The T-Mobile Team will kick off its 2005 racing season at the GP Doha in Qatar on Saturday. The second edition of the GP Doha is set to be a flat, fast and windy warm-up for the five day Tour of Qatar which starts on January 31 and runs until February 4. "Everybody has been training hard for weeks now and it is about time that the season finally got going," said T-Mobile sporting manager Frans van Looy. "At just 97 km the GP Doha is a bit like a criterium race and is perfect for getting the season started."
The magenta team arrived in Doha on Wednesday evening and trained in pleasant 20 degree sun on Thursday morning. Missing out on the Thursday training was Marcus Burghardt, who forgot to bring his passport with him to the airport. "It is not as bad as it sounds," said Van Looy. "It could happen to anyone. Marcus is catching the next flight on Friday evening and he will be with us on Friday."
In the absence of the injured Olaf Pollack, sprinters André Korff and Eric Baumann will go into Saturday's race as the spearheads. "We will be doing our best to fill in for Olaf," said Baumann, who fancies his chances on the flat terrain to capture his "first pro race win".
The team will be up against some stiff opposition, including the very much in-form Robbie McEwen, who has already won four UCI races this year. Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) and Max van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel), Mario Cipollini (Liquigas) are other riders to watch for.
There are a few changes to the format for this year's race, which will be held on Doha's 5.4 km long grand prix motorbike circuit. 17 teams in total, including eleven ProTour squads, will cover 18 laps of the fast circuit.
T-Mobile for GP Doha and Tour of Qatar: Marcus Burghardt (Ger), Bas Giling (Ned), Bernhard Kohl (Aut), Daniele Nardello (Ita), Bram Schmitz (Ned), Sergey Ivanov (Ru), André Korff (Ger) and Eric Baumann (Ger).