Blog by Sheryn Hosking: Ladies Tour of Qatar – An Adventure
I have often joked that my family could run a cycling team. Dad – who was always there to offer me tactical advice in my junior years, “Move up Chloe!” – would be the Directeur Sportif delegating jobs on the road.
But Mum, Mum would be the brains behind the operation. She would be the recruiter and team manager; the person responsible for pulling the team together and making sure you had the right mix of riders.
Mum knows everything there is to know about women’s cycling. She knows all the riders, she knows all the races, she knows all the teams. She even knows how many points you get for seventh place in a World Cup.
Mum knew the names Elisa Longo Borghini and Anna van der Breggen before I had even raced against them. She would call me up on Skype and say, “Chloe, there is this young Italian girl coming through. Watch out for her at the upcoming races.”
Yeah, yeah Mum. Then Elisa won bronze at the 2012 World Championships in Valkenburg.
I am unreliable on email at the best of times, so – I assume – in an attempt to keep up to date on what her youngest daughter was doing my Mum turned to stalking any cycling website that might give her some information. Mum was scouring Cycling Quotient before it was cool. Then she moved to Twitter (@Sheryn_H) and more recently she has resorted to stalking Facebook.
Don’t get this confused with pushy parenting. My parents have never been pushy. They just love cycling. And most of all they love women’s cycling.
Three years ago I was on camp in Maastricht (in the Netherlands) when La Flèche Wallonne was on. Mum was visiting for just over a month and had rented a small apartment not far away. The race – one of the biggest on both the men’s and women’s calendar – is held only a short drive away so while I was doing a five hour training ride Mum took herself off to watch the riders suffer up the famous Mur de Huy. She secured a prime position 250 metres from the finish line to watch Marianne Vos power to victory. Next up the men…
Having finished my five hour ride I had come home in time to collapse on the couch and watch the men tackle the grueling course which the women had just completed. I was wondering where Mum would be and which stars she would be trying to snap photos of. Then I heard footsteps on the stairs.
“Chloe? Chloe? Are you there?” Out of breath Mum came running up the stairs.
The men were 30 kilometres from the finish. “Mum, why are you here? Why aren’t you watching the men?”
“Oh I didn’t know any of them so it wasn’t as exciting as the women,” she said. I had to laugh.
That’s my Mum, a women’s cycling tragic. So when I received an email from Qatar Cycling in July last year inviting both my parents to watch the 2014 edition of the Ladies Tour of Qatar I was ecstatic. Firstly because I knew my Mum would love it, but more importantly because she more than deserved it. After years of running me around to cycling races in Australia and the countless late nights she has had since I moved to Europe hitting ‘refresh’ looking for results there is no doubt that she has more than earned it.
Mum wrote a short blog about her experience in Qatar – unfortunately uni prevented me from posting it earlier – but here is her take on the sixth edition of Ladies Tour of Qatar. I hope you enjoy it!
“I could be labeled a ‘cycling groupie’ of the women’s peloton. I love following the women’s racing (usually via twitter because there is so little TV coverage) and whenever possible, going to the races. Last year I was able to see the Lotto Belisol and Giro Toscana tours.
For the last few years I have followed the Women’s Tour of Qatar from afar (ie back in Oz which is 8 hours ahead of Qatar so that means many late nights.)
My daughter Chloe has raced in Qatar since 2010. For the first few years it was very difficult to source updates or results on the race. I remember with Chloe’s first Tour of Qatar, waking early one morning to see if I could find some information on the race only to see photos posted on Cyclingnews of Chloe being stretchered off the course with her neck in a brace – not a good start to my day!
I had no idea where Chloe had been taken, I had no idea about Qatar and even less about Doha. (Fortunately Chloe was well looked after at one of Doha’s impressive medical facilities.)
So to be invited by Qatar Cycling to watch the 2014 Ladies Tour of Qatar in Qatar was exciting and such a fantastic opportunity. I mean how often do families of female cyclists get such invitations – NOT OFTEN!!
Qatar is an amazing country and Doha an exciting city with thousands of impressive, ultra modern buildings and many more being constructed. In fact everywhere you look in Doha there is construction happening – and on a big scale. And as with any major city the traffic is CRAZY. So as I am being driven in from the airport to our hotel (did I mention we stayed at the Ritz Carlton with all the cyclists) I am wondering ‘how will they run a cycling race with all this traffic?’ It seemed chaotic.
I remember the chaos with traffic at the 2013 Giro Toscana (and it was not a pleasant experience for the riders or for me watching the race).
The 2014 Ladies ToQ had four stages – there were 15 teams competing and 88 riders (of which 12 were Australian). The main issue for the girls was not the traffic (it was managed expertly by the Qatari police and Tour organisers) but the WIND. The windy stages made for exciting racing every day with echelons forming early on in all but the last stage.
Our family was able to follow the races in one of the Press cars – we would sit behind the peloton and then leapfrog in front of the girls so our photographer could get that perfect shot.
Each day I would hold my breath as the Chief Commissaire came on the radio and reeled off the numbers of the riders who had made the front echelon – who would be there? Would number 11 have made it? Yes, a sigh of relief as we knew Chloe was in the front echelon. And so too was Kirsten Wild with a few of her teammates as well as some Orica AIS girls and others.
The group making the front echelon changed a little over the days but generally totaled around 20 girls.
The racing was always fast, aggressive and exciting. There were constant attacks throughout the stages but it was Kirsten Wild and her Giant Shimano team who in the end prevailed. They ended the tour with Kirsten taking the ‘Golden jersey’ for a record 5th time.
To me the Ladies ToQ demonstrated that you don’t need 200km races and mountains to make for exciting racing. I can’t wait for 2016 and the World Championships. I will definitely be there. “
Mum raises a great point. One of the biggest criticisms women’s cycling receives is that ‘it’s not exciting’. Well I’m calling bull-sh*t. Our races are shorter and for that reason we don’t have to soft pedal for the first 150 kilometres. We race hard from the beginning and this years edition of the Ladies Tour of Qatar proved exactly that.
I labeled the third stage of this year’s Ladies Tour as possibly one of the hardest races I had ever done.
Oh wow. Today’s 3rd stage of #LadiesTourofQatar was seriously one of the hardest races I have done, ever. 3 seems to be my number this week.
— Chloe Hosking (@chloe_hosking) February 6, 2014
It was only 93kilometres in length and pan flat but the constant wind the the pelotons refusal to let an echelon escape for a third day in a row meant that everyone was fighting for more than 80kilometres to remain in the top 10. By the time the peloton did split I think I had set a new max heart rate (I’m still waiting on my coaches feedback from the SRM file though). But it wasn’t over; the final five kilometres saw more attacks than I care to remember.
It was incredibly exciting racing, but don’t take my word for it, or my Mum’s. Watch the last three kilometres of the stage here and judge for yourself: