Latest from Tour of Qatar 2016
Tour of Qatar 2016 race overview
The Tour of Qatar, playing out on the windswept interior of the Gulf state, is an early-season testing ground for the Spring Classics, and the 2016 edition has the added attraction of providing a preview of October's UCI Road World Championships road race course.
There will be a rather different feel to this year's edition, with Etixx-QuickStep, provider of the overall winner in eight of the past 10 editions, not invited back, and other regulars, like the Trek-Segafredo squad of Fabian Cancellara, choosing not to participate.
That is not to say, however, that the Tour of Qatar is bereft of star power, with Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), 2013 winner Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Lars Boom (Astana) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) among the leading lights on the start list.
The route has been reduced to five stages from its usual six this season, getting underway with a long and probably windy cross-country haul from Dukhan Beach to Al Khor Corniche.
Stage 2 offers the peloton an early look at the World Championships course, by incorporating the opening 80km loop and three laps of the sinuous finishing circuit on the Pearl, while the rapid time trial at Lusail on day 3 ought to define the general classification race.
The traditional finish at Madiant Al Shamal in northern Qatar features on the penultimate day, where the multiple changes in direction lend themselves to the formation of echelons, before the usual grandstand bunch finale on Doha’s Corniche brings the curtain down on the race on stage 5.