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Tour of Qatar starts with a Boom as Rabobank's Lars takes the Prologue

Top ten places for youngsters Dowsett and Brammeier, but another bad fall for Mark Cavendish

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  

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Trev Allen | 13 years ago

Supposedly a collapsed front wheel for Cav after a speed bump.

Was a pretty crap course I have to say, so many speed bumps, cobbles and road furniture. Nobody really looked willing to nail it and risk trashing a season in a prologue crash so early, plus hardly any spectators. Could have been a better event all round really

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