By the time the 2022 FIFA World Cup gets under way, cycling fans will have a better grasp than most of the host country’s geography, with the Tour of Qatar now firmly established in the early season calendar, attracting some big-name riders, and in today’s Prologue to the 2011 edition, Rabobank’s Lars Boom rode himself into the race leader’s jersey in a time of 3 minutes 7.39 seconds, establishing a lead that he could well defend all the way to the finish next Friday.
Cobbles and twisting roads may not be the first thing that spring to mind when you think of the Gulf states, but that’s what greeted the riders today on a technical, blink-and-you-miss-it 2.5km course around the cultural centre of the capital Doha, constructed as part of last year’s Arab Capital of Culture celebrations.
Jack Bobridge of Garmin-Cervélo, who earlier this week smashed Chris Boardman’s long-standing 4km individual pursuit world record, couldn't manage to make an impact, clocking the tenth fastest time behind early leader Boom, and nor could the next man out on the course, two-time individual pursuit Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins.
HTC-Highroad’s Mark Cavendish, sporting a new goatee look plus some tan lines during the warm-up that suggest he didn’t spend the winter on the Isle of Man, who suffered a heavy fall during last month’s Tour Down Under, was the penultimate rider out on the course and his run of back luck continued with another bad tumble on the cobbles today.
The final man out was three-time winner of the race Tom Boonen, but it was four-time world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara who came closest to overhauling Boom, the Swiss rider, undertaking his first time trial on a Trek frame after his close-season switch from Specialized-equipped Saxo Bank to Leopard Trek, coming home second nearly four seconds down on the Dutchman.
Two young riders from Britain starting their careers with top level professional teams put in cracking performances to ride themselves into the top ten, in the shape of Team Sky’s Alex Dowsett, signed from the Trek-Livestrong under-23 team, and Liverpool-born Matt Brammeier, now racing under Irish colours, who has joined HTC-Highroad from the An Post Sean Kelly team.
Tomorrow’s Stage 1 takes the peloton 145.5km from Dukhan to Al Khor Corniche.
Tour of Qatar Prologue result
1 Lars Boom Rabobank 3:07 2 Fabian Cancellara Leopard Trek at 4 secs
3 Tom Veelers Skil-Shimano 5
4 Juan Antonio Flecha Team Sky 5
5 Alex Dowsett Team Sky 5
6 Gert Steegmans Quickstep 5
7 Martin Wynants Rabobank 8
8 Tomas Vaitkus Astana 8
9 Matt Brammeier HTC-Highroad 9
10 Mark Renshaw HTC-Highroad 9
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.