For the third time in less than three weeks, Team Sky were back on the victory podium, this time with a team time-trial win in the Tour of Qatar.
First across the finish line on the windy 8.2 kilometre circular course was 2009 Tour of Britain winner Edvald Boasson Hagen, who now leads the race.
But whilst the Norwegian got the yellow jersey the entire Sky team, together with sports director Scott Sunderland rightly stood on the podium to soak up the applause after a well-calculated group effort in – let’s not forget- their first ever team time trial.
The extremely windy conditions on a highly exposed course round a lagoon just outside the capital Doha, together with such a short course, meant no mistakes could afford to be made by any team in contention.
But Sky – which had checked out the course several times in the morning – and their team plan worked out perfectly. Russell Downing powered the team up to speed, then the bigger engines like Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and Juan Antonio Flecha took over.
Wearing his British time trial champion’s jersey, Wiggins powered into the final corner but when it came to the finish line a few hundred yards later Boasson Hagen was first across.
“It was good, a great result” Sunderland told Cycling Weekly.
“Technically we couldn’t have done it any better, but the boys didn’t hesitate when they had to make split decisions, too.”
“It was pure teamwork, all one for another, Bradley knew he had to pull through at the end and we didn’t think about who was going to get the jersey at the end.”
“We went with the natural flow, stayed calm and confident, and we got it, no problem.”
The strongly gusting winds left some teams completely split apart, with World Time Trial champ Fabian Cancellara (SaxoBank) providing the surprise of the day by being dropped, although his team only lost 13 seconds. Quick Step and Tom Boonen were fifth, 20 seconds back, meaning the multiple winner of Qatar overall will have to battle hard for time bonuses in the five remaining stages if he wants to repeat his 2009 victory.
Team Cervelo with Britons Roger Hammond and Jeremy Hunt rode very strongly and were second on the provisional results. However, that was set to change, with last year’s winners Garmin-Transitions due to move up a spot from third, eight seconds back, should race commissaires finally decide to penalise the Swiss squad by a minute for an alleged illegal manouvre.
Cervelo, who were one of the dominating forces in this race last year – winning one stage with Hammond and finishing second overall and who have come here with a strong squad again – have made a strong protest over a decision they feel to be completely unfair.
Tour of Qatar, stage one: 8.2km Team time trial
1. Team Sky 9-41 minutes
2. Garmin-Transitions at 8 secs
3. Team Saxo Bank at 13 secs
4. HTC Columbia at 18 secs
5. Quick Step at 20 secs
6. Saur-Sojasun at 21 secs
7. Liquigas-Doimo at same time
8. BMC at same time
9. Vacansoleil at 22 secs
10. Milram at 25 secs
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
2. Juan Antonio Flecha (Esp) Team Sky
3. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky
4. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
5. Lars-Peter Nordhaug (Nor) Team Sky all at same time
6. Russell Downing (GBr) Team Sky at 2 secs
7. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions at 8 secs
8. Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin-Transitions
9. Murilo Fischer (Bra) Garmin-Transitions
10. Svein Tuft (Can) Garmin-Transitions all at same time
Cervelo Test Team
Time trial world champ Fabian Cancellara was dropped by his Saxo Bank team-mates
Edvald Boasson-Hagen takes the lead