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After winning performances in Australia in January, Marcel Kittel and Heinrich Haussler are travelling to another warm location prior to knuckling down to racing in Europe, and will next target strong rides in the Tour of Qatar.
Both riders have been confirmed for the race, which begins on February 8 and runs for six days. Although it has long been a favourite of some of the peloton’s best sprinters, Kittel has never taken part and will be making his debut in the race.
He landed early success when he won the People’s Choice Classic days before the Santos Tour Down Under started. While a crash derailed his hopes of winning the final stage of the latter event, he is encouraged by his sensations and will aim for further progression in Qatar.
“I came out of this race with better feelings than one year ago and I’m looking forward to the Tour of Qatar where I expect a very high level of sprinting,” he said.
Haussler also topped the podium in Australia when he won the country’s national championships. He twice finished second in Qatar, doing so in 2009 and 2011, and hopes to regain and maintain his top form this year. He is hungry to do something in the event.
“I’ve always loved this race and I’ll return with ambitions,” the IAM Cycling rider promised.
BMC Racing Team leader Philippe Gilbert is yet to pin on a number this year but is clear in his estimation of the Tour of Qatar’s significance.
“It is an important part of the lead up to the season,” he said. “Stages are short and nervous, which is ideal at this time of the year.
“The high speed and the permanent battle force us to fight for positioning the same way we do it at the Classics. We love the weather in Qatar and we appreciate to stay in the same hotel in Doha during the whole race.”
Other riders who were confirmed on Tuesday as taking part are Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and the world time trial champion Bradley Wiggins (Sky).
“I like a fast race to resume competing so I can quickly get back into the rhythm,” said Valverde who, like Kittel, will be making his own debut in the event.
Defending champion Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) has also indicated he will take part, as have Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), MTN Qhubeka duo Gerald Ciolek and Theo Bos (MTN Qhubeka) plus Astana sprinter Andrea Guardini.
Wiggins will get to show off his rainbow jersey in the day three time trial, which covers 10.9 kilometres and will pitch him up against the likes of Cancellara.
Tour of Qatar – some of the expected teams and riders:
Orica GreenEDGE: Blythe (Gbr), Hayman (Aus)
Etixx – Quick Step: Terpstra (Ned), Boonen (Bel)
Topsport Vlaanderen Baloise: Wallays (Bel)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits : Bouhanni, Petit (Fra)
FDJ : Démare, Ladagnous, Offredo (Fra)
Bora – Argon 18: Bennet (Irl), Voss (Ger)
Team Giant – Alpecin: Kittel (Ger), Sinkeldam (Ned)
Team Sky: Wiggins, Stannard (Gbr)
Bardiani CSF: Battaglin (Ita)
Lampre – Merida: Pozzato, Modolo (Ita)
Astana Pro Team: Boom (Ned), Guardini (Ita)
Team Katusha: Kristoff (Nor), Guarnieri (Ita)
Tinkoff – Saxo: Sagan (Svk), Breschel (Den)
MTN – Qhubeka: Boasson Hagen (Nor), Bos (Ned), Ciolek (Ger)
Movistar Team: Valverde, Rojas (Esp)
IAM Cycling: Haussler (Aus), Brändle (Aut)
BMC Racing Team: Gilbert, Van Avermaet (Bel)
Trek Factory Racing: Cancellara (Sui)