Sand and ice
“When echelons form it’s similar to falling through ice: you know you’ve got, like five seconds to rectify and get in the right position to save yourself or it’s finished – it’s over.”
For a man capable of retaining an obdurate silence in press conferences and interviews, Mark Cavendish can be startlingly eloquent when the adrenalin rush of victory is coursing through his veins. His brilliant metaphor for the peloton’s sudden defence against the mistrals that sliced through the peloton on stage 13 of last year’s Tour de France could easily be applied to the cross winds that hit the peloton on the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar.
Ice melts rather faster in the desert, of course. Yesterday’s cross winds had the world’s best riders scampering for shelter on the road to Dukhan Beach. Omega Pharma-QuickStep, as they had shown in guiding Mark Cavendish to victory on stage 13 of last year’s Tour de France, are past masters of the echelon, and its was little surprise to see two of their number in a five-strong breakaway, and team captain, Tom Boonen, controlling events from the head of the first echelon behind them.
With more of the same expected conditions expected in the following days, don’t be surprised to see the peloton issued with another lesson in how to survive in cross winds from Belgium’s finest.