Cavendish wins stage in rainbow jersey
Tue, 07 Feb 13:31:00 2012
Mark Cavendish clinched his first win as world champion on the 146.5km stage three at the Tour of Qatar.
The British sprinter, who is making his Team Sky debut, pipped the in-form Tom Boonen in the final metres after the bunch had split in the crosswinds as he made his mark with a clinical performance.
Cavendish's victory came in spite of a bug, picked up on the flight to the Middle East, that had put him out of contention on the opening stage.
Crosswinds split the peloton in the featureless Qatari desert as the lead group of around 30 riders split from the remaining competitors.
Juan Antonio Flecha and Bernhard Eisel provided Cavendish with company for the most part, while young British rider Adam Blythe also made it into the lead group as he stayed close to team-mate Phillipe Gilbert.
Garmin-Barracuda raised the pace in the final kilometres, but it was Boonen who took the sprint on and the Belgian temporarily jumped clear as Cavendish went with him.
But Cavendish had too much for Boonen in the final stages from Dukhan to Al Gharafa Stadium, and his move was efficient and ruthless as he sealed an impressive victory.
Tour of Qatar : Stage 3
Cavendish said afterwards: "I’m very happy with that. I’m still not 100 percent but we wanted to ride well as a team and if it came down to a sprint then it came down to a sprint. It split up which we weren’t really expecting but the wind picked up and I was looked after by the lads who got me to the front group.
"We didn’t really have to ride once we were in the group. I had Bernie Eisel and Flecha there in the final with me to just keep me in position. I wanted to come off Boonen’s wheel but then (Kruopis) from GreenEDGE came over on the right and boxed me in. I had to swing out and I wanted to wait for the headwind finish so left it late and came past Boonen.
"It’s incredible to win (with the rainbow jersey). I said I wanted to make the jersey proud. You never really get the season going until you get that first win under your belt. So now it’s there I can hopefully get on a roll now."
The result moves Cavendish up to third overall in his pursuit of the GC, eight seconds behind Boonen, although his earlier illness has set him back in his challenge.
It was Team Sky's first victory of the new season – though it was followed a couple of hours later by Lars-Petter Nordhaug’s win in Mallorca.
Mark Cavendish on his Qatar victory