By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar
Spanish Classic specialist Juan Antonio Flecha opened his season for the first time in his career at the Tour of Qatar. The Rabobank rider finished the race on Friday after a week of tough racing in the strong winds of the desert. Using the race as preparation for his target events, the Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix, Flecha found the event to be a harsh refresher on basic bike racing skills.
The strong winds blew the peloton apart on stage two, where Flecha ended up in a third chasing group that finished more than six minutes behind stage victor Roger Hammond.
"Here, there is something I have never seen in other races: you are in the echelons, all is fine, but then you are forced to brake and you have lost two metres. You will never come back. And it was just two metres!
"That happened to me in the second stage, I was in the first echelon and I thought 'OK, I will make it to the finish.' Then one of those traffic lights in the middle of the road caused someone to brake. I had to brake fast or I would have crashed.
I found myself two metres down, but I thought it was no big deal. However, we were riding at 60 to 70kpm and it was not possible, I kept losing minutes."
After that little wake-up call, Flecha began to relearn the lessons he will need for the big races. "You find the rhythm, you train to put the handlebars between the riders' bikes, you get a little more skills for the Classics... They are the skills within the bunch that you practice; I think after the winter everyone needs a little bit of those skills."
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