Congratulations to the Slipstream/Chipotle team for its second place finish in
the first stage of the Tour of Quatar. Jonathan Vaughter's boys were a scant
two seconds back of Tom Boonen's Quick Step squad in the opening stage, a
6km Team Time Trial(TTT). You might all be wondering, what's the big deal about
second place in an early season race in a country most of us couldn't even
point out on a globe!
Well, unlike the NFL which owns all the events it sanctions, in cycling,
individual race organizers and corporations such as ASO own and promote the
races while the NFL-equivalent, the UCI, just exists as the sanctioning body.
OK, the UCI, with its Pro Tour, tried to become more than just the sanctioning
body, but we have all seen how that has worked out. It is best to leave race
promotion to the professionals.
So, if you are a team, and you want to get into a race, you have to catch the
eye of the race promoter. Winning big races is one way to catch the eye, but
if you can't get into the big races unless you prove yourself, then you have
a Catch-22. Enter races such as the Tour of Quatar. These early season,
predominately low-key, events are the perfect platform for up and coming teams
to show race organizers that they can play with the big boys.
And, it doesn't hurt that the Tour of Quatar is owned by ASO, the same company
which organizes the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix and a whole host of the top
professional races. So, if you are a team like Slipstream/Chipotle presented
by H30(say that fast three times) then the pressure is on in Quatar and they
Also participating in Quatar is the BMC Professional Cycling Team which, while
not hoping for a slot in the Tour in 2008, is hoping for a wild-card invite to
some of the one day races, such as Paris-Roubaix, owned by ASO. The boys in
black finished 12th just 12 seconds behind the winners and 10 clicks behind
their American counterparts.
Hopefully, ASO and other race promoters are taking notice and we will see more
American teams and US riders in the biggest and best races on the professional
cycling calendar. Yeah, Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen are exceptional racers,
but I want to be cheering for a homie when the season gets into full swing.