World Wide Cycling

                 Tour of Qatar 2005



Marco Polo Cycling Club

The Marco Polo Cycling Team had a very successful start of the 2005 season in the Tour of Siam (Thailand), the first race in the new UCI Asia Continental Tour. The Marco Polo Cycling Team won the team GC and Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh became 3rd on GC! But now we went over to the Tour of Qatar, were the very best pro's of the world line-up for fast windy races in the desert. It will be very hard for our riders, but at least a great experience and important lessons to get to a higher level.


This is the Marco Polo Cycling Team for the Tour of Qatar:

Carter, Michael (USA)

Tjallingii, Maarten (Netherlands)

Ulzii-Orshikh, Jamsran (Mongolia)

Leung, Chi Yin (Hong Kong)

Hollands, Eddy (Australia)

Pollock, Rhys (Australia)

Fuyu, Li (China)

Van Oord, Rene (Netherlands)    


The program is as follows:

- January 29 Doha International Grand Prix

- January 31 - February 4 Tour of Qatar


Report by Remko Kramer


We travelled with a group from the Netherlands, with riders Maarten Tjallingii and Rene van Oord and commercial manager Rob Conijn, Soigneuse Francis Cerny and I, Remko Kramer, this time mechanic and masseur. The riders from the Netherlands would have a hard time to change from the cold rain and snow to the nice temperatures of winter in Qatar. At least Rene had a training camp in Spain, but mountainbiker Maarten Tjallingii only trained in the cold. Maarten did some cyclo-cross races this winter for the first time and even got 5th on the Dutch Championships a few weeks ago, between the Dutch cyclo-cross pro's!

At arrival at the Doha airport in Qatar there were several teams waiting for their luggage. We already saw some of the opponents; Protour teams with some of the strongest riders in the world.

The luggage arrived soon and we were taken to the hotel, together with team T-Mobile and Davitamon-Quick-Step. The hotel is unbelievable; the race has its headquarters and our rooms in the Ritz-Carlton, one of the best and most expensive hotels in the world!

It was already evening time, so we had a good dinner with a huge choice of delicious food from a buffet before we checked in our luxurious rooms.


January 28


The next morning we met the rest of the team who came from Thailand, straight from the Tour of Siam. Teammanager Allan Wolhuter and riders, Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh (Oggi) from Mongolia, Chi Yin Leung (Kenji) from Hong Kong American Michael Carter and Australians Rhys Pollock and Eddy Hollands. And from China, our new Chinese rider Fuyu Li arrived, he would make the Chinese debut as a rider on a pro-team in a race!

They had some problems underway to convince the customs in several countries that all these nationalities were welcome in the rich country Qatar. But like always Marco Polo manages these problems and so here we are all together.


The team changes to new Trek bicycles and the riders that came from Asia all have to get their new bicycles ready. In Europe we prepared them as good as possible to the personal positions of the riders. But of course some small changes still have to be made, like small changes in seatpost or stem.

The Marco Polo Cycling Team training in Qatar. At the front Eddy Hollands and Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh, then Rene van Oord and Maarten Tjallingii, then Fuyu Li and Rhys Pollock. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)



January 29 - Doha International Grand Prix


The races in Qatar were opened with a one day race at the car racing track near the capital of Qatar, Doha, the GP Doha.

The Marco Polo Cycling Team was the first team to line up for the presentation. At a podium, the teams were presented to the press and invited VIP's. For the VIP's there was a kind of open air lounge with big comfortable armchairs. Famous people around the race were of course many former cycling stars like Eddy Mercx, one of the organisers of the race! But also Dutch soccer stars Ronald and Frank de Boer.


Fuyu Li, the first Chinese rider on a pro-team at a pro-race, was announced at the first start-row, next to Mario Chipollini and other top-pro's. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)


Our invited sponsors had a good time watching the race and join us for some laps in the team car.

The race started slow, with an early attack of one of the Al Jazeera Sports Channel Team. This team was founded in Qatar were they also want to develop cycling sports in the Arabic region. It is funny to see the Al Jazeera Team with also some riders from Iraq lined up next to the Discovery Channel Team from the USA. But that is the cool thing from sportsmen together, national Champion from the USA Fred Rodrigues (Lotto-Davitamon) in the stars and stripes shakes hands with one of the Iraq cyclists.

In the race, the Al Jazeera rider gets a few minutes ahead and even makes it to the first big! Preme. Then there starts some action once in a while. There are a few breakaways and sometimes a chase, and then it goes really hard with the whole field strung out single file all over the windy car racing circuit.

