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Mark Cavendish (Sky) on the podium for his first win of 2012.
Collective mismanagement to blame, but team progress pleasing
An eventful week at the 2012 Tour of Qatar has seen far more positives than negatives for Team Sky according to sporting director Steven De Jongh, who rates his squad's performance as an "eight out of ten" with one stage to go in the Gulf state.
Sky's preparations were thrown into turmoil on the eve of the race when their star new signing Mark Cavendish contracted a fever but Cavendish has recovered admirably to take two of the five stages in his competitive debut for the team. The British-based outfit also have two riders (Juan Antonio Flecha and Bernie Eisel) in the top five of the overall GC.
"We’re pretty pleased with our performance so far, especially considering that when we arrived Mark was sick," De Jongh told Cyclingnews. "In the end he got through that stage ok but the wind was quite bad and we didn’t perform as well as a team as we might have done. We did well in the team time trial and finished third, and since then Mark has won two of the three stages. For us it was a big relief as it’s always hard to get the first stage win done. To follow it up with the win yesteday in stage five was pleasing for the whole team."
Yet it hasn't all been plain sailing since the race began. De Jongh revealed that Sky's mismanagement of stage four, which resulted first in Cavendish becoming detached from the main pack and then in Eisel, Flecha and Ian Stannard not having enough left in the tank to cover the leaders in the finale. It was an afternoon to forget and one that left Cavendish angry according to De Jongh. With Eisel conveying his own disappointment to Cyclingnews in the immediate aftermath of the stage, had there been an inquest into the team's performance afterwards?
"Our only real problem since the race started has been stage four, when we were caught out and Mark got detached," De Jongh said. "With the cross wind these things can happen and you always have to be careful. When it happened it really pissed Mark off. He was pretty upset at the time and also a bit yesterday too because after winning stage five he could have been in the overall lead now. But fair play to Boonen, he was there like he always seems to be at this event and he deserves to be the leader.
"Bernie was a bit emotional after the stage but once he got back to the hotel he settled down and accepted that it was just one of those days. We didn’t talk it through on the night, we just sat down yesterday morning and worked out what we were going to do in stage five. That worked out fine with Mark winning and Flecha and Bernie up there. There is one day to go but with two stage wins and a 3rd and 5th place in the GC we are happy enough. I'd rate our performance so far as an eight out of ten."