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The Tour of Qatar is again shaping up to be a sprinter’s showcase. The February race is set to attract Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), who won four stages of the 2014 Tour de France, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), who claimed two Tour stages last year, as well as Milano-Sanremo, and the Tour’s green jersey champion, Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
French cycling fans will have an eye on national champion Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr) and his soon-to-be former teammate Nacer Bouhanni, who won the points competition in the Giro d’Italia, and will ride for Cofidis in 2015. Démare claimed 15 victories in 2014, and Bouhanni is a five-time stage winner at the grand tours (Giro and Vuelta).
South African team MTN-Qhubeka will look to get off to a strong start as well after recruiting high-profile sprinters Tyler Farrar, Theo Bos, and Matt Goss who will join 2013 Milano-Sanremo winner Gerald Ciolek on the Pro Continental outfit.
Other notable sprinters include Andrea Guardini (Astana), Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida), Adam Blythe (Orica-GreenEdge), Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo), the Van Poppel brothers (Trek Factory Racing), Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18), Heinrich Haussler, and Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling).
Once again, the Tour of Qatar is a springboard for the classics specialists as defending champion and Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), Lars Boom (Astana), Philippe Gilbert and Greg van Avermaet (BMC), Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ.fr), Ian Stannard (Sky), and Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) have chosen the race of the wind and the sand as part of their preparation for 2015.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is also set for a new campaign. The Belgian hasn’t missed a single Tour of Qatar since he first paid a visit to the Gulf in 2004. He holds the record of stage wins since he imposed himself for the 22nd time in Messaied last year. He also tops the tally of the overall victories with four successes under his belt (2006, 2008, 2009, 2012).
Lastly, 2014 WorldTour champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will make his debut at the Tour of Qatar as he tackles his 13th pro season.