The organisers of the Tour of Qatar have announced the 18 teams which will ride the six-stage event, which takes place from February 8-13, among them are Team Sky, which will give Sir Bradley Wiggins his first outing in the rainbow jersey of individual time trial World Champion.
Wiggins was originally scheduled to start his season in Mallorca, but the team opted to shift his debut to Qatar. While sprinters like Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) will be expected to animate the majority of the stages, the 10.9km time trial on stage three will be the main test for the general classification contenders like Wiggins, Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC). Many of the riders in action in Qatar will also ride the hillier Tour of Oman that starts a few days later.
Gilbert is looking forward to the short, fast stages as he prepares for the Spring Classics.
"The high speed and the permanent battle force us to fight for positioning the same way we do it at the Classics," Gilbert said. "We love the weather in Qatar and we appreciate to stay in the same hotel in Doha during the whole race."
Kittel will have a leg up on his competition, having already put his first race behind him at the Tour Down Under. The German racked up his first win of the season in the People's Choice Classic, and hopes for more in Qatar.
"I came out of this race with better feelings than one year ago and I'm looking forward to the Tour of Qatar where I expect a very high level of sprinting", Kittel said.
Other riders of note in the Tour of Qatar include Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra and teammate Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quickstep), Arnaud Démare (FDJ), Edvald Boasson Hagen, Theo Bos and Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).
Teams for Tour of Qatar: Astana, Bardiani CSF, BMC, Bora-Argon 18, Cofidis, Etixx-Quick Step, FDJ, Giant-Alpecin, IAM Cycling, Katusha, Lampre-Merida, Movistar, MTN-Qhubeka, Orica GreenEdge, Team Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo, Topsport Vlaanderen Baloise and Trek Factory Racing.