Tour of Qatar 2014: stage one – five observations

Flanders, twinned with Qatar, high times for Endura, and more

No sooner has one desert race finished than another begins.

Last week’s inaugural Dubai Tour got off to a successful start if the number of readers who enjoyed the coverage on RCUK is a guide. BMC Racing, first and second on general classification, and Taylor Phinney, winner of stage one, the best young rider, and overall titles, will certainly believe so.

The opening day of racing in Qatar offered echelons and victory for OPQS. Business as usual?

But that was then, and this is now. Another week, another emirate is the mantra for professional cycling’s biggest teams in February. And so to Qatar, bizarrely the happiest hunting ground outside of the cobbles of Belgium and northern France for Omega Pharma-Quickstep. The Belgian super team has already surpassed its haul from Dubai by winning the opening stage with Niki Terpstra. Led by team captain, Tom Boonen, four times a champion in Qatar, what else might they achieve in a wind-whipped desert landscape that splits the peloton into echelons for fun?

NetApp-Endura’s status as the coming team was underlined by the success on the opening stage of young Irishman, Sam Bennett. The 23-year-old ended the day in the white jersey of best young rider and occupying a place in the general classification’s top 10 – not bad for a squad formed as a “Scottish club team,” in the words of former general manager, Brian Smith. With wildcard invitations to the biggest races on professional cycling’s calendar, including the Tour de France, will Scottish clothing brand, Endura, begin 2015 with two teams in cycling’s elite UCI WorldTour?

As the cycling fan moves from the famine of the off-season to the feast of top class racing presented since January’s Tour Down Under, we consider the events o the first day’s racing in Qatar and what we might learn for the remainder of the race. Here are our five observations on stage one of the Tour of Qatar. Add your own by following this link to the RCUK Forum.

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