British riders are hoovering up the wins in the Tour of Qatar, making it two out of two to keep a 100 percent record. Our man with sand in his shoes, Procycling’s Ellis Bacon, asks whether British road cycling is about to become the new British track racing.
After the summer of love for the British track squad in 2008, fans and the media can now turn their attention to Britain’s road racers as spring approaches. Well, it isn’t snowing at the Tour of Qatar anyway.
With Bradley Wiggins taking the race’s first yellow jersey after his Garmin-Slipstream team won Sunday’s opening team time trial, it was left to veteran Roger Hammond – and we’re sure he won’t mind being referred to as such – to put in an inspired and powerful attack to catch race favourite Tom Boonen on the hop in the final few kilometres of Monday’s second stage and wrest the yellow jersey from Wiggins’s shoulders.
Sure, there’s the highest volume of British riders seen in an international road event for quite some time here at Qatar – six in all, and some good ’uns at that – so Britain was always going to have her chance, but keeping it in the family for two days in a row was a surprise to everyone.
While the race blew to pieces in the crosswinds, Hammond was up at the front surrounded by his Cervélo team-mates, poised to take on the might of Quick Step’s Boonen and Katyusha sprinter Danilo Napolitano.
And how! “I’m obviously thrilled,” a grinning Hammond said at the finish after taking applause for the audacious solo attack with 3km to go that netted him the stage victory and yellow jersey. “But I’m also really chuffed for Daniel Lloyd [who finished 10th] as this is his first race in a big team in a big race like this and he made the front group of a dozen guys. He’s done a great job for the team today, and it’s so nice to see another Brit come through and make the step up.
“This is British Cycling’s hard work coming to fruition,” continued Hammond. “I remember 10 or 12 years ago when they were getting really slated for just concentrating on the track, but now they’re coming through on the road. I just wish that system had been there for me 15 years ago, but I’m glad for the young guys.”
Wiggins straddles both the road and track camps, having taken two gold medals at last year’s Beijing Olympics. Now he’s turned his full attention to the road, might we see him grab prologue time trial wins left, right and centre at stage races this year? Certainly he seems very at home with his new Garmin team.
And we may well see young Ben Swift of Katyusha or Hammond and Lloyd’s mate at Cervélo, the experienced Jeremy Hunt, get in on the action yet here in Qatar, too.
Ah, but what about Mark Cavendish? It’s not as though he’s escaped media attention, but he’s kept his powder dry so far in this Tour of Qatar. There are still plenty of opportunities for the Manx Express to show himself, though. And no doubt he will …