Once again we return to Qatari, the Belgium of the Middle East, the searing hot bed of cycling beyond the cold confines of Europe.
Qatar is short for the word “qatariqeff” which in the local dialect means ‘bunch sprint.” In fact, only French and Italian have a richer cycling vocabulary than Qatari. Such is the love of pro cycling in this bike-mad, camel-bored populace.
We digress — but how can one not when extolling the many fine virtues of the Big Q, the Duel in the Desert, where the daggers are sharp and the roads flat and wind-swept?
So it it written that today in stage four, the illustrious Mark Cavendish of the most bountiful pharmaceutical company Omega did prove victorious again the forces of Barry Markus (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Andrea Guardini (Astana)
As God and Allah is my witness, Cavendish did triumph without his train, cutting his way through the bunch and drawing the blood of the infidels. You cannot box out a Member of the British Empire.
The 160K run from the Camel Race track to Al Khor Corniche was typical Qatari. Flat, then flat, then more flat. After 13k, three long shots — Gatis Smukulis (Katusha), Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling) and Andriy Grivko (Astana) went flat out and broke away.
Into the desert they disappeared, never to win. Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Argos-Shimano, Sky and Astana erased the seven minute gap and caught them 8k from the finish where a wild throng of 83 screaming fans awaited. Such is the love of cycling in the Land of Q.
As was the case in stage 3, Cavendish lost his lead-out man but again Dutch national champion Niki Terpstra came to the rescue, pulling him up through the pack. “I thought I was going to have to freestyle the last 1300 meters but then Niki came up and moved me up fifteen places,” said Cavendish.
The win and ten second bonus puts the Manxman in the golden jersey, 2 seconds ahead of Brent Bookwalter (BMC) and 6 seconds in front of Taylor Phinney (BMC Again). Still the man isn’t ready to claim victory in the Q with winds coming up fast for the stage to Madinat Al Shamal. “The approach is the same whether I’m in the jersey or not, I just want to win stages and see after that,” said Cav.
As famed Arabian cycling journalist Abdul Al Salaam has said: “The scent of the desert jasmine is sweet but nothing compares to the smell of blood from a cut throat.” So it is written in the Big Q.