In the clash of the sprinting titans Boonen remains king of the desert lands…..
Tour of Qatar – courtesy ASO
The Belgian Tom Boonen of Team Quick Step-Innergetic powered to his second victory in the third stage of the Tour of Qatar. In the section between Dohat Salwa and Khalifa Stadium he outpaced Alessandro Petacchi after 140 kilometers in a repeat of the yesterday’s stage.. The Austrian Bernhard Eisel of Team T-Mobile was third.
While Tom Boonen extended his lead in the overall classification, Alessandro Petacchi improved to rank two. The Italian MILRAM-rider is now 13 seconds behind Boonen. Steven de Jongh (Quick Step) is third.
Evergreen Belgian Tom Steels (predictor-lotto) who fell yesterday as the finish line approached was admitted to the Doha hospital after the race and was diagnosed with a broken left collarbone and a five centimetre wound in the head which required stitching, not to mention a severe case of rosad rash down his left hand side.
He will require surgery to heal the fracture and will be quickly repatriated to Belgium for an operation which will see a small plate inserted which should allow him to resume training as quickly as possible. He will fly home via London and should be back on home soil by tomorrow morning
So without Tom the remaining 134 riders of the Tour of Qatar took off from Dohat Salwa on the western coast of the country, enjoying a strong rear wind for the first 60 kilometres of the race. Indeed during the first hour of racing, 57.5 kms were covered by the pack.
For a long time, rider of the day Paul Healion (Gunn-newlyn-m.Donnelly) from Ireland dominated, when he broke away after 60 kilometers and achieved a lead of 4:30 minutes. Only 22 kilometers ahead of the finish was he joined by two other riders, Eric Baumann (T-Mobile) and Romain Feillu (Agritubel). But the efforts were in vain, for in the peloton the sprint teams increased the speed and closed the gap just a few kilometers ahead of the finish.
The bunch sprint was prepared exemplarily by Team MILRAM on the last three kilometres. And indeed it was the Italian fastman who made the first jump, yet he seemed to slow with 50 metres to go and at the finish line Tom Boonen once again had the faster legs and outpaced Alessandro Petacchi, who finished second. Behind Boonen the MILRAM-rider is now on rank two of the sprint classification as well.
T-Mobile played a tactically sound race, with Eisel’s effort in the finale aided by having team mates in earlier breaks. "After the bad luck yesterday, we are very pleased with the third place today, "said T-Mobile sporting director Tristan Hoffman. "We were very active and present all day, and had Servais and Bert in an earlier break, and then Eric Baumann in a break later.”
On the sprint showdown, Hoffman said: "Milram and QuickStep controlled the finale, but Bernhard got a good leadout from Greg Henderson and he was able to get up there in the mix."
Last year, only a stage win by Eisel, then riding for FdJeux, stopped Tornado Tom Boonen from claiming a clean sweep in Qatar. And today the Austrian gave Boonen another reminder of his presence. "There's no stopping Tom Boonen at the moment in the bunch sprints," added Hoffman, "but we will continue to put riders in breaks and maybe one of those can go all the way."
"Compliments to Tom and thanks to my team for the good work. Unfortunately it wasn't enough for the victory once again, but Tom Boonen is just very strong. However, I'm in a good condition,” Petacchi said, “In the last fifty metres I lost concentration and I slowed down. I’m not sure if this was over confidence thinking I would win, or if it was because I had nothing left to give. However I am pleased with how I am feeling and I will try again tomorrow for the victory ".
“Today’s final sprint was different than yesterdays’ – said Boonen - Petacchi launched the sprint and I caught up with and overtook him before the finish line. I am very pleased with how things are going. Here in Qatar both the team and myself have the chance of trying out a few automatisms and observe our competitors. This gives us the chance to see where we can improve”.
Boonen’s victory today certainly wasn’t easy. “Just a few kilometres from the finish line I risked being caught up in a fall – continues Tom - Kevin Van Impe was in front of me and I don’t know how he avoided falling passing over to the right hand side of the road; with an incredible move he guided me to the front of the group just 2 kilometres from the finish. I owe this victory to him”.
“ I already said before the start of this Tour of Qatar that it would be very important for me to be able to sprint against Alessandro Petacchi, and important to be able to beat him. Today, I again managed to do so and I’m very satisfied. If you look at the last few seasons, I haven’t really had the opportunity to sprint against him. Here, with my Quickstep team, we have the opportunity to see how he sprints, how he prepares… We also have the possibility to work on a strategy to beat him. To win two sprints against Petacchi, so early in the season is very good for the moral”
Young and Local rider
The blue jersey for the best young rider has changed hands Milram’s Marcel Sieberg has dropped to 9th place with Nic Ingels (02/09/1984) of Predictor Lotto taking the lead. Lloyd Mondroy in second place just two seconds back.
Badr Banihammad remains the best placed local rider.
Stage 4, Wednesday 31st January: Camel Race Track Doha Golf Club (139,5 km)
Stage 5, Thursday 1st February: Al Zubarah Mesaieed (160,5 km)
Stage 6, Friday 2nd February: Sealine Beach Resort Doha Corniche (134 km)
Stage Three result :
1. Tom Boonen (BEL, Quick Step-Innergetic) les 140 km en 3h25'06" (40,5 km/h)
2. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA, Team Milram) m.t.
3. Bernhard Eisel (AUT, T-Mobile) m.t.
4. Aurélien Clerc (SUI, Bouygues Telecom) m.t.
5. Stefano Zanini (ITA, Predictor-Lotto) m.t.
6. Graeme Brown (AUS, Rabobank) m.t.
7. René Haselbacher (AUT, Astana) m.t.
8. Gregory Henderson (NZL, T-Mobile) m.t.
9. Linas Balciunas (LIT, Agritubel) m.t.
10. Robert Förster (ALL, Gerolsteiner) m.t.
1. Tom Boonen (BEL, Quick Step-Innergetic) en 6h33'09"
2. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA, Team Milram) à 13 sec.
3. Steven De Jongh (PBS, Quick Step-Innergetic) à 17 sec.
4. Gert Steegmans (BEL, Quick Step-Innergetic) à 21 sec.
5. Francesco Chicchi (ITA, Liquigas) à 24 sec.
6. Jean-Patrick Nazon (FRA, Ag2r Prévoyance) à 25 sec.
7. Marco Velo (ITA, Team Milram) m.t.
8. Wilfried Cretskens (BEL, Quick Step-Innergetic) m.t.
9. Murilo Fischer (BRE, Liquigas) à 27 sec.
10. Bernhard Eisel (AUT, T-Mobile) m.t.
Tour of Qatar – courtesy ASO