Sunday February 9 to Friday February 14
From Dubai it will be a quick turnaround for some riders, with the Tour of Qatar starting in Al Wakra the following day. Defending champion Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Tour de France green jersey winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale) are both on their respective team’s long-lists despite also competing in Dubai. Omega Pharma-Quickstep boast the previous two winners in their ranks with Tom Boonen also set to compete as he looks to add to his four previous overall victories and 20 stage wins.
Cavendish won four stages of the entirely-flat race last year to take overall victory, and all eyes will be on the sprinters again on the six-stage Tour. The race kicks off with a 135.5km stage to Dukhan Beach before 160.5km stage the following day – the longest of the race. A 10.9km individual time trial on the Lusail Circuit will shake up the GC slightly before stages of 135km, 159km and 113.5km conclude the race.
Should Cavendish compete, he could play lead-out for Boonen having done the same job during the Tour de San Luis, or roles could be reversed with the Belgian super team boasting such a hugely impressive, versatile squad. Brit Andrew Fenn, who finished third in the final stage of the Tour Down Under, is also included, while sprint legend Alessandro Petacchi is down as a reserve. If Omega Pharma-Quickstep are to be stopped their biggest rivals are likely to be Lotto-Belisol, riding for Andre Greipel, who were so impressive at the Tour Down Under while Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and RideLondon winner Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) could also feature.
Team Sky have named Australian sprinter Chris Sutton in their provisional line-up, but w having fractured his wrist at the Tour Down Under, Edvald Boasson Hagen may lead their sprinting charge instead. Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) and Irishman Sam Bennett (Team NetApp-Endura), who both impressed at the Tour of Britain, will also want to prove themselves with their teams having earned wildcards for the Tour de France but are likely to find the going tough up against some of the world’s best sprinters.