The first UCI-rated 1.3 event of the 2004 cycling season was held in Qatar – and it was also the inaugural racing of the GP Doha International, which precedes the Tour of Qatar, starting on Monday. Both races will continue the healthy ‘mondialisation’ of cycling, with the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia also starting this week.
Indeed, the two events in Qatar may be one of the best chances the sprinters get to win an overall 2.3 competition, let alone stages, as the relief of Qatar is pancake flat. It is also one of the least-photogenic races (if that can exist!), with many photo opportunities involving camels, desert and sheikhs possible!
Anyway, in the expected sprint-fest, it was – maybe surprisingly - not the big names who dominated, such as an in-form Robbie McEwen or Champs Elysees Tour de France stage winner Jean-Patrick Nazon. Instead, in a very close sprint, Simone Cadamuro of De Nardi exploded from the wheel of Classics and sprint hopeful Tom Boonen to pip the Belgian on the line, with the 2002 U23 World Championship Road Race winner Francesco Chicchi third. This bodes well for the morale of Chicchi, who had a very anonymous 2003, as well as Fassa Bortolo: it can never hurt to have a growing ‘Petacchi’ in the wings.
Giosué Bonomi, who had a podium finish in a stage here last year, as a neo-pro, took fourth – actual neo-pro Francisco Ventoso got Saunier Duval their first season points with tenth. Look out for all these sprinters as well as the mentioned big names in the Tour of Qatar: they’ll all be wanting to get off to a good start.
Previously, the Italian Cadamuro had only won a Tour of Slovenia stage in 2002, and a Tour of Poland (2.2) one last year, both in sprints. He also took two third places in Tour of Langkawi bunch sprints last year: clearly it was a much better decision to go to desert land of Qatar this year! The team bosses at De Nardi will be delighted with such an early victory for the team, and will hope it continues long into 2004.
1st GP Doha International (Top 10) (1.3) – 117km
1st Simone Cadamuro (De Nardi-Colpack, ITA) 2h 34m 58s (45.584km/h approx.)
2nd Tom Boonen (Quick Step-Davitamon, BEL) at same time
3rd Francesco Chicchi (Fassa Bortolo, ITA) s.t
4th Giosué Bonomi (Saeco, ITA) s.t
5th Robbie Hunter (Rabobank, RSA) s.t
6th Lars Michaelsen (CSC, DEN) s.t
7th Wouter van Mechelen (Vlaanderen-T Interim-Eddy Merckx, BEL) s.t
8th Andre Korff (T-Mobile Team, GER) s.t
9th Alexandre Usov (Phonak Hearing Systems, BLR) s.t
10th Francisco Ventoso (Saunier Duval-Prodir, SPA) s.t