New teams on the block
This is Qatar and with the ever-changing Doha skyline, road network and expat comings and goings, we’ve all come to expect change. In cycling the once mighty Carbon Wheels Racing, who laid the foundations of the amateur sport, are present but in lower strength. Giant RBS? Gone. Velostar’s supernova has imploded too; today’s Royal Air Maroc League Race marks the first race since their foundation where there was not a single ‘smurf suit’ to be seen. In their place; Rasen Adventure Shop and Team Al Jassra won the mob match but Team Doha Cycling were looking down on both of them from the top step of the podium.
The frequent turns in and out of the wind of the Al Ghuwayriyah course encourage animated racing. In the A race it was the duo of Guillaume Souter (Team Al Jassra) and Khaleel Abduljanan (Doha Cycling) who made the early break, extended it to as much as 90 seconds and held it all the way to twelve to go of the 92 kilometers. Behind them, riders from Rasen Adventure Shop made repeated solo attempts to bridge across but, without a concerted team effort, the best they could do was to get within 30 seconds of the leaders before returning to the bunch.
It took the experience of Szymon Wasiak (National Team Coaches) and National Team rider, Bilal Al Saadi (Doha Cycling), to first make the catch and then lead the reunited peloton to the line. It was a convincing win for Al Saadi who has grown in strength this year as he matures as a rider and reaps the rewards of Wasiak’s strategy.
Despite 60 kilometers of hard graft on the front of the race, Guillaume Souter narrowly out sprinted team mate Lee Jones (Team Al Jassra) to receive the bronze medal as consolation for his efforts.
Attacks and counter attacks characterised the B race with one of the Los Gauchos or Rasen Adventure Shop riders seemingly up the road for much of the time. Nothing truly stuck though and Rasen are not yet finding a way to capitalise on their strength in numbers.
Mudar Al Khatib (Doha Cycling) stood out as one of those setting the race alight. Often observed plotting with team mates, he made the moves as well as neutralising those of others. Cycling doesn’t always reward those doing the work but on this occasion Mudar also crossed the line first, going one better than his last outing and ahead of Travis Pyle and Arturo Mabag (Bike to Work Qatar).
Less than two seconds behind came Sophie Clarke (Rasen Adventure Shop) to emphatically keep the league leader’s Scarlet Jersey off the shoulders of Lisa Dunne (Team Al Jassra).
A large field of sixty-six started the C race and forty-three of them contested the sprint finish. The winners all Philipino: Jamison Carino (Bike to Work Qatar), Ernesto Gabriel (SMCC Apo Lakay), Christian Hidalgo (Team BRO). South African, Sondra Hope was first woman, just outside the top 20. A great contest for the league title is shaping between Hope and Daniela Sposi (TriClub Doha).
So, we welcome the new teams to Qatar’s road race scene as we bid farewell to one of the stalwarts leaving it: Pinoy Roadie, Angelito Delacruz, going home after twenty-seven years in the Gulf.