Wearing his Australian National Time Trial Champion skinsuit for the first time, Michael Hepburn won the stage three Tour of Qatar individual time trial. The Queenslander covered the 10.9km course in 13’28, averaging 47.971 kilometres/hour. Lars Boom (Belkin) posted the second quickest time, 1” slower than Hepburn. Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) was 6” further adrift in third place.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Hepburn. “Right from the start, it was a really proud moment to ride in the national colours for the first time. I rode early in the race, so I had to wait awhile to see what my time would get me. Towards the end, when I realised that maybe I would win, the nerves really started to pick up.”
“In the last couple weeks, I have done a few training sessions specific to this stage,” Hepburn added. “My main objective was a good, solid ride. I wasn’t really thinking about a specific place. In the back of my mind, I guess I thought if I did a good ride today, a top five would be possible. There are some big names here. I’m pretty stoked to finish on the top.”
The wind-swept, snake-shaped course featured several different changes in direction. Riders started with a crosswind, finished with a headwind and had a cross-tailwind between the two. Hepburn posted a negative split, completing the second half of the race faster than the first.
“It was very windy out there,” said Hepburn. “The gusts were around 25 kilometres/hour. The first couple kilometres into the headwind were slow. The next couple kilometres were much quicker. All the time was made or lost in the final three kilometres when we had a headwind.”
The reigning world champion in the individual pursuit likened a short time trial to his efforts on the track. With specific preparation for the stage, he felt confident in his ability to produce a strong ride; however, it unclear how his strong ride would compare to the likes of Boom, Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) and Ian Stannard (Team Sky).
“I knew exactly what I had to do,” said Hepburn. “I had a clear idea of the power I had to produce, and I was confident I could do that. I’m in good condition for a 10 kilometre time trial. A race of this length is similar to the individual pursuit. You just have to be smooth. I wouldn’t say any one thing went right. I just did what I had the confidence that I could do – and it got me the win in the end.”