They can’t wait to be there
Cycling stars are impatient to shine at the Tour of Qatar (February 8-13). Boonen, Kittel, Sagan, Wiggins, Gilbert, Cancellara and Valverde are looking forward to struggling against the wind to start the season the best way. The very attractive start list features world champions, sprint specialists, kings of the classics and a Tour de France winner.
Belgian cyclists are usually great promoters of the Tour of Qatar. Philippe Gilbert describes the event as “an important part of the lead up to the season”. “Stages are short and nervous, which is ideal at this time of the year”, the 2012 world champion explained. “The high speed and the permanent battle force us to fight for positioning the same way we do it at the Classics. We love the weather in Qatar and we appreciate to stay in the same hotel in Doha during the whole race.”
Professional cyclists already have in mind the world championship set to take place in Doha in 2016. Therefore, some established champions have asked for discovering Qatar this year. “I like a fast race to resume competing so I can quickly get back into the rhythm”, said one of them, Alejandro Valverde, who will make his way to Qatar for the first time in his 13-year long career.
Marcel Kittel will also be a first timer at the event but at the difference of most of his rivals among the sprinters, he already tested his legs at the Santos Tour Down Under. He won the inaugural criterium in Adelaide but left the Australian event without any stage victory as he got caught in a crash on the last day prior to the final sprint. “I came out of this race with better feelings than one year ago and I’m looking forward to the Tour of Qatar where I expect a very high level of sprinting”, said the fast German who has been the most successful sprinter of the Tour de France in the past two years.
Besides the specialists of Flemish classics, Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara and defending champion Niki Terpstra, big names of sprinting have entered indeed: Peter Sagan, Alexander Kristoff, Arnaud Démare, Nacer Bouhanni, Theo Bos, Andrea Guardini and the recently crowned Australian champion Heinrich Haussler who is back to his best level (2nd in the Tour of Qatar in 2009 and 2011). “I’ve always loved this race and I’ll return with ambitions”, said the captain of IAM Cycling.
However, Bradley Wiggins is expected to make the most significant come back to Qatar. The winner of the 2012 Tour de France is gearing up for his last campaign as a road rider. He’s set to quit and focus on track events after Paris-Roubaix in April this year. In 2010, he led the newly created Team Sky to their first impressive collective victory at the team time trial of the Tour of Qatar. This time around he’ll wear the rainbow jersey at the individual time trial (10.9 km) scheduled on the third day of racing in the area of the new Lusail Sport Arena.
18 teams : the leading riders
Australia Orica GreenEDGE: Blythe (Gbr), Hayman (Aus)
Belgium Etixx – Quick Step: Terpstra (Ned), Boonen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen Baloise: Wallays (Bel)
France Cofidis, Solutions Crédits : Bouhanni, Petit (Fra) FDJ : Démare, Ladagnous, Offredo (Fra)
Germany Bora – Argon 18: Bennet (Irl), Voss (Ger) Team Giant – Alpecin: Kittel (Ger), Sinkeldam (Ned)
Great Britain Team Sky: Wiggins, Stannard (Gbr)
Italy Bardiani CSF: Battaglin (Ita) Lampre – Merida: Pozzato, Modolo (Ita)
Kazakhstan Astana Pro Team: Boom (Ned), Guardini (Ita)
Russia Team Katusha: Kristoff (Nor), Guarnieri (Ita) Tinkoff – Saxo: Sagan (Svk), Breschel (Den)
South Africa MTN – Qhubeka: Boasson Hagen (Nor), Bos (Ned), Ciolek (Ger)
Spain Movistar Team: Valverde, Rojas (Esp)
Switzerland IAM Cycling: Haussler (Aus), Brändle (Aut)
USA BMC Racing Team: Gilbert, Van Avermaet (Bel) Trek Factory Racing: Cancellara (Sui)
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