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The 2015 Tour of Qatar will host world champions, sprint specialists, kings of the classics, and a Tour de France winner this February. Stars like Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick-Step), Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will all line up, February 8-13, in the desert.
Gilbert describes the event as “an important part of the lead-up to the season. Stages are short and nervous, which is ideal at this time of the year,” the 2005 world champion said. “The high speed and the permanent battle force us to fight for positioning the same way we do it at the classics. We love the weather in Qatar, and we appreciate to stay in the same hotel in Doha during the whole race.”
The race also gives riders an opportunity to prepare for the 2016 world championships, set to take place in Doha.
“I like a fast race to resume competing so I can quickly get back into the rhythm”, said 2014 UCI WorldTour champion Valverde, who will make his way to Qatar for the first time in his 13-year career.
Kittel will also be a first-timer at the event. He recently won People’s Choice Classic criterium in Adelaide but left the Tour Down Under without any stage victories. “I came out of this race with better feelings than one year ago, and I’m looking forward to the Tour of Qatar where I expect a very high level of sprinting,” said the German, who has dominated Tour de France sprints in the past two years.
Besides classics specialists like Boonen, Cancellara, and defending champion Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick-Step), other big names will toe the line in Doha: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), Theo Bos (MTN-Qhubeka), Andrea Guardini (Astana), and the recently crowned Australian champion Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling). “I’ve always loved this race and I’ll return with ambitions,” said Haussler
Bradley Wiggins is also expected to return to Qatar. The winner of the 2012 Tour de France is gearing up for his last campaign as a road rider. He’s set to focus on track events after Paris-Roubaix in April this year. In 2010, he led the newly created Team Sky to victory at the Tour of Qatar team time trial. This time around, he’ll wear the rainbow jersey in the individual time trial (10.9km), scheduled on the third day of racing near the new Lusail Sport Arena.
Tour of Qatar teams and leaders
Orica-GreenEdge: Blythe (GB), Hayman (Aus)
Etixx-Quick-Step: Terpstra (Nl), Boonen (B)
Topsport Vlaanderen Baloise: Wallays (B)
Cofidis: Bouhanni, Petit (F)
FDJ.fr: Démare, Ladagnous, Offredo (F)
Bora-Argon 18: Bennet (Irl), Voss (G)
Giant-Alpecin: Kittel (G), Sinkeldam (Nl)
Team Sky: Wiggins, Stannard (GB)
Bardiani CSF: Battaglin (I)
Lampre-Merida: Pozzato, Modolo (I)
Astana: Boom (Nl), Guardini (I)
Katusha: Kristoff (N), Guarnieri (I)
Tinkoff-Saxo: Sagan (Slv), Breschel (Dk)
MTN-Qhubeka: Boasson Hagen (N), Bos (Nl), Ciolek (G)
Movistar: Valverde, Rojas (Sp)
IAM Cycling: Haussler (Aus), Brändle (A)
BMC Racing: Gilbert, Van Avermaet (B)
Trek Factory Racing: Cancellara (Swi)