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7th Tour of Qatar - 2.1
Qatar, January 27-February 1, 2008
By Shane Stokes
Given that its riders have won the past two editions of the race and the team have proven themselves one of the best in the world on flat, wind-swept terrain, all eyes will be on the Quick.Step team during the seventh running of the Tour of Qatar.
The race represents the season debut for many riders and while some will be in the middle-eastern country primarily to build form, others will be taking the race very seriously indeed. Tom Boonen won the 2006 edition, finished second last year and has landed 11 stage wins in all; he'll be keen to add to that impressive tally and show that he is on course for a strong Classics campaign.
Boonen's team-mate Wilfried Cretskens finished two minutes and nine seconds ahead of the former world champion 12 months ago, pushing him into second place thanks to the time he gained in the stage five breakaway. He too is heading back to the six-day, 2.1-ranked event with success in mind. Both of them will be backed up by a strong Quick.Step selection.
Greg Van Avermaet won stage five last year and the 22 year-old will be fired up to ride strongly again. His Silence Lotto team features the likes of 2006 Tour of Belgium winner Maarten Tjallingii and Leif Hoste, who will have trained hard over the winter to prepare for the Tour of Flanders. He finished second there in 2004, 2006 and 2007 and is highly motivated to finally win the Ronde.
Compatriot Nick Nuyens may not have quite the same sprinting ability as Boonen, but as a former winner of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Omloop Het Volk and Paris-Brussels, the 27 year-old is a very strong rider when on form. He'll lead the Cofidis squad and will be keen to nab a good result after a somewhat quiet 2007.
Bouygues Telecom will feature former Tour de France maillot jaune Thomas Voeckler and Anthony Geslin, bronze medallist behind Boonen in the 2005 road race championships and a past victor of both Paris-Camembert and the Trophée des Grimpeurs. A third French team, Crédit Agricole, is also down to ride and is expected to include William Bonnet and Jimmy Engoulvent.
Lampre will be headed by Giro stage winner Danilo Napolitano, while fellow Italian squad Liquigas features 2002 under 23 world champion and 2007 Paris-Tour runner-up Francesco Chicchi. In the absence of Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel, Ralf Grabsch and Christian Knees front the Milram selection. As for Saunier Duval, Raivis Belohvosciks and Aurélien Passeron have been confirmed for the Spanish team.
Looking outside the nine ProTour outfits, another team that certainly has the firepower to make an impression is the Slipstream Chipotle H30 squad. The riders are determined to show their worth in front of race organisers ASO - from whom they hope to get a wildcard to the Tour de France - and they are consequently targeting a top three place in the team time trial. Julian Dean is likely to show in the sprints, while David Millar and Magnus Backstedt have the watts to shine from a breakaway group.
A rider who could well give the top sprinters a run for their money is Tinkoff Credit Systems' Alberto Loddo (Tinkoff Credit Systems). He took five stages and the points jersey in last year's Tour de Langkawi and, on that form, should be right up there at the finishes.
Other teams and riders in the race include TopSport Vlaanderen (with Nico Eeckhout), Drapac - Porsche (Gene Bates), Skil - Shimano (Fumiyuki Beppu), BMC Racing (Tony Cruz) and the Doha Team led by 2007 Tour de l'Avenir stage winner Rafaâ Chtioui.
As was the case in 2007, the race will begin with a 6 km team time trial in Doha. Quick.Step showed their speed and technique last year when they finished five seconds ahead of Milram, and should be in contention for the victory once again.
Stage two is 137.5 kilometres in length and runs from Al Zubarah to the Doha Golf Club. The early part heads north and east, skirting the coast, before plunging south in the direction of the capital and crossing one intermediate sprint en route to the finish.
The following day takes the riders 147.5 kilometres, starting at the Camel race track at Ash Shahaniyah and finishing at the Qatar Foundation. Two bonus sprints occur along the way; this is also the case on stage four's 131.5 kilometre race from Khalifa Stadium to Al Khor Corniche.
At 170 kilometres, stage five is the longest of the 2008 Tour of Qatar. It starts and finishes in the same area, running from Al Khor Academy to Al Khor Corniche. The final stage is 50 kilometres shorter and goes from Al Wakra to Doha Corniche. Both feature two intermediate sprints each.
Given Qatar's topography, wind and high speed rather than climbs will present the main difficulties to the riders. Quick.Step and the other Classics teams will aim to exploit their experience in this area to shape the race, and chase the results that will give an important morale boost at this starting point of the season.
