Tour of Qatar 2014: stage two – five observations

Who put the Q in Qatar? Quickstep, of course...

While the UK might accurately be described as the place where the sun doesn’t shine, the riders on the world’s biggest professional teams enjoyed another day beneath the blue and cloudless skies of Qatar.

If the heat was on, however, Tom Boonen and his Omega Pharma-Quickstep team-mates weren’t feeling it. An ice cold finish from Tornado Tom was enough to wrap up his 21st victory on the emirate, after a dominant display that placed all eight men in turquoise and black in the leading group and ensured another day at the head of the standings for yesterday’s stage winner, Niki Terpstra. Is it time the ASO officially named the race, The Tour of Qatar in association with Quickstep?”

Honorary citizen? Few Belgians are likely to have a higher opinion of Qatar than Tom Boonen. pic: OPQS/Tim de Waele

Further good news for the Belgian super team came courtesy of Britain’s Andy Fenn, who proved his mettle in last year’s British road race championships by providing vital support to eventual winner, Mark Cavendish. The Hertfordshire-born Scot now leads the classification for best young rider. Will Fenn remain at the top of the standings longer than the man he has replaced in the White Pearl jersey, Ireland’s Sam Bennett (NetApp-Endura)?

BMC Racing’s Philippe Gilbert suffered a largely barren season in the rainbow stripes of world road race champion last season, but did justice to the jersey with his relentless aggression. Fans in Qatar were treated to another display of Fast Phil’s willingness to attack today, but, as with all but one of his races last season, his efforts came to nought. Scintillating in 2011, world champion in 2012, but disappointed (not disappointing) last year, will 2014 see Belgium’s other Classics King regain his throne?

And with tomorrow’s time trial likely to decide the GC with three stages still to run, is it time that race orgainsers with only a flat parcours at their disposal started being more creative with the structure of a race and give fans a reason to retain interest?

We’ll consider all of these questions in our five observations from the second stage of the 2014 Tour of Qatar.

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