QATARBLOG: PART FOUR
QATAR BLOG DAY THREE - TUESDAY JANUARY 30
They killed and roasted a goat in our honour this morning. Normally this would be a cause for excitement on my part, but on top of breakfast (sausages, kebabs, scrambled eggs), and three days’ worth of kebabs and grilled fish, it was all I could do to groan.
I still ate it, though. You can’t beat a bit of goat.
The drive to the stage start frazzled some nerves today, even among some of the hardest-bitten cycling photographers in the press pack. Our driver decided to take a short cut, in spite of the fact that the entire race - riders, teams, support and press have a convoy organised by the police.
It is a measure of how seriously the Qatar authorities take this race that the roads are not just closed for the race, but there is also a rolling road closure for the convoy to get to the start. If the Tour of Britain had this kind of status, all that business in Wolverhampton last year, with the angry shoppers, would never have happened.
Our driver’s short cut led us off the road, and across what can only be described as some desert. Once back on the right road some distance later, we parked up on the hard shoulder to wait for the convoy.
It was one of the Japanese journalists who noticed that a lorry was approaching us at speed, in the hard shoulder, and appeared not to be changing lanes. Like a real-life Qatari redneck homage to the juggernaut in Duel, he kept coming, until finally pulling out 20 metres before us and thundering past at 50 miles per hour.
We’ve also had some mail! Paul Doherty, an expat Brit living in Doha confirmed that I was indeed taken for a ride by Dave the taxi driver (see yesterday’s Qatarblog), who charged me 50 Riyals for what Paul said was a 10 Riyal job, tops.
“The taxis here all have meters. The driver can obviously spot a journo on expenses from 50 paces,” Dave helpfully commented.
Paul, if you see a taxi driver wearing a nice new suit in Doha any time soon, tell him he owes me 40 Riyals.
Paul also says hello to his old club mates at the Kent Valley RC.
By the way, I partially won 10 Riyals from myself when I bet that Tom Boonen would stitch me up for our meeting yesterday. 7:15 came and went, while I hovered like a stalker in the lobby. At 7:55, I clocked him walking past with his team mates, laughing, on his way to dinner.
We eventually talked tonight, 24 hours late. He got to stand me up, I got the interview, and the 10 Riyals went towards a Cognac. Everybody’s happy.
This is the last instalment of the Qatarblog for this year. I’m flying back to England tomorrow morning, and my editor is looking forward to going over my expenses account. Catch up with us later in the year.
ARE YOU WAITING FOR TOM BOONEN IN THE LOBBY? EMAIL CYCLING@IPCMEDIA.COM
Qatarblog part three
Qatarblog part two
Qatarblog part one