In his very first race of the season, Tom Boonen (Quick Step) took victory in the rainbow stripes of world champion, making the most of a fine lead-out from his new Quick Step team-mates Tosatto and De Jongh in the final few hundred metres before powering to a comfortable victory, yards in front of last year’s winner Robert Hunter (Phonak) and Erik Zabel (Team Milram). Stuart O’Grady of CSC had also been in contention on Boonen’s wheel until his chain snapped, frustratingly, inside the last kilometre. New Skil-Shimano recruit Kenny van Hummel took an impressive fifth place, while Tiziano Dall’Antonia of Panaria was the best neo-pro, taking tenth in his first professional race.
After the race, Boonen said “Today, everybody has seen that we have a great team; our team is really strong and united. This means that we have worked very well during the winter and at the training camp in Calpe. It was a beautiful team victory. When you win in the first race, everything is all right and morale grows, even if we are conscious that it is only the beginning of the season and the important tests are still distant.”
The Doha GP and the forthcoming Tour of Qatar are events very well suited to Boonen’s physical capacities, as well as being ideal for easing riders into the season, thanks to the relatively short stages mixed with hot weather. The country is mirror-flat topographically and with its powerful crosswinds gusting across the roads, the world champion’s strength and Classic nous come in handy, while he still has the breathtaking speed to crush rivals in the finishing sprints. The Quick Step star, who took two stages last year and finished fourth overall, will be looking to carry on from where he left off in 2005. As for the “curse” of the rainbow jersey, it’s too soon to say, but it looks as if Boonen has started the year as he intends to continue.
Doha International GP, 108km - Results
1. Tom Boonen (Quick Step, Bel) 2h 26m 24s
2. Robert Hunter (Phonak, Rsa) at same time
3. Erik Zabel (T-Mobile, Ger) s.t
4. Leon van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto, Ned) s.t
5. Kenny van Hummel (Skil-Shimano, Ned) s.t
6. Gert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto, Bel) s.t
7. Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner, Ger) s.t
8. Graeme Brown (Rabobank, Aus) s.t
9. Guido Trenti (Quick Step, Usa) s.t
10. Tiziano dall’Antonia (Panaria-Navigare, Ita) s.t