The 2012 Tour of Qatar reaches its conclusion in Doha this afternoon at the end of a headline-grabbing week for cycling, mainly for the wrong reasons. With the vast majority of recent column inches devoted to the doping investigations surrounding Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador and Jan Ullrich, Tom Boonen's exploits here in the Gulf have taken a back seat.
The 31-year-old Belgian's form has given him a big lead in the GC heading into today's sixth and final stage, and it would appear that only injury or a catastrophic crash can prevent him from winning a fourth Tour of Qatar title. He enters this afternoon with a healthy advantage of more than 30 seconds in the GC over Garmin-Barracuda's Tyler Farrar and Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha. Despite the feats of Mark Cavendish, who like Boonen has won two stages, it is the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider who has bestrode the event more than anyone else due to his consistency throughout.
Having completely refused to make any comment to the press about the cases of Armstrong and Contador earlier in the week, Boonen told Cyclingnews that he has largely ignored the furore surrounding the developments and was just focussed on winning here in Qatar.
"I haven’t really paid too much attention to the soap operas surrounding Contador and Armstrong," he said. "It’s been going on for a while and nobody actually really cares about it anymore. Every time you open your mouth about these cases you get a great pile of shit over your head. I like Alberto and I hope that everything turns out ok for him, but that’s all I have to say about it."
Boonen went on to say that he is happy if his performances have brought some distraction for cycling fans and that his is confident ahead of today's decisive final stage.
"We all love cycling and that’s why we do it. So it’s nice to give something back and make some headlines for the right reasons," he said. "But we also have to do things for ourselves first and everything else follows naturally. There has been no problem at all for me to focus this week. We did a lot of good work today and throughout the last few days. The most important thing now is to keep the jersey and right now I am very happy and very confident about my chances."