The 2014 Tour of Qatar exceeded its challenging reputation for the UnitedHeathcare Pro Cycling Team with violent crosswinds, chaotic finales, and unforgiving desert heat. Crashes plagued the team’s results throughout the week with John Murphy, Keil Reijnen, Ken Hanson (Santa Barbara), and Robert Förster all suffering minor injuries of varying severity. An extremely fast Stage 4 saw an average speed of 56.8 kilometers per hour, where the teamwork and absolute focus became critical in forming a tight, efficient echelon. Kiel Reijnen was forced to abandon due to injury and will return home to recover for the team’s European campaign later this spring. In true Blue Train fashion, the men met these challenges, fought back, and hunted for opportunities.
The tenacity and determination of the UnitedHeathcare Pro Cycling Team shined through on the final stage, when Italian rider Alessandro Bazzana made his way into a five-man breakaway early in the day. The escape group was very strong, holding an advantage into the very last kilometers of the 113.5km stage. The peloton reached and began to absorb the breakaway at around 1.5km to the finish line. Never giving up, Bazzana capitalized on the confusion of the moment and attacked once more, making it into the oncoming corner first. Giving everything to his final attack, Bazzana held off the charging peloton until the very last meters, when the free-for-all sprint consumed him. Blue Train sprinters Robert Förster and Ken Hanson finished 12th and 14th, respectively, proving that the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team has the talent, form, and ability to animate races at the highest level.
“Despite some bad luck, with four of my teammates crashing hard in stages, I saw all of us finish this race stronger than when we started. It’s going to be an exciting and long year with plenty of races, and I believe that the most important step is always the next one. Now our focus is on next week’s Tour of Oman,” said stage 6 protagonist, Alessando Bazzana. Director Roberto Damiani added, “The team has shown they can fight with the best here in Qatar. They have excellent condition and great determination. Today, Bazzana has exemplified one of our important team mottos – fight together until the very last moment!”
Photo courtesy UnitedHeathcare Pro Cycling Team