The 10th Tour of Qatar gets underway in Doha on Sunday with a 2km prologue time trial. When it comes to races against the watch, world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) starts as the favourite but he may face stiff competition over the short course from riders who have already made their season debut.
One man who will be looking to take the Swiss rider's scalp in Sunday’s short test will be Australian champion Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Cervélo). Fresh from breaking Chris Boardman’s 15-year-old world individual pursuit record last week, Bobridge is clearly in exceptional form. There is a palpable buzz surrounding the Australian’s chances in Doha this weekend, exemplified by the fact that L’Équipe’s photographer was commissioned to follow Bobridge on his training ride on the eve of the race.
Bobridge’s Garmin-Cervélo team will be looking to set down a marker ahead of the spring classics. With the merging of Cervélo TestTeam and Garmin-Transitions’ classics squads, Heinrich Haussler reckons his team is the best in the business. With the likes of Leopard Trek and Quick Step also in Qatar, the six-day tour will be an early opportunity to score some important psychological points before the spring classics.
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) endured a difficult season in 2010, as a knee injury curtailed his season. But the Belgian has arrived in Doha looking fit and lean after a long winter of rehabilitation and training. A mainstay of the race over the course of its history, Boonen will be looking to get back to winning ways on familiar roads this week.
The Belgian is not the only fast man with his eyes on stage wins this week of course....
Numerous riders turned up for the first race in Mallorca wearing radios, sparking a stand-off between race judges, the riders and their teams. The start of the race was disrupted.
Radios were banned last season in lower-category UCI events at a 1.2 and 2.2 level (one-day and stage race, respectively), and many national federations extended the prohibition to national-level races.
The UCI will allow radios to be used in WorldTour races in 2011 but the ban is already in force this year for races ranked 1.HC/2.HC and below. This has angered the AIGCP and many teams and riders.
Last week the CPA wrote an open letter to the head of the UCI, Pat McQuaid, but this new step is the first time the entire peloton has acted in a collective manner.
A statement from the AIGCP board of directors read:
“Today the AIGCP organized various protests regarding the ban of radio communication. While we regret that action was required, we feel that our collaborative action was our last resort.”
“The radio ban is one rule that we disagree with, it is only part of the greater issue. The AIGCP takes great issue with the fact that the legislation governing cycling is decided upon without sufficient input from the teams, and with zero vote when new rules come to a final decision in the UCI management committee.”
“Teams represent the largest segment in terms of revenue and employees in...
Video: Dutchman uses power and speed to dominate on technical circuit
Lars Boom (Rabobank) took the first golden jersey of the Tour of Qatar in Doha on Sunday with a masterful display of bike handling over the cobblestones streets of the Cultural Village overlooking the Doha skyline. The Dutchman explained after the race that the twisting layout of the prologue circuit was ideally suited to his capabilities.
"If it was 2.5km out and back course, it wouldn't have been good for me, but the corners and the acceleration after the corners were very good for me, it helped a lot," Boom told Cyclingnews before climbing onto the podium to pull on the race leader’s golden jersey.
Boom took his fifth consecutive Dutch cyclo-cross championship in January and made full use of those bike-handling skills to put four seconds into world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek). While Boom was pleased to beat the rainbow jersey into second place, he was keen to keep his achievement in perspective.
"I'm happy that I beat Cancellara. Of course it's special to beat the world champion in a time trial, but...
Tensions between the professional teams and the UCI over the ban on team/rider radio communications reached new heights today as the riders of the Trofeo Palma Mallorca defied the governing body's rules and wore their race radios during the race.
The UCI commissaires refused to officiate the race and even threatened to cancel the event. The race did eventually go on without the UCI officials, and Garmin-Cervélo's victory by Tyler Farrar over Marcel Kittel (Skil-Shimano) and Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) will not be entered into the UCI's record books.
Farrar and his team manager Jonathan Vaughters said that the sacrifice of the result is worth it to make the point to the UCI that riders opinions should be respected.
"We just want to make a point so the UCI will sit down and come up with a mutually beneficial solution to this," said Vaughters. "It's not that we're trying to wreck races. We're going to race - as we did today. We had a great race, there just weren't any UCI commissaires there, and that wasn't our decision."
"I think today was an important moment in cycling," Farrar said. "I've said all along that I feel race radios are important, not only tactically but also for safety reasons. However, just as important is the riders and teams standing up for themselves and having their voices heard. We are the ones who make this sport and we deserve to have a say in the direction it takes."
Vaughters agreed, saying, "We're the team that's making the biggest sacrifice in this because we won the race - Tyler was a worthy winner today - I consider it a win in my book. This is something that has to happen. The teams are not represented appropriately in the governance of cycling.
"That has to change if we want to become a truly...
