The annual Nas Sports Tournament consists of one of the most eagerly anticipated bike races of the year. The ability to race on the roads while your performance is broadcast live across the nation on television is essentially the ultimate for any amateur cyclist. However, with this unique opportunity comes nerves. The entire field is filled with them as they line up on the start line.
Yvonne Van Hattum had spent the earlier part of the year in Majorca with the Canyon Sram Team chasing a professional contract through a competition organised by online indoor trainer platform Zwift, yet despite this experience and having won several races throughout the season she was reduced to nerves days before the race, “ I don’t know what it is with this race but nervousness, more so than other races, seems to creep up on me. Maybe it’s the prize money, maybe it’s the large number of participants of which most I do not know, maybe it’s the evening racing which makes you wait around all day giving me too much time to think about it,” she explained without really being able to put a finger on what it was that made the race more intimidating.
The field was packed with a high caliber of riders representing many countries from all over the world including Bahrain, New Zealand, Ireland, Kuwait, UAE, United Kingdom, South Africa and many more. The start line of this years race was missing some notable riders, including 2 of the 3 who stood on the podium the year before, but it still showcased just how much the womens cycling scene has progressed in recent years and the race did not disappoint.
Alison Kirrage recalls the immediate start to the race, ” ….a furious blur of wheels, and during the early stages I thought I was already dropped on a couple of occasions but I gritted my teeth and managed to cling on to the back of the group. This frantic pace stayed for a number of laps before the race settled.”
After 3 intense laps a breakaway was formed and quickly established a sizable advantage over the chasing group behind. Wolfis Contessas managed to position Deirdre Casey in this lead group which allowed both Yvonne and Natasha to sit in the pack, knowing they had Deirdre in the lead group and this calmed the nerves somewhat. Monique and Alison concentrated on protecting their team mates in the bunch, and ensuring that the team was looked after in the oven like temperature. Monique mentioned afterwards her particular admiration for the, “gutsy UAE girls who were picking up water at speed and handing it around to their teammates like pros.”
Coming in to the final lap it was clear that the podium was going to be made up from the 5 riders from the breakaway as there was not enough fire power in the chasing group to bring them back. The dynamics of this 5 rider break quickly changed however as heading in to the final roundabouts Noura Alameeri of Kuwait had an unfortunate puncture 3km from the finish line, while Liz Verheyden couldn’t match the attacks from the other 3 riders after doing a lot of work throughout the 75km race. This left a 3 way battle in the sprint to determine the podium places.
Congratulations to Samah Mohammad Khaled of Bahrain Merida on her impressive victory with an unmatched sprint. Another fantastic performance from Roisin Thomas of Besport meant that she sprinted to second place. Deirdre Casey took the 3rd spot on the podium for Wolfis Contessas and rounded off the podium places for the 2017 Ramadan Race.
As the remainder of the Wolfis Contessas crossed the finish line they all made their way directly to Deirdre to find out that she had finished on the podium and they could not be more delighted for her. A true show of team work and mutual respect for one another, which has been the spirit which has bonded the Wolfis Contessas Team together throughout the season.
After a hugely successful season in which each of the team members contributed with some fantastic performances, the riders now focus their attention to the summer and start to focus on individual targets that they have set themselves. We look forward to following their progress before setting the teams goals for next season. Onwards.