Quick Step Lampre 1 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) 11 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) 2 Tom Boonen (Bel) 12 Marco Bandiera (Ita) 3 Steven De Jongh (Ned) 13 Matteo Bono (Ita) 4 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) 14 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) 5 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) 15 Roberto Longo (Ita) 6 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) 16 Daniele Righi (Ita) 7 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) 17 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) 8 Maarten Wynants (Bel) Cofidis Credit Par Telephone Slipstream p/b Chipotle 21 Nick Nuyens (Bel) 31 David Millar (GBr) 22 Kevin De Weert (Bel) 32 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) 23 Mathieu Heijboer (Ned) 33 Julian Dean (NZl) 24 Frank Hoj (Den) 34 Huub Duyn (Ned) 25 Sébastien Minard (Fra) 35 Christophe Laurent (Fra) 26 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) 36 Martyn Maaskant (Ned) 27 Tristan Valentin (Fra) 37 Kilian Patour (Fra) 28 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) 38 Christopher Sutton (Aus) Liquigas Silence - Lotto 41 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) 51 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) 42 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) 52 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel) 43 Alberto Curtolo (Ita) 53 Leif Hoste (Bel) 44 Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) 54 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) 45 Matej Mugerli (Slo) 55 Bert Roesems (Bel) 46 Roberto Petito (Ita) 56 Roy Sentjens (Ned) 47 Guido Trenti (USA) 57 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) 48 Frederik Willems (Bel) 58 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Skil-Shimano Team Milram 61 Piet Rooijakkers (Ned) 71 Volodymyr Dyudya (Ukr) 62 Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) 72 Ralf Grabsch (Ger) 63 Curvers Roy (Ned) 73 Matej Jurco (Svk) 64 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) 74 Christian Knees (Ger) 65 Floris Goesinnen (Ned) 75 Alberto Ongarato (Ita) 66 Sebastian Siedler (Ger) 76 Niki Terpstra (Ned) 67 Tom Veelers (Ned) 77 Marco Velo (Ita) 68 Robert Wagner (Ger) Topsport Vlaanderen Bouygues Telecom 81 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) 91 Anthony Geslin (Fra) 82 Koen Barbé (Bel) 92 Damien Gaudin (Fra) 83 Kenny De Haes (Bel) 93 Yohann Gène (Fra) 84 Pieter Ghyllebert (Bel) 94 Saïd Haddou (Fra) 85 Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) 95 Arnaud Labbe (Fra) 86 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) 96 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) 87 Bart Vanheule (Bel) 97 Franck Renier (Fra) 88 Evert Verbist (Bel) Tinkoff Credit Systems Credit Agricole 101 Alberto Loddo (Ita) 111 William Bonnet (Fra) 102 Nikita Eskov (Rus) 112 Eric Berthou (Fra) 103 Alexander Gottfried (Ger) 113 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) 104 Alexander Khatuntsev (Rus) 114 Angelo Furlan (Ita) 105 Serguei Klimov (Rus) 115 Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) 106 Bernardo Riccio (Ita) 116 Cycril Lemoine (Fra) 107 Alexander Serov (Rus) 117 Gabriel Rasch (Nor) 108 Nicolaï Trussov (Rus) 118 Jean-Paul Simon (Bel) BMC Racing Team Saunier Duval - Scott 121 Martin Kohler (Swi) 131 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) 122 Steve Bovay (Swi) 132 Raul Alarcon Garcia (Spa) 123 Antonio Cruz (USA) 133 Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat) 124 Scott Nydam (USA) 134 Eros Capecchi (Ita) 125 Mike Sayers (USA) 135 Ermanno Capelli (Ita) 126 Jackson Stewart (USA) 136 Angel Gomez (Spa) 127 Taylor Tolleson (USA) 137 Luciano André Pagliarini Mendonca (Bra) 128 Danilo Wyss (Swi) 138 Aurélien Passeron (Fra) Drapac Porshe Doha Team 141 Gene Bates (Aus) 151 Rafaa Chitioui (Tun) 142 Mitchell Docker (Aus) 152 Khaleel Abduljanan (Qat) 143 Grant Irwin (Aus) 153 Hamad Afif (Qat) 144 Peter Mc Donald (Aus) 154 Aymen Ben Hassine (Tun) 145 Angus Morton (Aus) 155 Tareq Esmaeili (Qat) 146 Stuart Shaw (Aus) 156 Abdelbasat Hanachi (Alg) 147 Robbie Williams (Aus) 157 Omar Hasanin (Syr) 148 Dean Windsor (Aus) 158 Moosa Said (Qat) Iran Cycling Federation Iran Cycling Federation 161 Hossein Askari (IRI) 168 Amir Zargari (IRI) 162 Hossein Jahanbanian (IRI) 163 Ghader Mizbani Iranagh (IRI) 164 Hossein Nateghi (IRI) 165 Abbas Saeiditanha (IRI) 166 Seyed Mostafa Seyed Rezaei Khormizi (IRI) 167 Mehdi Sohrabi (IRI)
2007 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quick.Step-Innergetic 2006 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step Innergetic 2005 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC 2004 Robert Hunter (RSA) Rabobank 2003 Alberto Loddo (Ita) Lampre 2002 Thorsten Wilhelms (Ger) Team Coast