Cycling: Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen Go Head-to-Head in Qatar

Zachary MainoContributor IJanuary 26, 2009

British sprinting sensation Mark Cavendish won four stages in the 2008 edition of the Tour de France.  However, Belgian boy Tom Boonen says if he had been at the Tour, Cavendish would not have won those four stages.

Boonen, previously regarded as the best sprinter in the world, was not invited to Le Tour this year due to his positive out-of-competition test for cocaine. In his absence,  Cavendish bolted across the finish line in first place on four occasions, giving Cavendish the unofficial title of “fastest sprinter in the world.”

This Sunday, the two sprinting stars take center stage for the eighth edition of the Tour of Qatar. The race consists of six stages covering 685 kilometers. Seventeen teams of eight riders will be battling for the three jerseys, team classification, and €115,435 of prize money.

Boonen has won this event on two separate occasions and has notched a total of thirteen stage wins in only three years of contesting the race. However with Cavendish starting fresh following his 18-win 2008 season, Boonen might find he has his work cut out for him.

Boonen remains optimistic stating, “Qatar's always a good race, with lots of good sprinters. But then Qatar's not just about sprinting.”

He also feels he is in better shape than normal, noting that over the past six weeks he has “done a lot of riding and not that much resting.”

Knowing he is going up against a former World Champion, Cavendish is sure to have good form as well. Barely a week after the end of Qatar, the battle will continue, as both Boonen and Cavendish are scheduled to race the Tour of California.

Be sure to tune into the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of California to see the outcome of the skirmish between sprinters.