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Swiss Champion Markus Zberg (Foto by AbbiOrca.com)
Swiss Champion Markus Zberg (Foto by AbbiOrca.com)

Markus Zberg stays near front, top 10 hopes still alive

2. February 2009

Al Khor Corniche, Qatar

For BMC, the Tour of Qatar’s Stage 2 unfolded in a somewhat more satisfying fashion.  BMC neo-pro Chad Beyer managed to insert himself into the main break of the day while closer to the finish, team leader Markus Zberg rode with the second group, keeping the team’s hopes for a high GC placing alive. 

As had been predicted, the brutal north winds ripped up the peloton and by the finish line, only 14 riders remained in the first group.  Cervelo Test Team’s Roger Hammond attacked the group which contained defending champion Tom Boonen.  The Briton pre-empted the bunch gallop and won the stage by 1 second.

First race, first break

“The weather and winds lived up to the forecast, so we were lucky that when the first break went after about only 3 kilometers, we had Chad Beyer in it,” John Lelangue reported.  “There was no reaction from the peloton so the break of three riders gain upwards of 14 minutes at one point, but once the course turned and the three were riding into a head wind, they naturally started to lose their advantage.”  Due to the force and direction of the winds, the peloton split into five different echelons.  “We had Markus Zberg in the first echelon while Martin Kohler and Florian Stalder were in the second,” Lelangue said.  Feeling as though the team was well placed for the finish, one final split reduced the size of the front group to just 14, putting Zberg in the second grouping.  “With about 45 km to go the final winning group separated itself, and though Boonen made the split, riders like Cavendish didn’t,” Lelangue said.  This group hung off the front with about a 40 second advantage for the majority of the rest of the race, though by the finish line, they had stretched that out to around 2 minutes. 

Zberg alert, still well placed

Having been pipped at the line in the second group’s sprint, Zberg still managed to finish top 20 on the stage with just a 2 minute deficit.  “Today was a tricky stage, as we knew it would be,” Lelangue explained.  “But we are very pleased to see Markus riding so well; he missed the lead group by just two or three places.”  With another tricky day expected for stage 3, there is every possibility that Zberg can move up in his overall classification.  “Yes, anything can still happen for Markus, but we will be focusing on getting our sprinters to the head of the final sprints, and the classification will follow from there,” Lelangue said.  Echelon riding is the name of the game in races like Qatar, though to practice riding echelons is something that can really only be done in race situations.  “To see the young guys like Chad do so well today is a real pleasure, and the skill set will come with each race that they are put into situations like this,” Lelangue said.  “Without a closed road, you can’t really recreate the echelon effect in camp, but as we race more in these conditions, the young guys get more of a taste for the style of racing.”   For today, Lelangue is happy to see the team leader racing well and still in with a shouting chance.  “A lot will happen tomorrow and in the next stages, so we will always have the same goal of finishing well and placing our sprinters in the 1st group,” Lelangue concluded.