Luke Evans blogs from the Tour of Qatar, where is he motorbike pilot for photographer Graham Watson
What’s different about this picture of our Ducati, a couple of characters giving the thumbs up in their BMW, and a petrol station?
You got it, there’s no prices per litre for unleaded or diesel on the forecourt display.
Why go to the bother when unleaded petrol costs one Qatari Rial per litre – that’s 19 bloody pence!
The Tour of Qatar was paying for our fuel at this filling station near the race hotel.
I can tell you, the novelty of being filled up by a friendly Nepalese bloke, saying ‘ta chap’ and roaring off without getting your debit card out, it never wears off.
No wonder the Qataris give it death out of every roundabout and apparently, when summer temperatures hit 50deg C, leave their engines idling all day with the air con running.
It’s not been a vintage race the 11th Tour of Qatar. The high winds of the previous weekend may have livened things up but it dropped away and we weren’t treated to the vintage echelon racing of the year before.
That’s not to say they didn’t turn on the style, at times hurtling along at 70kph for long stretches on the flat.
As training for the upcoming Classics Qatar showed that Boonen and Cancellara could be the stars of the spring.
Gilbert is also looking very relaxed and fit. We liked the look of Van Summeren, and Baden Cooke on the Green Edge team could also be up there at Roubaix again.
Most of the teams were doing extra miles, riding to and from starts and finishes and putting in some 200km days in racing-training.
What of Cavendish, double stage winner?
Cav’s in good but not top shape but there was no one to touch him in the gallops even at this early point in the year.
We saw him swaggering into the hotel after his crash on the final stage – he had a graze on his elbow but didn’t look bent out of shape at all.
Its quite hard to spot Cav in the bunch. We get to cruise up alongside them quite a bit on the wide Qatari highways and Cav is great at hiding in the pools of calm, out of the wind, avoiding trouble.
Like the mythical pike lurking in the depths, he only shows himself at feeding time, snapping up his prey with lightning speed and razor sharp teeth.
If his first big objective is Milan-San Remo the signs are that Cav is well on the way to being the five star favourite.