Bauer recruits development riders from the nation’s junior hockey league
Canada's first UCI Professional Continental outfit SpiderTech p/b C10 was officially launched at the iconic Hockey Hall of Fame located in Toronto,Canada. Directeur Sportif Steve Bauer, a former hockey player himself, introduced his 17-man roster and announced a new recruitment program that will scout cycling talent from the nation's junior hockey league.
In the Hockey Hall of Fame's Molson Theatre, Bauer opened his presentation in memory of his first yellow jersey earned, and wore for five stages, at the 1988 Tour de France. He went on to wear the yellow jersey again at the 1990 Tour where he lead the race for nine consecutive stages. The story was symbolic of his drive to develop Canada's professional cyclists into future Tour de France contenders.
"We've continued our progress in recruiting the best Canadian talent and that has always been our main mandate to provide opportunities for Canadians," said Bauer who started the team four years ago as Planet Energy.
"And why shouldn't we? At least at the level we are now, I feel comfortable going forward with the group of guys that we have and giving them every chance to make progress in their careers and potentially make ProTour in the future," he added.
The 2011 roster includes Svein Tuft, who won the silver medal at the 2008 UCI World Time Trial Championships, Guillaume Boivin, bronze medallist at the 2010 UCI World Road Championships and Zach Bell, silver medallist at the 2009 UCI Track World-Cup. The rest of the team includes Canadian National Champion Will Routley, Mark Batty, Bruno Langlois, François Parisien, Lucas Euser, Ryan Anderson, Hugo Houle, Pat McCarty, Martin Gilbert, Keven Lacombe, Andrew Randell, Ryan Roth, David Boily and Flavio De Luna.
"There are men on our team that have been on the ProTour like Svein, McCarty and Euser," Bauer said. "A guy like Boiley and Boivin will certainly get to the ProTour eventually, either with us or with another...
Alex Dowsett (Sky) enjoyed a fine start to his professional career at the prologue of the Tour of Qatar in Doha. The Englishman rode to fifth place and took possession of the white jersey for best young rider ahead of the opening road stage of the event.
With a palmares that includes the European Under 23 time trial championship and a time trial silver medal from the Commonwealth Games, Dowsett has a strong pedigree against the watch, but he admitted that he did not expect to beat the highly-fancied Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Cervélo) to the race's first white jersey. Bobridge had arrived in Doha just days after breaking Chris Boardman's 1996 world pursuit record.
"It never crossed my mind, I just thought there was a chance I might go well as I'd done well in short time trials last year," Dowsett told Cyclingnews after receiving his white jersey. "It was actually Kurt-Asle Arvesen who kept saying to me I could do well here. I didn't even know there was a young rider's jersey until last night and then I thought with Bobridge here it would be out of the question."
Dowsett was joined in the top five of the stage by teammate Juan Antonio Flecha, and both men finished within six seconds of winner Lars Boom (Rabobank). While Dowsett was pleased with his own achievement, he was quick to stress that his performance was very much a collective effort and he paid tribute to the team spirit he has encountered at Sky.
"It's nice, there's no competitiveness within the team," he said. "In a time trial, everybody wants to do a good ride, but in some teams it's quite easy to hold back things that you think about the course that might benefit someone, but here everybody tells everybody everything and you just collect that knowledge together.
"We have two riders in the top five as a result of that. There were some riders who were better suited to this sort of short technical prologue than others, so it just shows what Team Sky is...
Matt Brammeier started his HTC-Highroad career on the right footing with a 10th place finish in the prologue of the Tour of Qatar. The Irish champion was one of the day's early starters and he successfully negotiated the technical cobbled course to finish just nine seconds behind the winner, Lars Boom (Rabobank).
"At first I thought it was a bit crazy, but it was better than riding down the main road," Brammeier told Cyclingnews shortly after finishing. "It was really good actually. Judging the corners right makes it that bit more exciting."
Brammeier arrives at HTC-Highroad after two solid seasons with the An Post-Sean Kelly team and he has been impressed by his ProTeam experience to date.
"It's one of the biggest teams in the world," he said. "Everything you do is done right and done perfectly. It's awesome, hopefully it'll help me move on another step this year."
A versatile rider with a wealth of experience on the road and the track, the 25-year-old Brammeier is under no illusions about his role in the squad and is relishing the prospect of continuing to progress in his new surroundings.
"I'm going to do what I'm told everyday on the bike," he explained. "These guys know what they're doing and I'll listen to them. I think I can make a step up and when my chance comes, I'll take it. Of course, I'd like to win a race this year, but then everybody does.
"I just want to do my job for the team really. If I can finish the season and the directors and riders are happy with what I've done, then that will be a successful season for me."
After the Tour of Qatar, Brammeier's next action will come at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne before he faces into a hectic period of racing in March and April, culminating with the Ardennes classics. A Grand Tour is currently not on the agenda for 2011, although Brammeier said that he would not turn down the opportunity if it arises.