By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar
Angelo Furlan is ready for his first test of the year at the Tour of Qatar. The Italian Lampre sprinter considers the stage race an important indicator for sprints in big events like the Tour de France.
"For many sprinters, it is the first event of the year and it's becoming more and more important because all the best sprinters are here, minus two or three. Any finishing order you see on a stage could be the same as what you would see at the Tour de France," Furlan said to Cyclingnews.
The Tour of Qatar, February 1 to 6, started Sunday with a team time trial of six kilometres won by Garmin - Slipstream. The following five stages are mostly flat, sprinters' stages that challenge the riders with the cross-winds.
"Here the teamwork becomes even more important, even if there are no climbs. It is important the directeur sportif reads the direction of the wind and that the team battles the trains of Columbia, Quick Step and the other sprint trains. We have some good men to do the job, like Lorenzetto, Mori, Righi, Bandiera and Sapa."
Furlan joined Lampre for the 2009 season. He spent the previous two seasons with French team Crédit Agricole. Last year, he won a stage in the Etoile de Bessèges and the Tour of Poland.
"There is nervousness because it is the first race of the year and you want to head home with good results. A win would be the best, even if we know that that the world's best are here."
Furlan competed in the Tour of Qatar for the first time in 2008. His best result was a fourth in stage four.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of stage one of the Tour of Qatar.