Boonen wins in Qatar
Sun, 05 Feb 12:46:00 2012
Tom Boonen took the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar in a sprint finish.
The Belgian was the quickest man at the end of a 143km stage that took the peloton out of the suburbs of Doha and back to the finish at the New Atlantic College.
The three-time former champion received a superb leadout from his Omega Pharma–Quick Step team and finished comfortably clear of British youngster Adam Blythe (BMC) and Slovak Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
It was a 19th stage victory in the race for the 31-year-old.
"In the final there was a little wind," explained Boonen. "It was very difficult to stay out front but the guys did a phenomenal job. It was a tough battle to maintain the lead positions. In the final I ended up ahead with (Nikolas) Maes and (Gert) Steegmans. Both of them did a great job. Maes took me from the last curve to 400 metres and then it was Geert's turn and at 200 metres I launched my sprint. It was a lovely victory that comes just a few days from the success in Argentina.
Boonen wins in Qatar
"With this team we've always got to try to achieve excellent results. I think that a place among the first three teams is definitely within our reach. Then in the next few days we'll see if we can also be contenders for the classification."
Britain’s ace sprinter Mark Cavendish, who was feeling unwell on the eve of the race, did not contest the sprint with a tailwind on the run in leading to a stretched out field in the final metres.
Renshaw's team-mate Coen Vermeltfoort abandoned the race after a heavy crash.
Blythe trails Boonen by four seconds in the overall standings heading into Monday's 11.3 km team time trial.
"It's going to be a pretty tough one," BMC directeur sportif John Lelangue said.
"The course is like a big cross, so there will be change of direction with the wind. It will be pretty difficult. There are some roundabouts you have to take at full speed but we'll try to make a good race. We're taking things day-by-day."Lee Walker - Lee_Eurosport on Twitter / Eurosport