Katie Colclough is working her way into a new year in the Tour of Qatar. Today, she made the key split on stage three after a crash and helped Specialized-Lululemon team-mate Elen Van Dijk place second.

The crash happened after the first intermediate sprint, when the race turned right and faced cross-winds. The 22-year-old Brit just returned to the peloton. She was attentive, made the split while nearly 60 riders lost ground.

Van Dijk joined the group, which included race leader Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products-UCK). It thinned to 18 riders heading to Qatar’s northern city Madinat Al Shamal.

Colclough told Cycling Weekly, “It’s my second year here, I really like in Qatar. It’s quite a skill to ride here. Last year, I really struggled and I thought I made progression. You can never switch off here.”

Kirsten Wild (Argos-Shimano) won her second stage in a row and with her bonus seconds, earned enough time to move into the lead. The race ends tomorrow with a stage to Doha.

Qatar is rising to the top of women’s cycling thanks to its organisation and the fall out of several women’s races. This year, Tour de France organiser ASO extended the race to four days. Al Jazeera covers all days live on its TV network.

“It’s really well organised and well promoted,” Colclough said, the wind blowing her long hair in all directions. “It sits alongside the men’s race and is something that the women want to see be a success.”

Wild now leads Hosking by three seconds. She also captured the overall in the first two editions, 2009 and 2010. Van Dijk won in 2011 and Judith Arndt, now retired, won last year.

Several cyclists, like the men, use the race to prepare for the series of one-day races in February and March back in Europe. Colclough will race those, including Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 23.

“I think she’s predominantly a domestique,” said former Academy coach and team Wiggle-Honda’s DS, Simon Cope. “She gets her opportunity to win a few races, but she will be riding for Van Dijk or Trixi Worrick in the classics. She can learn from them.”

Colclough helped GB won the team pursuit in the European Championships in 2010. The following year she joined HTC-Highroad, which became Specialized-Lululemon last year.

“It was a change, coming into a more structured team environment with different people, away from Britain,” Colclough said. “It’s a good place for me to develop as an athlete.”

The Ladies Tour of Qatar finishes tomorrow with a stage along Doha’s harbour.

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Kirsten Wild wins again in Ladies Tour of Qatar to take lead