Gone perhaps is the joy that Tom Boonen wore in the early part of last year, before the stress of a hard season and harder life off the bike wore him down. But still in evidence is that top-end gear, as Boonen jumped Alessandro Petacchi's vaunted lead-out train and held off the Italian sprinter for the first interesting win of 2007.
I officially love the Tour of Qatar. Most of the early season races feature guys in training, and to some degree that's certainly the case here. But if there is one thing worth watching, even at this early stage of 2007, it would be a sprint between two of the world's best. And with enough money on the line to make them want it. Done and done.
Petacchi, for his part, sounded happy just to be able to shake off the rust, but he has to be concerned about his chances. It's nice to be able to win the same way all the time, and I am still waiting for the highlights in Cycling.tv, but it sounds like Boonen used Ale's train to his advantage. The chess match is underway. Three more rounds to go.