Road

Optum recovering after ‘brutal’ Ladies Tour of Qatar start

The American squad is down two riders, one to an illness and another to injuries suffered in a crash

DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies is recovering after a “brutal” start to the Ladies Tour of Qatar this week, where one rider failed to start with food poisoning and another was carried away on a stretcher.

“It was brutal,” sport director Patrick McCarty told VeloNews.

McCarty leaned on his silver car packed near Doha’s Souq Waqif as his remaining four cyclists prepared for stage 3 under 86-degree heat. In the same capital city, but not at the start, Maura Kinsella remains in the hospital with two broken ribs, while Annie Ewart sits in the Sheraton Hotel recovering.

“Annie fell sick with food poisoning and couldn’t start. It’s tough because a race like this you have to commit and it’s tough to make last-minute decisions,” McCarty continued.

“We were confident that she was getting better and was going to be fine, but I think it was the travel that got her. She took a turn, got a cold, strep throat. She was out before day one, but is feeling better now.

“We started with five, but we quickly were reduced to four because 50 kilometers into the first stage, Maura had a dumb crash. It was a slow pace, super nervous, someone swerved and missed a reflector and a crash cascaded back. She landed on a curb. She’s still in the hospital so that they can make sure everything is fine.”

Kinsella is at the Cuban Hospital, a unique place in the Arab state that is run and managed by Cubans.

At the race, McCarty and his riders maintain their fighting spirit. Alison Tetrick attacked at the start of stage 3 Thursday and rode solo for 11km.

“It’s hard racing here, but it’s a great race and we love to support it, but the big picture is that it’s good training and that we are easing into the season,” McCarty said. “This isn’t a high-pressure event for us because it’s February. Also, we’re not like a men’s team with four groups, we have one, and it can’t be good all year.

“We have talented riders who need the experience and to try. They are holding out well here and will come off this well for our trip back.”

The squad will meet for a team camp east of San Diego and then continue its racing season building for the national team time trial championships in April, the Tour of Gila, and the Philadelphia World Cup.

“We are going to be stateside racing a lot pretty much from March on,” McCarty said. “We’ll be in the Ladies Tour of Britain in June, then the La Course trip again in July, maybe doing other European races at the same time.”