Feb 7, 2015 – If you are looking for the winners of the opening classics of the season, there’s probably no looking further than the start list of the upcoming Tour of Qatar. For its 14th edition, the event will welcome its best ever field of riders. The battle promises to be intense especially with the wind due to pick up in the days to come.
ASO/Kåre Dehlie Thorstad
This 2015 edition of the Tour of Qatar will feature 6 days of racing: 5 normal road stages and right in the middle of the event, a 10.9kms individual time-trial. Bunched sprints are of course expected as well as wind swept stages with the excitement of echelons. The penultimate stage of the race, going from Al Zubarah Fort to Madinat Al Shamal could again be decisive in the quest for the Golden Jersey.
There’s no question about it, one man has dominated the Tour of Qatar more than any others : Tom Boonen. The Belgian has won the event 4 times (2006, 2008, 2009, 2012). Added to his overall triumphs he captured a total of 22 stage wins, his last success occurring in Messaieed on stage 4 of last year’s edition. Every time Boonen won the Tour of Qatar, he then went on to win either the Tour of Flanders, or Paris-Roubaix, or both. In other words he’ll want to shine again, three years after his last triumph. “Everytime we come here, it’s to win and this year it’ll be the same, said the Etixx Quickstep leader. I hope to do well as soon as stage 1 and try to get a gap. The main contender will be Bradley Wiggins. He should gain time on the time-trial so we need to start makig a difference early.”
Among the peloton of riders staring this 2015 Tour of Qatar, 9 have won at least one of the opening season Classics (Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, GP E3, Paris-Roubaix, Gent-Wevelgem). These 9 share a total of 33 victories in these monuments of cycling.
Tom Boonen: 15 classics (4 Paris-Roubaix, 3 Tour of Flanders, 5 GP E3, 3 Gent-Wevelgem)
Fabian Cancellara: 10 classics (3 Paris-Roubaix, 3 Tour of Flanders, 3 GP E3, 1 Milan-San Remo)
Peter Sagan: 2 classics (1 GP E3, 1 Gent-Wevelgem)
Niki Terpstra: 1 classic (Paris-Roubaix)
Alexander Kristoff: 1 classic (Milan – San Remo)
Edvald Boasson Hagen: 1 classic (Gent-Wevelgem)
Gerald Ciolek: 1 classic (Milan – San Remo)
Berhard Eisel : 1 classic (Gent-Wevelgem)
Filippo Pozzato : 1 classic (Milan – San Remo)
The Tour of Qatar has often been the home of World Champions. After the likes of Mario Cipollini, Alessandro Ballan, Thor Hushovd or Mark Cavendish in the past, Philippe Gilbert and Tom Boonen are the two members of this year’s pack having conquered the rainbow jersey.
In his quest to win Paris-Roubaix, Sir Bradley Wiggins has chosen to come to Qatar to prepare for his big challenges to come. Added to his dream of triumphing on the cobbles of northern France, the 2012 Tour de France winner will be focusing on the track to prepare for the 2016 Olympics. The hour record should also be on his wish list.
Present four years ago, Peter Sagan returns to the Tour of Qatar for his opening race of the season in his brand new team. The three-time winner of the Tour de France Green Jersey will indeed be the leader of the Tinkoff-Saxo squad. “I came to Qatar a few years ago and remember how windy it was. I wanted to come back and change my program. This is the ideal race to prepare for the classics but I also hope to do well here”, he admitted.