No other team will line up so many riders at the start of Sunday's race.
Last major event of the season – the World Road Race Championships – will get underway tomorrow morning under the scorching desert of Qatar, the first Middle East country to host the competition, and Etixx – Quick-Step will have 14 riders at the start, representing 10 countries.
Tom Boonen (Belgium), David De La Cruz (Spain), Fernando Gaviria (Colombia), Iljo Keisse (Belgium), Bob Jungels (Luxembourg), Marcel Kittel (Germany), Nikolas Maes (Belgium), Tony Martin (Germany), Maximiliano Richeze (Argentina), Fabio Sabatini (Italy), Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic), Niki Terpstra (Netherlands), Matteo Trentin (Italy) and Lukasz Wisniowski (Poland) will be the Etixx – Quick-Step riders who will line out for the start of the 258km-long race.
The first 150 kilometers will take the peloton through the desert, where splits can occur if the speed of the bunch is high and the crosswinds are strong. Still, if the gaps aren't too big once the riders will leave the sand dunes behind, a regrouping could take place on the 15.2km-long local circuit that the pack will cover seven times. In that case, it's very likely the race will come down to a sprint on the Pearl, in a finale made difficult by a series of roundabouts, U-turns and technical corners.
Of the riders mentioned above, Tom Boonen won the coveted rainbow jersey 11 years ago, in Madrid, after sprinting from a reduced group, but also four editions of the Tour of Qatar, a race in which he scored 22 stage victories. As a matter of fact, the event was dominated by Etixx – Quick-Step since its inception, with our team taking the overall glory on seven occasions, the most recent triumph coming in 2015, when Niki Terpstra rode to his second title.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele