The pre-race talk at the Tour of Qatar was all about world champion Mark Cavendish, who overcame illness to make his debut for Team Sky, but it was one of his predecessors in the rainbow jersey, Tom Boonen of Omega Pharma-Quick Step who won the opening stage of the race today from Bahan Towers to Doha Golf Club. Cavendish, presumably under orders to take things easy ahead of tomorrow's team time trial, didn't contest the sprint, in which Great Britain's Adam Blythe, now with BMC, finished second, with Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale third.
Boonen's victory today marks his 19th individual stage win in the Tour of Qatar, and its also his second victory of 2012 - last week, he won Stage 7 of the Tour de San Luis in Argentina. To round of a good day for Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Britain's Andy Fenn, in his first season as a top-flight pro with the Belgian team, is reported to have won the opening day of the Mallorca challenge.
It was another young British rider with Belgian connections who pushed Boonen closest today when the former world champion launched an early bid for the line. Adam Blythe, aged 22, had spent the last two seasons with Omega Pharma-Lotto before heading to BMC Racing alongside world number-one Philippe Gilbert.
As for Cavendish, cleared to race only this morning as he recovered from a bug he had come down with while flying from London to Doha, he could be seen in the final kilometres sitting towards the rear of the peloton.
Instead it was the young Italian sprinter Davide Appolonio who contested the finish for Team Sky, coming home in eighth place, although he is fifth overall having picked up a time bonus earlier in the day.
Tomorrow’s team time trial covers 11.4km and starts and finishes in Lusali.
Tour of Qatar Stage 1 Result 1 BOONEN Tom OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 3h 11' 32" 2 BLYTHE Adam BMC RACING TEAM All at same time 3 SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 4 FARRAR Tyler GARMIN-BARRACUDA 5 OSS Daniel LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 6 RENSHAW Mark RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 7 KRISTOFF Alexander KATUSHA TEAM 8 APPOLLONIO Davide SKY PROCYCLING 9 VAN GENECHTEN Jonas LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 10 WAGNER Robert RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 11 DEMARE Arnaud FDJ-BIGMAT 12 NIZZOLO Giacomo RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 13 CHICCHI Francesco OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 14 SIEBERG Marcel LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 15 STEEGMANS Gert OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 16 DEGENKOLB John PROJECT 1T4I 17 SOUPE GEOFFREY FDJ-BIGMAT 18 COOKE Baden GREENEDGE CYCLING TEAM 19 VAN KEIRSBULCK Guillaume OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 20 BAK Lars LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM Tour of Qatar Overall Standings after Stage 1 1 BOONEN Tom OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 3h 11' 22" 2 BLYTHE Adam BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 04" 3 SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 00' 06" 4 FARRAR Tyler GARMIN-BARRACUDA + 00' 07" 5 HANSEN Adam LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM + 00' 07" 6 APPOLLONIO Davide SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 08" 7 HALLER Marco KATUSHA TEAM + 00' 08" 8 RENSHAW Mark RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM + 00' 09" 9 MAES Nikolas OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 09" 10 OSS Daniel LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 00' 10"
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.