Thus far in 2010, three big names have already been laid low at Qatar, including Kurt Asle-Arvesen, Steven Cozza and Gerald Ciolek. High winds and an overeager field are surely to blame, making the early season competition as dangerous as the wet and slippery riding in northern Europe for the spring classics.
So why risk an early season injury just for a cheap stage win at Qatar, or the Tour Mallorca? Ask Tom Boonen about that. Or Robbie McEwen. Or Oscar Freire. Each of the three aforementioned riders are coming off lackluster 2009 campaigns, and in obtaining an early season victory, they will all experience a boost in confidence ahead of bigger objectives.
Boonen can now rest easy knowing that he still has the top end speed to compete against the best sprinters in the world as well as the power to ride away from the best cobbled classics riders at Paris Roubaix. McEwen can put last year's terrible knee injury behind him and count himself back for good after besting the field at Mallorca a few days ago. And Oscar Freire, on the verge of retirement only a few months ago, will now be able to attack the 2010 season knowing that his body, as well as his mind, are ready to do battle for the rest of the year.
For those without wins meanwhile perhaps a few doubts are creeping in. Tyler Farrar, thus far unsuccessful at Qatar, will be clamoring over the final few stages of the race to at least get onto the podium. Expect his Garmin-Transitions teammates to go all out to try to launch him to victory over the next few days. Ditto Heinrich Haussler of the Cervelo TestTeam, who wants an early season win ahead of bigger objectives like Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders.
For those riders who have been injured meanwhile it's back to their home country for a bit of recovery before hitting the indoor trainer to maintain their fitness. Cozza is already itching to get back on his bike as is Arvesen, and Ciolek, after surgery, will be in the same state of mind. Unfortunately though for all three, losing the race kilometers will set their fitness back, affecting their bigger goals in the spring and summer.