Bradley Wiggins‘ change of team to Garmin in 2009 could hardly have got off to a better start as his squad took the opening team time trial in Qatar. First across the line, the Briton is now race leader.
On the ultra-brief, technically unchallenging course held on Doha?s sea-front, the gaps were always were going to be small, and Garmin managed to push top favourites Quick Step into second place by one second. Third were Katusha, two seconds back.
It is the first time Wiggins has held the lead of a stage race since he won the prologue of the Dauphine Libere back in 2007, and the Briton was delighted to have got his debut for Garmin off to such a great start.
?It?s brilliant, we didn?t expect to win,? Wiggins told Cycling Weekly as he waited to go up onto the podium in warm late afternoon sunshine.
?We thought at best we could get near to Columbia and Quick Step, but certainly not beat them.?
?At the same time we put quite a bit of hard work into training for team time trials at the Garmin camp, so it looks like it paid off.?
?It takes the pressure off the rest of the week a little bit, too, which is great.?
Garmin had just five riders of the eight in their first group when they crossed the line, but according to team manager Johnny Weltz, this was intentional.
?We had a very detailed plan, we knew that we would use up [new signing] Ricardo Van De Velde early on, but the other guys stayed together until the last kilometre and that?s strategy was maybe what made the difference.?
The team had no plans as to who would cross the line in first place and take the lead, but Weltz said that Wiggins had made a ?major contribution? to the stage victory.
?It was good for Bradley, too, in the long-term because he can see that we all work well as a squad from the word go.?
Twice the winners of the stage which traditionally starts Qatar, Quick Step played down their failure to take their third team time trial in Qatar in four years.
?We knew it would be difficult and in the last 250 metres I accelerated hard, thinking the other guys were right behind me,? Quick Step leader Tom Boonen said afterwards.
?In fact, they weren?t and I think that?s maybe what?s made the difference between winning and losing.?
Wiggins recognised that defending the jersey in the five flat stages now to come would be a tough task, with sprinters of the calibre of Boonen and Mark Cavendish so close behind. Cavendish and Columbia-Highroad placed sixth, just five seconds back.
?Qatar is always a tough race, it?s always windy and 25 guys can get away in the cross-winds just like that,? he pointed out. On top of that, bonus seconds are on offer both in two hot spot sprints and for the first three riders across the line in each stage.
?We?ll do our best,? Weltz concluded. ?But our big target here was this opening stage, and that?s in the bag.?
1. Garmin 6min 34sec
2. Quick Step at 1sec
3. Katusha at 2sec
4. Rabobank at 4sec
5. Liquigas same time
6. Columbia at 5sec
7. Cervelo at 6sec
8. Ag2R at 8sec
9. Ag2R at same time
10. Skil-Shimano at 9sec
1. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin 6min 34sec
2. Hans Dekkers (Ned) Garmin
3. Kilian Patour (Fra) Garmin
4. Michael Friedman (USA) Garmin
5. Huub Duyn (Hol) Garmin all same time
6. Marco Velo (Ita) Quick Step at 1sec
7. Steve De Jongh (Hol) Quick Step
8. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
9. Maarten Wynants (Bel) Quick Step
10. Sebastien Rosseler (Bel) Quick Step all same time
31. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 5sec
42. Roger Hammond (GB) Cervélo at 6sec
43. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervélo
44. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo all same time
128. Ben Swift (GB) Katusha at 1min14sec
Garmin-Slipstream on their way to victory in the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar
Garmin-Slipstream on the podium: Briton Bradley Wiggins took the race leader’s jersey