Boonen in pole position for title
TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK
DOHA TOM Boonen of Omega Pharma – Quick Step clinched the 147.5 km fourth stage from Al Thakhira to Madinat al Shamal with a dominant display on Wednesday and placed himself firmly in the pole position for the fourth Tour of Qatar title in six years.
The Belgian star took 3 hours, 3 minutes and 14 seconds to record the second stage win in the 2012 edition, his 20th overall in Qatar. “I think today I’ve taken a very important step to winning the Tour of Qatar,” he said.
Tom Veelers of Project 1t4i and classics expert Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack- Nissan crossed the finish line in second and third places.
Sky Procycling’s Juan Antonio Flecha was fourth in the bunch and Boonen’s leadout man Gert Steegmans was four seconds behind in the fifth place.
The victory also cemented Boonen strongly at the top of the General Classification with a 31-second lead over closest challenger Tyler Farar of Garmin-Barracuda. Flecha advanced to the third, being three seconds further away.
Steegmans took the fourth place overall, 36 seconds off the teammate Boonen’s pace.
Bernhard Eisel, another Sky Procycling rider, makes it to the top five.
But the main rider of Sky Procycling, world champion Mark Cavendish, who clinched the third stage on Tuesday, could not match the pace of the breakaway group and finished 31st. He is at the overall 11th spot. Holder Mark Renshaw of Rabobank is at the 15th spot, after taking a 19th-place finish.
Both Blythe and Farar suffered punctures at the wrong time to fall behind in the final charge. “I was lucky, I had a very good day,” Boonen told media after the jersey presentation.
“It was a very hard stage and after the first couple of hours I told the guys that I was feeling very strong and that it was a great opportunity to try and take a firm grip on the jersey.
“We had around 5km of crosswinds and we worked really hard as it split up and then gave it all we had on the headwinds to stay in front. It was an excellent team performance on a perfect stage for us,” added Boonen.
The Omega Pharma – Quick Step lead rider said yesterday that each sprint was a lesson for him. Today, he showed he had really learnt something from it. Also it was a remarkably potent performance by Omega Pharma – Quick Step riders.
In the six-man finish, it had its three riders, including Boonen. Cancellara made the first attack with Veeler just behind him. Boonen however tracked both and jumped ahead of them as they moved inside. The Belgian’s powerpacked dash won his the second stage of the race.
Two riders who were a bit unlucky were Taylor Farar of Garmin – Barracuda and Adam Blythe of BMC Racing.
Both suffered flat tyres at the crucial time and were denied a chance to test Boonen and others at the line.
The fifth stage, scheduled on Thursday, is the longest in this tour - 160kms between Camel Race Track and Al Khor Corniche.