Sir Bradley Wiggins will start his final season with Team Sky at the 2015 Tour of Qatar, which is scheduled for February 8 to 13. Organising body ASO confirmed his participation along with the full line-up of the teams on Tuesday.
ASO were pleased with prospective line-up, describing it as a "very attractive startlist...that features world champions, sprint specialists, kings of the classics and a Tour de France winner."
Wiggins, who was intially touted as beginning his season at the Challenge Mallorca this week, will race with Sky's eight-man team and rivals such as Tom Boonen (Etixx - Quick-Step), Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
The Tour of Qatar is in its 14th year and kicks off a season of ASO races, which includes the Tour de France.
Wiggins led Sky to its first ever team time trial win in the 2010 Tour of Qatar and this year, he'll have a chance to debut his world champion’s rainbow jersey on stage three, a 10.9-kilometre time trial in Lusail.
The 2012 Tour de France winner is using the race as he builds towards Paris-Roubaix and the Hour Record later this year. Boonen, Sagan and Cancellara will also be tuning their form towards the cobbled classics, while 2012 road world champion Philippe Gilbert will be looking ahead to the one day races in the Ardennes.
"[It's] an important part of the lead up to the season," Gilbert said.
"Stages are short and nervous, which is ideal at this time of the year. 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 staying in the same hotel in Doha during the whole race."
Sky has yet to confirm its full squad, but Wiggins is expected to race with Ian Stannard, Chris Sutton, Luke Rowe, Danny Pate, Christian Knees, Bernhard Eisel and Andrew Fenn. He's then due to continue his season at the Belgian semi-classic, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad which is viewed as a tune-up for the cobbled classics in March and April.
German Marcel Kittel tops a group of sprinters travelling to the Middle East, and the Tour of Qatar will mark his second race since beginning in Australia last week with the Tour Down Under, where he won the pre-race People's Choice Classic criterium.
"I came out of this race with better feelings than one year ago," said Kittel, "and I'm looking forward to the Tour of Qatar where I expect a very high level of sprinting."
Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step), however, will race the Dubai Tour instead, having started his season at the Tour de San Luis in January. Kittel will come up against stiff opposition though, with sprinters Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Sagan all set to attend.
Teams for the Tour of Qatar:
Astana, Bardiani CSF, BMC, Bora-Argon 18, Cofidis, Etixx-Quick Step, FDJ, Giant-Alpecin, IAM Cycling, Katusha, Lampre-Merida, Movistar, MTN-Qhubeka, Orica GreenEdge, Team Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo, Topsport Vlaanderen Baloise, Trek Factory Racing.
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