Acclaimed British cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins will lead Team Sky for the start of his final season with the cycling group in the upcoming Tour of Qatar, organizers have confirmed as they released the full lineup of participating teams.
A total of 18 teams will take part in the six-day event, which starts Feb. 8 along a 136km route from Dukhan to Sealine beach.
Among the other cycling heroes expected to take part are defending champion Niki Terpstra with his teammate – and former winner – Tom Boonen. Leading the sprint competition will be Phillipe Gilbert, Marcel Kittel, Alexander Kristoff, Peter Sagan and Australian national champion Heinrich Haussler.
Now in its 14th year, the Tour of Qatar is the first in the international cycling events season organized by Amaury Sport Organization, which also oversees the Tour de France.
Stage two is the longest of the local event and stretches 194.5km from Al Wakrah to the Al Khor Corniche.
During the third stage, scheduled for Feb. 10, Wiggins will have the chance to debut his rainbow jersey as individual time trial world champion when he competes in a 10.9km time trial at Lusail circuit.
Stage 4, on Feb. 11, runs 165.5 km from Al Thakira to Mesaieed. Stage 5 is a 153km route from Al Zubara Fort to Madinat ash-Shamal, while the final day on Friday Feb. 13 runs 124.5 km from the Sealine Beach resort to the Doha Corniche.
Wiggins was the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France in 2012, and in the same year also took the gold in the time trial event at the Olympic Games in London.
He was awarded a knighthood in 2013 and the following year won the gold in the time trial at the 2014 road world championships.
His appearance in Qatar this year follows his success in 2010, when he led the newly formed Team Sky to its first collective victory at the team time trial of the Tour of Qatar.
This will be one of Wiggins’ last road races, as he is set to quit in April to focus on track events.
The full list of the participating teams is: Astana, Bardiani CSF, BMC, Bora-Argon 18, Cofidis, Etixx-Quick Step, FDJ, Giant-Alpecin, IAM Cycling, Katusha, Lampre-Merida, Movistar, MTN-Qhubeka, Orica GreenEdge, Team Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo, Topsport Vlaanderen Baloise and Trek Factory Racing.
Meanwhile, the Ladies Tour of Qatar will take place from Feb.3 to 6 and is expected to be an open race, in large part due to the fact that four-time Dutch winner Kirsten Wild not participating.
A total of 90 riders, in 15 teams of 6, will battle it out across four stages.
Will you be going to watch? Thoughts?