From the car we see our Maarten Tjallingii take some superhard pulls at the front. And also our Chinese riders Fuyu Li, who comes from a cold province in China, stays in a good position. Towards the final it gets faster and faster. Several riders get into trouble and fall off. Also some of our riders can't hold the wheel of the top-pro's. Towards the finish we have a bad loss. Eddy Hollands, our sprinter, in Thailand in top-form has a bad stomach and drops out of the race.

But Fuyu Li makes a great impression by hanging in a group that falls off with riders like Max van Heeswijk. He even takes full turns and they catch on again.

In the last lap the teams Lotto-Davitamon and Quickstep take the lead and pull so hard that only 20 riders go into the final sprint, which is won by Robert Hunter from Phonak.

Our riders learned today how crazy-hard these European top-pro's ride. So they know what to expect the next days in the windy desert of Qatar.


January 31 - Tour of Qatar stage 1


The Tour of Qatar starts in the nice small harbour of Al Khor. There is a relaxed atmosphere in the nice sunny weather. The start is slow again. But many riders must be nervous for what happens when the going gets tough, especially in the wind.


But our Hong Kong rider Chi Yin Leung (Kenji) has no fear and is the first rider that attacks after just a few kilometres. He made a good attack from the second row and nobody followed him. He put the hammer down and soon he gains a minute. A nice gap that prevents others from joining him. The peloton keeps quiet and soon Kenji gets two minutes, 5 minutes and more! He keeps going strong in the empty desert. The only entertainment is the "warning camels" signs along the road, but Kenji has other things on his mind. In the team car behind him, we even spot some wild camels in the beautiful dry landscape. Like I said, Kenji had other things on his mind and those are the points sprints with valuable bonus seconds! He wins the first sprint and has his maximum lead of more then 10 minutes! 


Chi Yin Leung from the Marco Polo Cycling Team went for a 110 KM solo in the Tour of Qatar, his maximum lead was 10 minutes! (Photo: Remko Kramer, Nikon camera)


But behind him the points sprint pulls the peloton into gear and the speed is on! How fast can a pro-peloton go on flat roads, incredible! At the second points sprint, after 100 kilometre solo Kenji is caught by two riders and takes third in this sprint. At this moment Kenji is virtual leader in the Tour of Qatar! A Hong Kong rider with 4 seconds lead on the best professionals of the world. But there will be 10, 6 and 4 seconds at the finish line, so there are good chances on a 4th place in GC and a top place in the young rider classification.

But Kenji is not good anymore; the long hard solo wore him out. And also the 3 stage races he did over the past one and half months are also taking their toll. In the screaming finale with speeds of almost 70 kmph and a few roundabouts Kenji looses contact with the peloton. Michael Carter even tries to hold him in the field with some "illegal" pushes, but at 2 km to go Kenji is dropped.

Oggi and Maarten give it a try to get into the sprint, but some bumping and sliding in the hectic last kilometre prevent them from getting a price. Tom Boonen wins the stage.

What a cool attack and solo from Kenji, he is completely dead at the finish. He gave it all he had and almost took care of a sensation, a Hong Kong rider top 5 in the Tour of Qatar and the young rider jersey, but almost does not count...


February 1 - Tour of Qatar stage 2


Eddy Hollands, Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh and Michael Carter from the Marco Polo Cycling Team with at the background the camel race track. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)


Kenji gave the good example and the rest of the team is ready to go for it. The next day the stage that starts at the camel racetrack Marco Polo goes for it again. And it is Maarten Tjallingii that jumps in the break now. Together with a Credit Agricol rider Kaggestad and Shimano's Marco Bos they give it a try. And the same thing happens, the peloton is slow and easy and they take a good 5-minute lead. I drive the second team car and can take our spot in the caravan behind the peloton, because Allan Wolhuter is behind Maarten in the break. At the radio I hear Maarten Tjallingii being announced as the winner of the Tour du Faso, another race organised by the Tour de France race organisers.

Maarten takes some seconds in the points sprints. But the peloton doesn't wait too long. At a turning point in the roads it goes in echelons and in the gutter already. After a regrouping, it splits again in the hard side winds. 21 riders with Tour leader Tom Boonen reach the 3 men break and Maarten can take advantage of the seconds he won, when he stays in the group...

Behind the hammering front group, a second group wants to close the gap. Mario Cipollini has not give up yet and with a great effort he almost makes it with a small group. But the Quickstep-Davitamon team with Tom Boonen and 5 other riders!! Gives it all and they bring Tom Boonen to his second stage win. Maarten who even gets 12th after his long break, moves up to a 6th place in GC between and in front of many top-stars.

