Qatar down, Oman next, but real Tours loom
With the tiresome Tour of Qatar out of the way, the eyes of the cycling world can move forward to what looms as bumper year for the sport.
A few days ago Tom Boonen of Belgium took out his fourth Tour of Qatar title, having led the race since he the won the opening stage.
To be fair the Qatar event was a bit of a bore, a tournament devoid of some of cycling’s biggest names and missing the action and drama that was part of the recent Tour Down Under.
The country of Qatar didn’t seem to get behind the Tour, with endless shots of deserted desert roads, unlike the Aussie event which boasted generous crowds.
Perhaps a worrying trend for football fans eyeing off the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
There was some drama in Qatar though, with British rider Mark Cavendish crashing 200 metres from the end of the last stage. The Sky Team member always seems to court controversy one way or another for his win-at-all-costs attitude, and remains a polarising figure that many people either love or hate.
But moving beyond Qatar and we have races in France, Italy, Spain and in Belgium for the Tour des Flanders next month, followed by more events across Western Europe and then the Tour de Romanie in April, and the San Remo looms large for the sprinters.
Focus will then shift to the Giro d’Italia in May, the Tour de Suisse in June and the big one, the Tour de France, in June and July.
Cadel Evans’ attempt to retain his historic title is sure to be one of the events in world sport this year. Huge ratings are expected in Australia after Evans made history in 2011.
The UCI World Tour calender has been affected this year because of the London Olympics, which start on July 28 and run through to August 7.
The decision to ban Alberto Contador has also heightened the tension in this year’s epic cycling battle, with Evans to face renewed assaults from the talented Schleck brothers Andy and Frank.
Strap yourself in for a heady year of cycling, a year that promises excitement, twists and turns and as always a healthy dose of controversy.