Royal Air Maroc League reaches its end game

The Royal Air Maroc Cycling League returned to the rural town of Al Guwayriyah for its penultimate stage. Bringing with it a guest star in the form of spanish Moto GP racer, Aleix Espargaro.

Espargaro had already traveled to Qatar prior to his event being scratched from the program due to many of the sport’s top bikers facing flight restrictions from a Corona Virus hit Italy. Aleix, who travels with a bicycle to stay fit, was put in contact with Qatar Cycling Federation by local cyclist/motor bike racer, Mashel Al Naimi and both joined the A race on Friday.

Riders were treated to another windless day, but if any thought this would make for easy racing, they were proven wrong almost immediately as the bunch was emboldened to attack and attack again. In A grade’s five lap race, this proved most effective in the home straight where a light cross-wind robbed the bunch of some of the advantage of the leaders’ slipstream, eventually enabling Abdulla Al Khater (Team Doha Cycling) to break free to gain up to two minutes advantage. At the same time, Axel Dopfer (Rasen Adventure Shop) punctured, effectively removing his chances of replicating his recent top results. However, by the last lap, Al Khater, Dopfer and the rest of the peloton were regrouped and everyone came to the line together despite several, including Espergaro, putting in some attacks to test those with tired legs at the tail end of 92 km on the road.

National Team coach, Szymon Wasiak took the win with a powerful sprint, ahead of fellow coach, Mouchine Rhaili (Team Doha Cycling) and his teammate, Bilal Al Saadi edging out Aleix Espargaro into 4th. With Lee Jones finishing 5th, he hands over the league leader’s Scarlet Jersey to Rhaili but, with just 5 points now separating them, everything hangs on the last race in Al Bidda Park in just over a month.

It’s a lot less close in C grade, where Jamison Carino (Bike to Work Qatar) has dominated this season’s racing to the point where nobody stands in his way of the title. He stepped up to the B race in Al Guwayriyah, where he found Pia Sundsted playing race-maker for her Rasen Adventure Shop team. Her machinations produced an escape for two teammates while she remained behind to organise blocking tactics. With Fabricio Forchino also up the road, his Los Gauchos team were coasting too, leaving just a few Team Al Jassra and independent riders to make a spirited chase, albeit lacking the fire-power to make a dent in the lead. It wasn’t to be Rasen’s day either though. Dawoud Al Rashdi and league leader, Nayef Al Mesallam, succeeded in shedding Forchino but they still carried Jamison Carino, who out-sprinted both to take a win in his rookie race in the higher grade.

Pia Sundstedt finally also rode away from a peloton exhausted by repeated hard efforts over the 76 km and, with her rivals left behind, claimed her victory in the A Women category.

There was some very healthy competition in the second Women’s category where eight riders, including some first-timer Qataris, could take some inspiration from triathlete and former handball international, Daniela Sposi (TriClub Doha). Dani has learned race craft over her two years of road racing and on this outing found herself contesting the sprint with the men to take a very creditable 12th place overall and the Scarlet Jersey from 2nd placed Sondra Hope. With the pair now tied on points, the league will be decided on who finishes first in Al Bidda.

Although the win in C grade men was by Jaymark Handayan (Bike to Work Qatar), he is ineligible in the league and second placed Bernard Bayhon looks likely to be runner up to Jamison Carino. With many of this Filipino team making up the top places, it seems likely that Bike to Work Qatar will be a new force in the B race next season.

Results

Men A
1 Szymon WASIAK (Qatar Cycling Federation) 2:24:56
2 Mouchcine RHAILI (Team Doha Cycling) 2:24:56
3 Bilal ALSAADI (Team Doha Cycling) 2:24:56

Men B
1 Jamison CARINO (Bike To Work Qatar) 1:58:12
2 Nayef AL MESALLAM (Rasen Adventure Shop) 1:58:12
3 Dawoud ALRASHDI (Rasen Adventure Shop) 1:58:12

Men C
1 Jaymark HANDAYAN (Bike To Work Qatar) 1:30:58
2 Bernard John BAYHON (Bike To Work Qatar) 1:32:07
3 Mohsen JAFFAR (Team Doha Cycling) 1:34:09

Women A
1 Pia SUNDSTEDT (Rasen Adventure Shop) 2:00:03
2 Sophie CLARKE (Rasen Adventure Shop) 2:01:29
3 Elizabeth DUNNE (Team Al Jassra) 2:10:21

Women B
1 Daniela SPOSI (TriClub Doha) 1:34:09
2 Sondra HOPE 1:34:26
3 Lisa VAN GISBERGEN (TriClub Doha) 1:56:39.8