Tour of Qatar 2010 - The Favorites
The sprinters take the center stage in Qatar in a series
of high speed contests... Can Tom Boonen add a 4th victory and claim the title
of Sultan of Sprint?
February is still a little too early in the season for many of the riders who
have their sights set on the Giro and the Tour, but for the Classics contenders,
the Tour of Qatar serves as an opportunity to flex the muscles and to show the
competition how well they've dealt with the winter.
This year`s line up has some famous names and one or two new faces who we
should be hearing lots about in the future. It will also give the sprinters a
chance to size each other up - in particular Andre Greipel and Tyler Farrar –
and the two Belgian powerhouses Boonen and Phillipe Gilbert will no doubt be
watching each other closely.
Tom Boonen - Quickstep
Boonen suffered another relatively poor year by his standards (though he won
Paris-Roubaix of course) and lost his focus when he tested positive for cocaine
for the second time in a year (though it was judged that he hadn't actually
ingested the drug). He is focused on Paris-Roubaix this year and wants a 4th
victory there to cement his legacy. He has won Qatar 3 times in the past and
again will be a force this year. However, this year there is a team time trial,
and he could lose valuable seconds.
Andre Greipel - HTC-Columbia
The German spent much of last year in his teammate Mark Cavendish's shadow, but
he still managed an impressive 20 wins. He's not yet confirmed for Qatar, but he
should ride. Hot off his victory at the Tour Down Under, he has good early
season form. The fact that there is a TTT this year will suit him if his
HTC-Columbia perform as they usually do, and if he has the form to hold his own
in the sprints as in Australia, he'll win the GC.
Phillipe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto
Finished 2009 on a high with 4 consecutive victories, and recently
said that his early season form was so good that he was worried about peaking
too soon. His main goal for the early season is Milan-San Remo, still over 2
months away. He isn't a sprinter, and will find it difficult to break away on
the flat roads of Qatar.
Edvald Boasson-Hagen - Team Sky
This is the young man that teammate Bradley Wiggins claimed is “the most
talented rider in cycling right now.” It's a lofty statement, but Wiggins is not
the only person to think highly of the Norwegian. He won Ghent-Wevelgem last
year as well as the Tour of Britain, in excellent style. His early season form
is unknown, but he will be hoping to impress his new Team Sky director, Dave
Brailsford. He also has a decent enough sprint to hold his own in the closing
Heinrich Haussler - Cervélo TestTeam
rider Haussler had a great year in 2009, who can forget the sprint for the
line at Milan -Sanremo? Hausller enjoys training in the cold and wet of Europe,
he handles the late winter and early spring months well. Whether his Cervelo
Test Team will be strong enough to not lose too many valuable seconds in the TTT
is another question.
Gerald Ciolek - Team Milram
The German sprinter can't be counted out in the hunt for a stage win. The team
is eager to get started with Ralf Grabsch calling the shots with veterans Björn
Schröder and Peter Wrolich supporting Ciolek in his season debut. The team is
backed by the new Milram signings, Roger Kluge, Roy Sentjens and Wim de Vocht
and the talented Niki Terpstra.
"We have prepared well and are looking forward to our first racing,“ said
Gerald Ciolek about the season start in Qatar. "I have trained a lot with this
group over the winter. The three newcomers were quickly integrated and we
harmonized quickly both on and off the bike. Now we have to see how it works out
in a race, to start successfully in the season."
Tyler Farrar - Garmin-Slipstream:
The Garmin-Slipstream team is more than capable of winning the opening TTT,
which would serve as a solid platform for the American to go on to win the
overall. His form picked up towards the end of last year, but he second often to
Mark Cavendish. Cavendish will be absent of course, but in Greipel he has
another big challenge. If Farrar has the form to beat Greipel in Qatar, he will
be hopeful of his chances against Cavendish when they next meet.
Former World champion Alessandro Ballan will be making his debut for BMC, but
would have to recapture his form of a few years ago to have any chance. Fabian
Cancellara may try a solo breakaway over the last few kilometers of one of the
stages, and has proven to be good enough to win the odd sprint too by blitzing
the sprinters with his speed over the final kilometer as he did in the tour de
France while wearing the yellow jersey in 2008.
. Filippo Pozzato is another class act that rides well on the flat, but it
will be too early in the season for him perhaps. The most exciting prospect to
race Qatar is Taylor Phinney, whose U23 Trek-Livestrong team was invited by the
organizers. He's focused on defending his pursuit title at the World
Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, but it will be interesting to see him
riding alongside the stars of the European scene.