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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Thursday, February 12, 2015

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Marcel Kittel's Early Season Plans

Marcel Kittel had a stunning beginning to to his 2014 season by winning three successive stages in the Dubai Tour. He has eight stage victories in the Tour de France under his belt as well. But the German sprinter has had a slower start than usual to his 2015 season. At the Tour of Qatar, where he is presently competing, I don't see where he has even broken into the top ten in any of the already completed four stages.

Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel at the Giant-Alpecin team presentation in January

After the fourth stage he said, "I'm here to improve myself, I'm not going to apologize. I have no problem with the wind and borders, it's just that it's more fun when you have good legs."

On his own site he wrote: "After I have been fighting a cold since the end of the Tour Down Under, nothing has really been going right here at the Tour of Qatar. You might say I have sand in the gears and must just look from day to day."

L'Equipe reported that Kittel's coming racing program will take in Tirreno-Adriatico, Ghent-Wevelgem, GP Scheldt and Paris-Roubaix. He will not ride Milano-San Remo. At Paris-Roubaix, he'll be riding with teammate John Degenkolb, who was second in the cobbled race last year. It will be interesting to see if Kittel will be racing for his own account or assisting Degenkolb.

Qatar Tour Stage Five

Alexander Kristoff again beat Peter Sagan in today's stage of the Tour of Qatar. Here's how Tinkoff-Saxo reported it in their press release:

"Peter Sagan came even closer to a stage win in Tour of Qatar as he finished 2nd against the pure sprinter. The Slovak came in behind Alexander Kristoff in a stage finish almost identical to that of yesterday. The stage started in a thunderous pace and the battle for the overall lead battled back and forth. Maciej Bodnar was virtual leader with only two kilometers to go before a merger between the two front groups brought back status quo to the GC.

Qatar Tour stage 5 finish

Peter Sagan almost beats Alexander Kristoff in stage 5

"About the final part of the hectic stage, Sport Director Tristan Hoffman says:

“Sagan was so close today. It came down to a few centimeters. On the race radio they even announced Peter as the stage winner. We went full gas in the last kilometers going into the finale to set up the sprint and to put pressure on our rivals in the GC and it all came down to marginal that didn’t favor us today. However, I’m very pleased with the team and how they take action in the race”.

"The group of favorites was split going into the last ten kilometers due to crosswinds and a fast pace set by Tinkoff-Saxo’s Matti Breschel, Michael Mørkøv, Chris Juul-Jensen and Pavel Brutt. Race leader Niki Terpstra (Etixx – QuickStep) was one of the riders caught in the second group, while Maciej Bodnar took on the virtual lead. The gap was unfortunately closed as the groups entered the last kilometer.

“I was so close to taking the jersey. We had Terpstra caught with just a few kilometers to go, as we had a lot of crosswind and the pace was really high. It’s a pity that the gap was closed just before the finish but that’s how it is sometimes. I’m happy for Peter, who once again showed that he’s able to compete with the pure sprinters. He will soon have recovered from his crash, so we’ll aim for the stage win on the final stage tomorrow”, comments Maciej Bodnar, who is still 6 seconds away from the race lead in 2nd place.

"The 153km stage 5 from Al Zubara Fort to Madinat ash-Shamal started in a fast pace as the riders headed directly into a crosswind battle. The peloton split into two groups after just 10k. Maciej Bodnar was unfortunately caught behind but managed to close the gap to the front group after 67 kilometers of chasing. Tristan Hoffman acknowledges that the situation was serious but says that the team did an extraordinary job in closing the gap.

“We had crosswinds in the beginning of the stage and the peloton was stretched to the limit after a few kilometers. The speed was a surprise to many and Bodnar was caught behind, which was really unfortunate and cost us a lot of energy. But the team did a great job to bring him back to the front group after a chase that lasted for nearly 70 kilometers”, says Tristan Hoffman, who adds that “tomorrow’s focus will be on winning the final stage”.

Stage 6 to Doha Corniche is the final stage of this year’s edition of Tour of Qatar. The chance to alter the general classification seems slim on the shorter 124,5km stage that finishes in the Doha less exposed to wind. The stage will probably come down to a duel between the sprinters."

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