Team Sky’s eight-man squad secured victory in the opening team trial at the Tour of Qatar. Sky posted a time of 9:41 on the windy 8.2km course. Tyler Farrar led Garmin-Transitions across the line at 9:49 to take second and Stuart O’Grady drove Saxo Bank home for third at 9:54.
Norwegian national champ Edvald Boasson Hagen was the first rider from Sky to cross the line, and thereby takes the leader’s jersey for Monday’s 147km stage.
“Oh, it was hard,” Boasson Hagen said. “But it was perfect. Everyone is riding really well. It was a success for the whole team.”
Cervélo TestTeam came across the line in 9:49, the same as Garmin, but race officials dinged the team with a minute penalty for one rider pushing another, slotting them into last place on the day.
Tour of Qatar organisers specified that the TTT be ridden on standard road bikes and gear — saving all the teams the hassle and expense of traveling with TT bikes and equipment.
Garmin’s Danny Pate summed up the sensations of the short, violent effort. “It feels horrible,” he said. “In that kind of race, the guy that wins feels just like the guy that got last. It was a little tricky given the distance and the wind. It was tail, cross, head. We did a bit of both rotating paceline and single paceline. That kind of effort is never going to be smooth because of the wind. But no one does it perfect.”
Even Sky’s winning ride wasn’t perfect.
“We had a bit of a break in the line there at the end,” said team director Scott Sunderland. “Ian (Stannard) committed himself there, and rode the gap closed. Okay, that was the finish for him, but that allowed the fifth and sixth rider to get back on.”
Sky’s Russell Downing explained another kink.
“At 2km to go it was really hard,” Downing said. “Someone shouted to up the speed a little. That was for me to do. I think I upped it a K or so. The boys were happy, but then I was in a box after that. I had done my long turn, and I was just about to get back in. I saw that Ian and Kurt had dropped the wheel, so I had to get back in on Lars. And I was nailed. So I just held on.”
Wearing his white British national TT champ skinsuit, team captain Bradley Wiggins was all smiles.
“We had a plan, and we were able to stick to it,” Wiggins said. “We were trying to make the most of the guys who would be stronger on the flat. There are different levels of fitness, and there are always going to be stronger guys and weaker guys. But once we were out there, the guys were just holding speed, it was amazing, and doing longer pulls or shorter pulls as necessary to keep it steady.”
Although some teams were visibly discouraged after the TTT, Saxo Bank’s Cancellara didn’t seem bothered at all with third.
“It was nothing special,” he said. “It’s the first race; actually it’s not a race, it’s a prologue in the end. But I’m here to get some race kilometers. We have a good solid team. I’m really looking forward to this week, next week (at the Tour of Oman) and especially the classics. It’s good training.”
For the rest of the week, Wiggins said Sky would take it stage by stage.
“We don’t have an out-and-out sprinter,” he said. “This was our first big objective, and we’ll see the rest of the week. Obviously crosswinds are going to play a big part. Quick Step are masters at this race, but we hope to be there as well.”