No winner at the Tour of Qatar will ever again dare to delay his arrival for the podium ceremonies, but Mark Cavendish made sure to take time to thank his Dimension Data teammates before accepting the accolades on winning stage 1 to Al Khor Corniche.
Cavendish was certainly glad of Edvald Boasson Hagen and Tyler Farrar’s company in the select winning move, which bludgeoned its way clear in the crosswinds in the opening hour of racing and maintained an average speed of almost 52kph thereafter, never to be recaptured.
The battle for overall honours this year has surely been reduced to the 16 riders who came home almost two minutes clear of the rest on Monday. In the general classification, Cavendish leads Modolo by 8 seconds, and Kristoff and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) by 15, though he was guarded about his prospect of defending the gold jersey beyond the stage 3 time trial in Lusail.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen on GC here because there’s the individual time trial. Normally 10k later in the year I can do ok, but with my form in February not really,” Cavendish said, adding that his teammate Boasson Hagen was more likely to carry an overall threat for Dimension Data. “Ok, he didn’t get a time bonus but he never lost time today, and that should prove fruitful for Wednesday when he can hopefully do a good time trial there.”
On Tuesday, meanwhile, Cavendish will expect to be to the fore once again as the Tour of Qatar peloton tackles what amounts to a test event for the World Championships road race in Doha. The stage incorporates four laps of the Worlds finishing circuit on the Pearl, and is likely to be Cavendish’s only opportunity to reconnoitre the parcours before October.
“It’s not that important but it’s definitely good to know,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll be back in Qatar before the World Championships again so it’s good to see it. We’ll do a few laps. I think they’ve changed it, so we won’t see the full circuit but we’ll definitely be going around the Pearl.”