Revenge of the knees.
Yesterday in the Big Q, the Races to the Oasis, it was Tom Boonen getting the win and putting last years’s knee problems behind him — literally. Today at the Doha Gold club (four!) it was Garmin-Cervelo’s Heinrich Haussler who did the same knee-defying trick, winning a fantastic sprint over Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek).
The Australian-German summed up the win brilliantly: “”Team Leopard went on the front in the last k,” Haussler said. “I was on Bennati’s wheel and they pretty much did the work for me.” If you want to win a sprint, why not draft a Leopard, right?
“It’s nice to get a win in, especially after last year,” Haussler said afterwards. “It’s good to start off in a positive way,” said Haussler. He’s now just one second away from snatching Boonen’s gold jersey.
“I had already used up a lot of my teammates before the sprint began,” said Boonen, “I had to find my own way. But that’s cycling.” That’s right, there are no gifts in the Le Grande Sand Dune, the Belgium of the Middle East. It’s like a knife fight between Bedouins and even Albert Camus would be scared.
Extra sweet for Haussler was knowing that Mark Cavendish could manage no better than 12th. Last year in the Tour of Switzerland, the two riders collided and the crash was the horrific highlight of the season. Haussler is finally back to almost full strength and happy to leave the Manxman behind him. And according to his Garmin data, Haussler also burned up exactly 4,802 calories. That diet is really working, thanks, G-men.
While the recent Tour Down Under was full of surprise winners and big stars rolling near dead last, the Big Q has been a confirmation of form for Boonen, Haussler and even Bennati. Fabian Cancellara flexed his muscles by doing a massive pull with 4k to go that strung out the peloton. He’s already scary good again.
Early season query: is Mario Cipollini’s work with the young Russian sprinters at Katusha already showing results? Denis Galimzyanov took third place for the Global Cycling Project! The Lion King could turn even a camel into a race horse.
Revered Arab cycling journalist Abdul Al Salaam spent time with Mark Cavendish. The two shared a hookah at the HTC-Columbia bus. The sprinter would only say they discussed the Ifrit, mythical Arabic creatures noted for their cunning and strength.
“We spoke of wishes, infernal desire and the power necessary to turn humans into animals,” said Al Salaam. A novel race strategy to be sure. Twisted Spoke says keep an eye on Cavendish tomorrow.