From Luke Evans, the driver of CW photographer Graham Watson’s motorbike at the 2011 Tour of Oman

We flew out of Muscat, the capital of Oman, at around midnight Sunday.

Following the final stage win by Cavendish, I returned the rental bike to the motorbike shop in town.

The bikes of my Belgian friend Guy and I were new a week ago with just 12km on my shiny black Kawasaki.

After six days we rode into the workshop on a couple of well run-in and dusty bikes with over 2,000km on each.

We didn’t look so fresh faced either. The lady who had done the paperwork did a double take when she finally recognised the two sunburned, weatherbeaten characters who bid her thanks and see you next year.

It’s hard to believe it’s only February. The level of racing in Qatar and Oman has been incredibly high. Almost too hard and fast. Many riders were longing to get back home for a short rest before the spring classics kick off.

We’ve had some long days too, with transfers to and from stages also taking their toll in Oman, and upping the vehicle mileage considerably.

But you only have to look at the arc of Cavendish’s form to see how effective this fortnight has been in terms of the riders’ conditioning.

The Manxman crashed on the very first day in the prologue and lacked his phenomenal kick in Qatar’s bunch gallops.

After that he dug in and grafted for the team. It was great to take rare shots of him doing turns on the front, not a place where sprinters like to dwell.

When team mate Matt Goss took a stage win he shouted ‘Gossy won – good!’ As he crossed the line that day.

On the morning of the final stage in Oman Cav was fussing over his bike, his team mates knowing and watchful as he used some colourful language to get his point across.

That’s just Cav getting psyched for today, said Watson, adding that he would win the stage later.

So he did. Kudos to Graham, and big respect to two contrasting and severe pre-season warm-ups in the Middle East.

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