Frenzied First Day of Racing in QatarMon 4 Feb 2013
It was a chaotic opening day in Qatar with multiple breaks sneaking clear and repeated reshuffling in the bunch. ORICA-GreenEDGE started the day one man down, having lost Sam Bewley to a stomach bug that developed overnight. The team had meant to ride for Aidis Kruopis in the projected bunch finish. Crosswinds, punctures and missed moves forced a readjustment in plans.
“Positioning is critical at a race like this,” said Sport Director Laurenzo Lapage. “Every time the race changes directions, the wind changes and new splits are created. We had five guys in the second group during the early action. We had three guys in the front group at the end.”
The race opened with a 14 man break forming during a frenzied start. The group stayed clear until the first of two intermediate sprints. When the winds changed, the field was able to bring back the break. A three rider move countered the catch and built up a small lead before a change in direction took the race into another section of crosswinds. BMC hit the front and set a punishing pace. Their tempo reduced the front group to less than 30 riders and allowed the reduced peloton to overtake the break.
The first three groups on the road came back together ahead of the finish. A dangerous four rider move slipped off the front as the front group and first chase merged.
“We lost Jens Mouris in the front group to a puncture right around this point,” said Lapage. “It was impossible for him to catch back onto the bunch. We had Aidis, Baden Cooke and Jens Keukeleire in the front, and it was the first race for all three of them.”
A spirited chase and change in direction saw the breakaway come back to the bunch as the second chase turned first chase caught onto the front group. Around 60 riders headed toward the finish for what looked to be a field sprint until three riders escaped.
Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Martin Elmiger (IAM Pro Cycling) and Gregory Rast (RadioShack-Leopard) managed to build up a 45-second lead as the teams behind struggled to get organised.
“Because we had Mouris falling back out of that group, we could only wait at the end for the other teams to bring back the leaders,” Lapage said. “The other teams waited too long to chase. The break just held off the field on the finish line.”
Kruopis was the team’s top finisher on stage one, crossing the line in 13th place. Bookwalter bested Elmiger for the stage victory and dons the leader's jersey heading into the stage two team time trial.
“We had an okay day,” said Lapage. “I think after what I saw from the riders today, we can believe in the goals I set out for the team in the race preview I shared. A stage win and a good overall finish are realistic goals.”