Flanders, twinned with Qatar
If Juan Antonio Flecha’s zeal for the cobbled races of spring earned him the sobriquet, the Spanish Flandrian, then Omega Pharma-QuickStep might be renamed the Belgians of Arabia. The super team, specialists in the cobbled Classics, owns the Tour of Qatar, largely due to the success of Tom Boonen, four-times a champion of the oldest of the desert race, and a man who might consider changing his own epithet from Tornado to zephyr.
The Belgian legend, whose most notable successes have come on the cobbles of Belgium and northern France, looked in superb form on the opening stage of this year’s Tour of Qatar, riding comfortably at the head of the first echelon behind a breakaway that contained two of his team-mates – a further demonstration of his team’s mastery of the desert. Twelve months ago, it was another OPQS rider, Mark Cavendish, who flew back to Europe with the winner’s yellow jersey in his suitcase. Who would bet against Patrick Lefevere’s men doing the same this year?