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Lizzie Armitstead thanks her Dutch team for Qatar overall win

Armitstead becomes first Briton to win the Ladies Tour of Qatar, but she's quick to credit her Dutch team's support and experience

DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Lizzie Armitstead’s strong Boels-Dolmans team delivered her to the Ladies Tour of Qatar overall victory Friday in the Middle East.

“The secret to my success? Having the strongest team,” the Armitstead said in leader’s golden jersey.

“We were dominant. We won three of four stages. That was the secret, along with staying out the wind.”

The crowds of expatriates and locals on the sunny and windy waterfront cheered a British overall winner for the first time in the race’s seven-year history. The Dutch dominated the other editions with Kirsten Wild winning four times and Ellen Van Dijk once. German Judith Arndt was the only exception until today.

Armitstead’s win had a Dutch flavor, however. Her team is from the Netherlands and teammate Van Dijk supported her to today’s overall win.

Armitstead, silver medallist at the 2012 London Olympics and 2014 World Cup overall winner, won by 12 seconds over Australian Chloe Hosking (Wiggle-Honda). Van Dijk placed third at 22 seconds.

As Armitstead said, success came thanks to her team’s strength over the flat and windy Arab state in the Persian Gulf.

“Holland’s flat, and we always have wind, so it’s like it is in Qatar,” Van Dijk said Wednesday. “I feel at home. I like to ride echelons. I like this kind of racing.”

Van Dijk helped tear apart Wednesday’s stage two to Madinat Al Shamal. She formed a group of six riders with Armitstead that stayed clear, and she won the stage and took the overall jersey for her efforts.

Armitstead won the third stage to Al Khor and today’s stage in the ever-growing Doha metropolis. Those wins earned her 20 bonus seconds and foiled Hosking’s designs to win the overall.

The Briton said Thursday that her team placed her perfectly for the sprint win and explained that was the plan again Friday. In the intermediate sprints, however, Hosking picked up two seconds and moved within striking distance of the overall win. If Hosking won the stage, Armitstead had to place second or third to win the overall.

“The plan was to go for the bonus seconds in the two intermediate sprints,” Armitstead said. “The first sprint worked out perfectly. The team did brilliantly. The second sprint result was my fault. We probably went early, but I was caught off guard.

“That put more pressure on in the final sprint, but I knew having got the first sprint, the least I could get was second [in the sprint]. I made sure I stuck with Chloe.”

The overall win sets up Armitstead perfectly for her season goals. After her best ever season in 2014, for 2015 she is targeting wins in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and the world championships.

“The Tour of Qatar win is a really nice surprise. I’m in better shape than I expected,” Armitstead said.

“I didn’t come here to win; I came here for the training, and to find out what I’m missing for the 2015 season.”