By David Hunter
Al Wakra – Al Khor Corniche 194.5km
The riders are faced with the longest stage in the race. The wind is 15mph, coming from the South-East. That means a tailwind for a large part of the race, but cross winds for some of the end of the stage.
Tom Boonen caused panic in the bunch with some attacking riding, catching out some of the big names. The wind wasn’t favourable to really smash the bunch but stage 2 looks more promising. Etixx have Boonen, Terpstra, Trentin, Maes and Vandenbergh all still in the mix after stage 1. This gives them plenty of opportunities, if they want to put other teams under pressure. Boonen picked up 6 seconds, after finishing 2nd and Terpstra got 2 seconds at an intermediate sprint. In a race that is often very close, these seconds could prove invaluable.
Rojas was very impressive in the sprint. He took the wheel of Vandenbergh, at the right moment, and sealed a great win. Earlier, Astana went too early and Guardini’s chance was gone. Of the other sprinters, Demare looked good especially as he had a gearing problem. FDJ were very attentive throughout the stage and the Frenchman looks to be in good condition.
The worst part of stage 1 was a crash involving Peter Sagan and Tom Boonen. Both still finished well but Sagan did lose some skin. Hopefully he doesn’t have any lasting effects. We all want to see the big riders, at their best and injury free.
Other active riders were Boom, Westra and Breschel. It was very telling that Matti Breschel didn’t work with the Astana pair but acted as an anchor for team leader, Peter Sagan. Tinkoff are serious about winning this race and Breschel seems happy to work for Sagan.
As I warned, Marcel Kittel was caught out in the wind. He really does disappoint at times. Without him, Giant are not a threat. Other teams to disappoint were Orica and Katusha. The Russians had numbers to help Kristoff but they were in a poor position, entering the final 3km and lost any chance of victory. They will be looking for more in stage 2.
One team that really did impress me was Bora-Argon 18. They had plenty of riders left in the closing kilometres and Sam Bennett has a big chance of achieving an impressive result. Continue like this and the results are bound to come.
Etixx – Quick Step are still the strongest team. They split the peloton today but the headwind brought it back together. Stage 2 offers a massive opportunity as the conditions and length of stage look perfect. They know these roads well as stage 2 in 2014 was very similar, in fact the roads used are almost the same, apart from the opening of the stage and little extra at the end. Last year they smashed the peloton to pieces and Boonen took an easy win. I see history repeating itself. Boonen was 2nd today, with all the sprinters present(except Kittel). He’s in form and the team are the strongest. Boonen wins!
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