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Notes From the Desert Desk

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Well, and some mud too, and an Hour Record. Oh, and be a Blackburn Ranger!

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Mark Cavendish Is Probably Back

Today Mark Cavendish broke his and his team's sprinting duck for the season by notching a victory in the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar. My favorite of the desert sprint races (second only to Oman and its climbing), Qatar has been loyal to the sport for a decade now, and is particularly important this year for one reason: the 2016 World Championships. Yes, this odd patch of sand is indeed going to choose a world champion or six this year, and it remains to be seen how. The highest point in the country is 103 meters, so unless they plan to decamp to Iran for the climbing circuit, the only hills are likely to be some traverses of the lone elevated area, where it's not clear there are presently any roads. If they build them, expect the climbing to be short and stabby, not unlike my mood when this plan was announced.

Anyway, it'll probably all come back together for a sprint, which means Cav will have British Cycling setting him up for glory. Back to today, he's riding for Dimension Data, who have also invested heavily in Cav Futures, bringing back half his old HTC mates to recreate the band that sung so sweetly so often in about 2010. And at long last, on his fourth attempt to win a sprint, he got it done:

[Yes, I used the Russian feed, as a tip to a certain Cav fan...]

Complaints: His win didn't come against Marcel Kittel, and at this point Cav has a lot to prove there. His win has nothing to do with any sort of leadout, unless you consider Alexander Kristoff his 300meter man. Kristoff probably doesn't. When he had leadouts last week, they didn't work (in the binary win/lose equation anyway), and now Bernie Eisel broke his collarbone, so the whole leadout thing is now down to Renshaw, Boasson Hagen, and Tyler Farrar, who hasn't yet raced with Cav. So we'll see. But the Manx Missile launched himself impressively enough today to hold off Modolo, Guardini, Bennett, and Kristoff. He can win a lot of races this year. It's just a question of whether he can become dominant again.

Speaking of Qatar

I hadn't really picked up on the Etixx-Quick Step disinvitation, but this makes it sound like Patrick Lefevre and Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al-Thani need some couples counseling. The race and the Team of Boonen have made such beautiful music together over the years. Are they really going to throw that all away because of what someone may have said? Or because someone else was forced to change their clothes by the side of the road? No. I just think they need to hear each other better. They can work this out.

Evie Stevens Is So Awesome, Part... I've Lost Track

February 27 isn't merely the day the FSA Directeur Sportif Competition opens for 2016 (though make no mistake, it is assuredly that). It is one of those days that is so over-the-top entertaining that it will put to rest any discussion of when the season officially starts. And now there is one more reason. After watching the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (both genders) and maybe checking the Classic Sud Ardeche results, you can now chill out for a while, or put in some miles, and then settle back in to watch Stevens break the women's hour record! There are a lot of pieces to this.

First, Stevens is a magnetic character in the sport, with a warm smile that belies her Massachusetts roots. [I get to say that.] She's also one of the world's top time triallists, though not clearly the best (she was 6th in the Richmond Worlds, for example). Anyway, as American riders go, she's one to watch, as always. Also, her reason for the timing is to draw attention to women's cycling (yay) and to the newly renovated Colorado Springs velodrome (yay!)

And lastly, Bridie O'Donnell just set the new women's Hour Record last month, at 46.882km. [The men are up over 54km.] O'Donnell's effort was the third new record of the last year, so it's a fluid situation, and Stevens -- should she succeed -- would be the first rider under 37 to set a new standard. [She's 32.] All good things for a revitalized Hour Record, unless you're a Bridie fan.

Lars Boom, 'Cross God?

The next stop in the sport's suddenly unrelenting news cycle comes from the Brabant region of Belgium and the Netherlands, where the outgoing God of Cyclocross, Sven Nys, has a few words to say about his once and maybe future replacement, none other than Lars Boom. They're very unspecific and poorly gnomed, but the gist of it is that Larske might be open to resuming a position of some prominence in the mud. The subject was a "full time return to the field," though it doesn't sound like Boom was ready to say anything. The Vlij-man has almost surely made more money on the road, with a Tour de France stage win and a string of still-promising results in the classics, than he would in the poorly funded world of 'Cross? Maybe Nys has something to say about that, however. And maybe Boom can balance one with the other, since he's already done a fair bit of training on the dirt this year, and started a few races, including the world championships where he was an impressive 14th (all things considered). It's a story about glory, and Boom hasn't had as much as a road racer as he'd expected, which is enough to make a bloke like him harken back to his CX days when he was a youthful golden god. Stay tuned.

Bole in Costa Etruschi

Today's picture worth a thousand words comes from the Etruscan Coast (a/k/a Tuscany), and the subject is winter racing. Grega Bole took the honors on Sunday, over Francesco Gavazzi and Diego Ulissi in the first race of the year on Italian soil. Something tells me it wasn't the warmest day out on the bike.

Join the 2016 Blackburn Rangers!

Blackburn Design is looking for its next set of Rangers, people who are planning to push the boundaries of where cycling can take us this summer, and wouldn't mind getting a bit of support from Blackburn in the process.

Who are the Rangers? A half-dozen adventurers fanning out across the American landscape this summer, with a bicycle, clothing, helmet, tools and a stipend from Blackburn, to help them chase their inspiration. And who will not only go to inspiring places, but pass on the experience thru social media. Bascially, me if I were 25 years younger. Check it out here! It starts with a Ranger Camp in April.

But to be considered you have to apply by this Friday! The process is pretty quick, you still have time, but don't delay.

Want some images to get you excited? Here ya go:

If anyone here gets in and goes out into the country with Blackburn, I expect details!

Sick (Of It) Boy?

Sorry, he's much better looking than the actor who plays Spud in Trainspotting, but that haircut... I couldn't let it pass.

Spud