Even the Etoile Besseges—the second peloton’s tune-up race—you’ll catch a glimpse of a few names who’ve stolen a Tour stage, or at least featured in some post-stage drama on the sport’s biggest stage.
Yes, say what you will about the goofball photography and technical mishaps, but Qatar, and the more mountainous Tour of Oman are serious races, and not only because they’re must-air components of the multi-million dollar broadcast rights package that the UCI uses to sell the Tour de France.
The furor over Urinegate last year, and the fact that wins routinely come, like Boonen’s Stage 1 triumph, out of small, select, big-name groups really attest that the preseason has arrived. While some of the courses may be even less inspired than their Australian counterparts at the Tour Down Under, the teams and riders more than make up the difference.
I’m sure that as space opened up between the elite echelon and the rest of the field on Monday, plenty of racers pulled in the flag early, reasoning that Qatar wasn’t worth the sort of all-in, protracted effort that just isn’ sustainable for months at a time.
But with intensity work just a touch below that level an important part of the training plan for anyone hoping to be on form for the Classics—that is, essentially the entire peloton—you’re got 100+ riders going at a reasonable approximation of full gas, something you can’t always say about the TdU.