By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar
Marcus Burghardt (Columbia-High Road) believes the intensity of the Tour of Qatar stage race is important training for his spring objectives in this year's Classics. The Tour de France stage winner is supporting teammate Mark Cavendish in the often windy sprints at this week's race in the Middle East.
"It is important for a Classics rider to be here," Burghardt told Cyclingnews. "If you look in the bunch you see all the big riders are here."
The German is building to be ready for the one-day Classics this March and April. Burghardt won the 2007 Gent-Wevelgem and a stage in the 2008 Tour de France.
"The race's intensity is perfect training," he said. "You are able to train to ride in the perfect position and to fight for position. You also need this in the Classics, even if there is no wind."
The 8th Tour of Qatar, February 1-6, features Classics' riders like Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha), Leif Hoste (Silence - Lotto) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank). The stages are mostly flat and designed for sprint finishes, but the crosswinds and intensity appeals towards the riders.
"My first goal is to have a good result in Het Volk [now Het Nieuwsblad]," said Burghardt, of the February 28 race. "It is not easy to win, but I will try to have a good position in the first ten or 15. It is my goal to win a big race like the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix."
Qatar is Burghardt's first race of the 2009 season, having finished his 2008 campaigns at the UCI Road World Championship in Varese, Italy in October.