After Tuesday’s somewhat mellow opening stage of the Ladies Tour of Qatar raced in calm conditions, Wednesday’s action in the crosswinds went a long way to determining who’ll be on the top step of the podium after Friday’s final day. Ellen van Dijk (The Netherlands/Boels-Dolmans) prevailed from a group of six, which was a decanting of a small group that powered away early. Van Dijk also took over the race lead from Annalisa Cucinotta (Italy/Alé Cipollini), the first time the Dutch cyclist has worn the gold jersey since she won the event in 2011.

Within 10-km of the gun, a 16-rider group containing van Dijk and her British teammate Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Johansson (Sweden/Orica-AIS) and Chloe Hosking (Australia/Wiggle) broke away and kept far ahead of the shattered peloton. By the second of four laps around Madinat Al Shamal, the 16 had become six in a move initiated by Van Dijk.

Van Dijk attacked on the start of the fourth lap and was pulled back, but her second attempt launched with 400-metres remaining gave her the win by three seconds over Trixi Worrack (Germany/Velocio-SRAM). Three-quarters of the peloton finished at least 11:09 after Van Dijk hit the finish line. The race has come down to those six escapees who battled the desert gusts all day. Van Dijk leads Armitstead by four seconds on GC with two stages to go.

Canadians Leah Kirchmann (Optum) and Joëlle Numainville (Bigla) were part of the large group that came in 11:09 in arrears.

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