Boonen flies with the wind to take an arabian hat trick ……
Tour of Qatar – courtesy ASO
As predicted the desert winds proved to be the most decisive feature of another sand blasted day in Qatar. However what was surprising was the speed and venom of the peloton’s attacks.
With a strong tailwind a pack of just under 30 riders including golden jersey Tom Boonen (QST) managed a decisive move at km 5, while his main rival for victory Alessandro Petacchi (MRM) failed to stay in the leadership. Slowly but surely, the gap between the Boonen group, also including Eisel (TMO), Brown (RAB) and Mondory (A2R), and the Petacchi group (25 men), also including the likes of Nazon (A2R), Chicchi (LIQ) and Clerc (BTL) started growing: 25” at km 8 to 40” at km 35. Meanwhile all the other riders of the Tour were battling it out in the wind and never managed to get even close to the front groups.
At the first intermediate sprint (km 52.5) won by Eisel ahead of Mondory and De Jongh (QST) the gap had gone down to 31”. After having covered 58.500 km during the first hour of racing, the pace naturally slowed down as the front men headed east and then south, witnessing a side and head wind all the way to the finish. The gap however started increasing again as Boonen and his leading group companions enjoyed a 52” lead at km 68 and then 1’15 at the entry of the feeding zone (km 80).
At the second intermediate sprint (km 93) won by Mondory ahead of Eisel and Boonen, the leading group could still count on a 1’05 advantage. All the way to the finish line, the Petacchi group never managed to catch the front men despite moving closer at km 105 (44”). Probably understanding that the race was over for them, the gap increased with 25 km to go: 1’15 at km 118 and then 2’10, 10 km from the finish line. Victory was therefore to go to one of the 22 riders in the leading group. Counting on the help of three of his Quickstep team mates, Tom Boonen once again proved to be the fastest to the line. The Belgian claimed his fourth success this year beating Brown and Fischer (LIQ) in the final sprint. Meanwhile, Alessandro Petacchi and his chasing group crossed the finish line with a deficit of over 5’. Title holder Boonen now has a 27” overall lead over De Jongh and 33” on Eisel.
Bernhard Eisel in seventh was again the best placed T-Mobile rider, while magenta team mate Greg Henderson placed tenth. Eisel also picked up some bonus seconds out on the road, taking the first intermediate sprint at km 53, and second at the second sprint (km 93). Those bonus seconds helped move the T-Mobile newcomer from Austria up to third overall, 33 seconds adrift of Boonen. Steven de Jongh (Quick-Step) lies second (+'27), while T-Mobile's Greg Henderson lies 7th overall (+'42).
In the Team Classification, 'Die Mannschaft' trail Quick-Step by just six seconds, with Rabobank third (+'19).
Again a strong wind blew at agreeable temperatures, dividing the peloton into two groups after the first half of the stage. Initially, Marcel Sieberg, Alessandro Cortinovis, Marco Velo, Alberto Ongarato and Fabio Sacchi were in the leading group. Later, Fabio Sacchi attended MILRAM captain Alessandro Petacchi in his effort of catching up with the top group. But then, bad luck came over the MILRAM riders in the top group. Within seven kilometers they all had to change their bikes due to punctures, which made them fall out of the top group. Pebbles on the street frustrated all the Team MILRAM riders' chances. “All our riders dropped back due to this defect. With this high speed, a re-entry into the top group was impossible," said Sports Director Antonio Bevilacqua.
For a long time the second group around Petacchi kept the distance to the leading group with 23 riders short. When 20 kilometers were to go, the gap was around one minute. Finally, the pursuers crossed the finish line at the Doha Golf Club with a leeway of 5:04 minutes. "The race was hardened by a side wind and I missed the instant of the start of the break. Some of my team-mates were in the top group, but they had some technical inconveniences, so that they were not able to facilitate my re-entry. However, I continued my work, which I think can bring me some advantage", said Petacchi after the race. The main field finished more than half an hour after the winner
“I enjoyed today ” said a happy Tom Boonen “The hardest part was controlling the attacks in the last three kilometres, everyone seemed to be having a go but I had my team mates Tosatto and De Jongh to help me “
Young and Local rider
The blue jersey for the best young rider has changed hands again with AG2R’s Lloyd Mondroy now leading Francisco Ventoso in second place eight seconds back.
Badr Banihammad remains the best placed local rider.
Stage 5, Thursday 1st February: Al Zubarah Mesaieed (160,5 km)
Stage 6, Friday 2nd February: Sealine Beach Resort Doha Corniche (134 km)
Stage Four result :
1. Tom Boonen (BEL, Quick Step-Innergetic) les 139,5 km en 2h54'54" (47,8 km/h)
2. Graeme Brown (AUS, Rabobank) m.t.
3. Murilo Fischer (BRE, Liquigas) m.t.
4. Loyd Mondory (FRA, Ag2r Prévoyance) m.t.
5. Francisco-José Ventoso (ESP, Saunier Duval-Prodir) m.t.
6. Aart Vierhouten (PBS, Skil-Shimano) m.t.
7. Bernhard Eisel (AUT, T-Mobile) m.t.
8. Piet Rooijakkers (PBS, Skil-Shimano) m.t.
9. Alexandre Pichot (FRA, Bouygues Telecom) m.t.
10. Gregory Henderson (NZL, T-Mobile) m.t.