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Riders fine-tune bikes, prep for Sunday's team time trial
The Ladies Tour of Qatar may be over but the men's race is just about to begin, with teams arriving in Doha before Sunday's opening team time trial stage.
Quick Step, BMC, Topsport Vlaanderen and Omega Pharma flew in on Thursday night from Paris, arriving in the Qatar capital Doha at midnight as lightning lit up the sky.
Stuart O'Grady, J.J. Haedo and Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank), Matt Goss (HTC-Columbia) and Britain's Russell Downing (Team Sky) arrived during Thursday night from Australia via Kuala Lumpur, while the other teams arrived during Friday. Sixteen teams of eight riders will compete in both the Tour of Qatar and the new Tour of Oman.
The Trek-Livestrong Under 23 team arrived early from the USA and was making the most of the luxurious Ritz-Carlton, where the teams stay for the whole race.
Most are planning to test their team time trial strategy on Saturday, so Friday was a chance for the riders to stretch their legs after a long flight and fine-tune their new 2010 bikes.
Tom Boonen carefully adjusted the height of his saddle and the angle of his bars, then checked his cleat position on his new Sidi shoes.
At the BMC section of the outdoor tent, Marcus Burghardt checked his bike after the mechanic had changed his stem. A quick spin around the car park, a slight adjustment to his brakes and he was happy and ready to ride. Alessandro Ballan checked the height of his massive seat post and the whole BMC area was a hive of activity as the riders put on their shoes, collected bottles and bars and got ready to roll.
While most riders went for a spin, directeur sportif John Lelangue called his riders together and detailed the ride. There would be three hours with some speed work behind the team car, sprint workouts and then a team time trial rehearsal.
Omega Pharma is riding white Canyon bikes again with each frame subtly decorated inside the forks with the riders' national colours. It's a nice touch and Philippe Gilbert naturally has the red, yellow and black of Belgium.
Quick Step is riding beefy Eddy Merckx frames that have big tubes and aerodynamic forks and rear stays. They may need them in Qatar.
Wheel selection dilemma for opening TTT
Because of transport and logistical problems, the teams competing at the Tour of Qatar have to use normal road bikes for Sunday's opening team time trial. However, the bikes can be fitted with deep section rims and teams are trying to work out the best compromise between aerodynamics and bike handling in possible crosswinds.
Cervelo fitted its bikes with Zipp 808 wheels on Thursday, while Quick Step went for a less aerodynamic but easier to handle model. BMC is considering using some extra deep Easton rims, but in a team time trial smooth teamwork is more important than fast bikes because one flick caused by the wind can send the whole team crashing down like skittles.
We will find out who gets the balance right on Sunday in the Tour of Qatar's opening 8.2km team time trial.
Click here to see the Qatar gallery.