By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar
Bert Grabsch returned to racing for the first time since he won the time trial World Championships in Varese, Italy, in September. The opening six-kilometre team time trial in the Tour of Qatar on Sunday gave the German a chance to display his rainbow jersey in a stage race tailor-made for sprinter Mark Cavendish.
"It was special because it was my first race after four months off. It wasn't easy but the team can be happy with sixth," said Grabsch to Cyclingnews. Columbia finished with a time of 6:39.98, five seconds off Garmin-Slipstream.
Columbia was the only team of the day to finish with all eight of its men together. Rules state that the calculations for the teams' times are off the fifth man over the finish line.
Many other teams employed a different strategy to propel its fastest five men ahead in the final kilometres.
"Normally that is our plan, to start all together and to finish all together – all eight. For tomorrow and the next days we are very optimistic for the sprint for Cav."
Cavendish will captain the team for the next five stages. The Briton, who won four stages in the 2008 Tour de France, is expected to do well on the flat and fast stages.