Qatar, the Belgium of the Middle East.
Who else would we expect to dominate in this desert other than Tornado Tom Boonen?
The echelons formed in the first kilometer of heated racing and an elite group of 18 riders including Boonen went clear and stayed away. Flying into Al Kor Corniche, it was Mark Renshaw who made the first move but Boonen demonstrated his off-season speed work by blasting past the leadout man for Mark Cavendish. Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) closed hard to take second place.
“I hadn’t done any sprints in almost a year,” Boonen told Cyclingnews. “I had the crash at the Tour de Suisse but my last real sprint was from Tirreno-Adriatico. I did a lot of work this winter. For the first year in I think six years I was really working on speed and sprinting.”
Boonen has his first win since Tirreno-Adriatico and grabbed the overall lead in the Big Q, Le Grande Sand Dune, the Race to the Oasis. Yesterday’s winner Lars Boom succumbed to stomach problems — a bad energy bar or suspect lamb kebob — and finished way down the standings and was later sliced up by roving bedouins who wanted his Giant race bike. Just kidding ’bout that last part.
Arch rival Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) also made the break but had no chance against Boonen in a sprint. Motorized doping expert Davide Cassani was later seen examining Boonen’s bike for signs of a motor or rockets or exhaust pipes coming out the handlebars. So far nothing to report.
Will Boonen win the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman in a show of Flanders-Roubaix power? Revered Arab cycling journalist Abdul Al Salaam thinks anything is possible. “He is like a big Oryx except for the horns and large ears. But I smell his fierceness, it is pungent, like a spicy bowl of machbous.“