It’s the first women’s UCI stage race of 2013 – the Ladies Tour of Qatar – and we get to watch this one live!
It’s a race run by the ASO, the company behind the Tour de France, Flèche Wallonne, Paris-Roubaix etc – and if you’re new to women’s racing, but have seen the men’s Tour of Qatar, you’ll know what to expect – very flat courses through the desert, with a lot of wind and sand, and intermediate sprints that count towards the General Classification, so it’s one for the sprint teams, with relentless attacks. My favourite quote about this race comes from Dutch Liv/Giant rider Iris Slappendel:
“If you imagine the sand to be grass, and the camels to be cows, it’s just like racing at home”
Anyway, this one is streamed live, which is unusual for women’s races – a daily stream at about 11:00 GMT/12:00 CET every day on Arabic tv station Al Jazeera – and it’s repeated at 18:30 GMT/19:30 CET and 00:00 GMT/01:00 CET every day, too (the schedules can be checked through the link at the top). It’s a great stream – and Podium Café have livethreads every day, where they’ll tell you all about any other links and information you might need – check out Jens’ preview of the race for more. Videos are popping up on Cycling Fever’s video page – and if you want live in-race coverage via twitter, my top tips for the best commentweeting are Karl Lima of Hitec, Manel Lacambra of Tibco, the Orica-AIS twitter and new team Wiggle Honda’s twitter – they’ll tell you everything that’s going on – and if you want more from a rider’s PoV, check out the fantastic VeloFocus startlist with links to all the riders’ social media!
The Ladies Tour of Qatar runs 29th January to 1st February 2013, and all the information, like start lists and results are on the race website. And yes, there IS something very interesting about the way the ASO also run the women’s Flèche Wallonne World Cup, where there are fixed cameras on the Mur de Huy, and we can’t see that on tv – yes, it is a shame that this race, with the specific, sprint-lead course is the one people get to see on tv, rather than the ones with more exciting parcours – and yes, there are some very interesting issues where the women riders are racing on tv in a country where women have very different rights to Europe, and get their podium flowers from women in full burkas – but what I always take away from this race is how fantastic the riders are treated while they’re there, how it sets a standard for what we should get from every race, in terms of web and tv coverage – and I love following the riders’ tweets and blogs as they experience it all.