After the excitement of the Tour Down Under, the Tour of Qatar gave fans a chance to see some of the big names absent in Adelaide stretch their legs after winter training.
In particular, the arrival of Mark Cavendish to the 2013 season provided palpable excitement heightened by his move to Omega Pharma Quickstep. Fans might once again get the chance to see Cav as a team leader with his own purpose built lead out train.
He did not disappoint. He won the last four stages of the six stage race, dominating the sprints in emphatic style. Whilst he never lost the will to win, what is now clear is that Cav’s high ratio conversion rate is back. Other sprinters should be worried.
What’s more, the four stages were enough to win Cavendish the overall leader’s Gold Jersey. He won Stage 6 after he and GC rival Brent Bookwalter (BMC) were involved in a crash early on. In a true example of cycling sportsmanship, the peloton waited for them and Cavendish later won the sprint finish easily.
Cavendish headed up a strong race for British cycling talent, with three other British riders making it into the top ten. Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas (Sky) came in 9th and 10th respectively. BMC’s young British rider Adam Blythe came in 4th in what was a good race for the American team, who finished with five riders in the top ten.
Overlapping the Tour of Qatar by two days, the Tour Méditerranéen took place last week. A short five stage race, it has become a place that both exciting new talent and old warriors target the overall win.
After a seriously tight GC lead overnight, Maxime Monfort (RadioShack Leopard) lost out on the final stage to Thomas Lövkist (IAM Cycling). Lövkist lay in third place going into the last stage, behind Monfort and the fantastically named Dutchman, Lars Boom (Blanco). Lövkist was able to make a surge on the final climb to leapfrog the two men in front of him and take the overall win. Irish rider Nicholas Roche (Saxo Bank) finished fifth.
A bizarre turn of events rather overshadowed the final two stages however, when Garmin Sharp had to withdraw from the race after having their bikes stolen overnight. David Millar tweeted a photo of the team truck the next morning. The thieves had taken all the bikes other than the specialist ones for time trialling.
The final round of the Revolution series took place last week, with Ed Clancy putting in a dominating performance for his Rapha JLT team.
Revolution, which is a four round track cycling event, showcases top British and foreign talent. The fourth and final round took place at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow. The series has become somewhat of a training ground for future Team GB hopefuls, with a number of track cycling household names first winning at Revolution.
Rapha Condor JLT led the competition throughout, at each of the four legs held in October and December of last year, and the first two months of 2013. Rudy Project RT put in a gallant performance to try and close the 16 point gap between them and Rapha Condor JLT, but it was to no avail.
Clancy led the charge for Condor, winning the Flying Lap and the Points Race, and teaming up with Scot James McCullum to win the Madison Time Trial. Clancy’s eventual fourth place in the Scratch Race was enough to secure victory for his team.
Final Championship Standings
|1||Rapha Condor JLT||216|
|2||Rudy Project RT||200|
Last week saw Marianne Vos sign on again with Rabobank Liv/Giant for 2013.
Fresh off the back of yet another Cyclo-cross World Championship won, the unstoppable Vos signed to ride as team leader again. The women’s team has managed to maintain the sponsorship of Dutch bank Rabobank, which withdrew its funding from its men’s team in a high profile incident last year.
Rabobank cited financial reasons for withdrawing from sponsoring the men’s team which had become a common sight for cycling fans throughout the 2000s. The maintenance of sponsorship for the women’s team is certainly a coup for the sport – the Rabobank brand is very strong within international cycling.
The team will again race on Giant TCR bikes which will be custom made for each of the riders.
Straight off the back of the Tour of Qatar, the Tour of Oman began today.
German rider Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) won the first stage from Al Musannah to Sultan Qaboos University.
The Tour should be a relatively relaxed affair, but it is the first sight of many of the big name Tour contenders. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Cadel Evans (BMC), Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome (Sky) joined a number of their team mates who had ridden in Qatar.