But we also loose today. Kenji who has not recovered from yesterday's tough day quits and our Chinese Fuyu Li keeps on fighting but finishes 5 minutes out of the time cut. In the GP Doha he showed how strong he was, but it is also a matter of positioning and technique to survive in the strong side winds riding in the gutter. Fuyu feels sad but said he learned a lot and will make sure he will finish next time in a race like this. Sponsor Todd McKean from Trek  bikes tells him about Lance Armstrong in his first big race in Europe, he finished, alone, far behind and they were already building off the finish entourage. Fuyu listens and just nicks his head...


February 2 - Tour of Qatar stage 3

The race passing by, view over the shoulders of some Qatar men. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)


Stage 3 of the Tour of Qatar starts in Al Wakra, an old fishing harbour. I drive team car two again, behind the caravan, until we have another rider in the front group...

The first name announced at the radio is Maarten Tjallingii. He shows he is not tired after yesterdays long 3 men break and is the first rider to attack. A few kilometres later a 15 men group has a minute gap, of course Maarten has joined them. But then the race breaks open. Team CSC make their move! And how! They join the front group and with 6 riders they squeeze it into pieces in the hard side wind. Only 21 riders follow, of course Maarten has joined them. Of course? I guess only 3 riders from the first front group make it into this new break....

The whole field is shattered into pieces, this is like a battleground. Here and there we pass crashed riders and small groups that fall off. And in front of us we see the many echelons chasing each other.

In the front group, Backstead asks Maarten to take his turns not so hard...

The second group keeps chasing and stays within a minute for a long time. But then they give up and it is clear that this is the break of the race.

Team CSC pulls it in the wind one more time. With six riders on front, the last rider leaves the gap and the final is open. Tom Boonen just misses this and he and his teammate chase as hard as they can. Of course Maarten joins in and keeps rotating with them. After a while he misses Boonens teammate. He even is dropped from their group, in the results, Maarten finds out that this teammate is Zanini...

They keep going with the two of them for a while, but against 5 CSC riders there is no chance. CSC Michaelsen wins the stage and takes over the golden leader jersey.


February 3 - Tour of Qatar stage 4

Mario Chipollini, Tom Boonen, Maarten Tjallingii and Servais Knaven at the first start row in stage 4 of the Tour of Qatar. A good position to start this stage, one hour later, the first group had covered 53 KM!! In the background the old fort and a Qatar falcon hunter giving the startsign. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)


Stage 4. Al Zhubarah - Doha. At the start there is always a nice VIP area. In a nice Arabic tent, tea and food is served. The top attraction here is a falcon hunter with his bird. There is a great background from an old fort which is from the 13th century. Here some battles were fought long ago. And today again...

The start is incredible fast. After one hour 57 kilometres have been covered! And of course the peloton is split. Some of the main riders missed the break. Especially the Lotto team had a bad day. Their Robby McEwen and Fred Rodrigues missed the break. Of course(!?) Maarten didn't miss it and he moves up to 5th in GC! Because the Lotto team tries but doesn't succeed to bring back the peloton. Rhys Pollock also joined the first group, but punctured at the wrong moment. No team car in between yet and here he looses a very good spot on GC and the team a descent position in team GC. We must give good credit to the Vredestein Fortezza tires though. We only have two punctures the whole tour. And there are so many flat tires over here, because of stones and potholes. Again the Vredestein's proof to be great tires under all conditions we use them.

The second group completely stops and looses a lot of time. In the first bunch, Mario Cipollini takes his victory.


February 4 - Tour of Qatar stage 5


The peloton through the Qatar landscape, with in the distance the fire of the gas fields. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)


The last stages with cool views on the gas winning installations (always taught they found oil here). White sand dunes and in the distance the high pipes with burning flames on top.

No changes in the classification this stage and another mass sprint. This time it is Robby McEwen who wins.

In the final GC we have a rider at place 5! and in the team cars we were number 3 because CSC has 3 riders on the podium, then Tom Boonen from Quickstep and just behind him Maarten Tjallingii, Marco Polo Cycling Team.


Asia Continental Tour success


We celebrate our success with Maarten Tjallingii in this top position in this top race! A good finish of our early season racing. And a good ranking in the Asia Continental Tour. After the stage win by Eddy Hollands and 3rd position in GC by Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh in the Tour of Siam in Thailand and the great publicity we had with our team presentation, now the 5th place in GC by Maarten Tjallingii in the Tour of Qatar.


The Marco Polo Cycling Team and the Discovery team at the Tour of Qatar with their new team bicycles from Trek. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)



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