Celebrations in Zogge tonight as their young gun takes the longest stage. Quickstep still setting the pace ....
Tour of Qatar – courtesy ASO
The 129 riders of the Tour of Qatar started the day’s 5th stage from the top northern tip of the country in All Zubarah before heading down south to Messaieed on the longest course of the week: 156,5 kms.
At km 40, ten riders took off: Cretskens (QST), Sieberg (MRM), Kirchen (TMO), Pouilhes (A2R), Van Avermaet (PRL), Krauss (GST), Da Dalto and Kuschynski (LIQ), Putsep (BTL) and Tjallingii (SKS). Their lead gradually grew from 40” at km 45 to 2’15 at km 49. After covering 48.400 km during the first hour, the leading ten made it to the first intermediate sprint (km 55) won by Van Avermaet ahead of Da Dalto and Tjallingii with a 3’50 lead over the pack. At km 60, golden jersey Tom Boonen witnessed his first real fright when he suffered a puncture. Dropped behind, the Belgian had to battle it out for about 20 kms in a second group before finally moving back within a front pack including Petacchi (MRM), Brown (RAB) and Eisel (TMO). Meanwhile the gap had dropped down to 45” for the leading men et km 81 but increased again once all the favourites were together again: 2’05 at the entry of the feeding zone (km 85.5) and then 3’15 at km 91.
The second bonus sprint (km 105) was claimed by Tjallingii ahead of Kuschynski and Krauss while the pack remained 5’35 adrift. The gap carried on increasing and the front men enjoyed a maximum 6’10 lead at km 117. With the main field failing to really react, the leading riders could start considering stage victory as the gap stayed over the 5’ mark with 25 kilometres to go. Indeed for the first time of the last two editions of the Tour of Qatar, a stage was to be claimed by a rider involved in a breakaway. In the final sprint to the line, Greg Van Avermaet clinched victory, beating Sieberg and Pouilhes.
In yesterday’s leading group alongside his team mate and leader Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretskens went one step further today capturing the overall race leadership with only one day to go. The new golden jersey has a 2’19 lead over Tom Boonen who crossed the finish line with the first part of the pack, close to 3’ after the day’s winner.
"Unfortunately with the way the race worked out today, Bernhard Eisel had to wave goodbye to his third place overall. That’s a pity", said T-Mobile sporting director Tristan Hoffman. Eisel now lies eight seconds behind de Jongh with just one stage to go. Hoffman: "Bernd is going to have to win Friday’s final stage if he wants to win back his place in the top three."
Overall, Hoffman was pleased with his team’s performance on the race’s longest stage. "The crosswinds made it a hard day, but the guys were all active and showed themselves at the front - Kim worked very hard in the lead group."
The Milram Angle
Marcel Sieberg only narrowly missed the victory at the fifth stage of the Tour of Qatar from Al Zubarah to Mesaieed. At the finish line he was outpaced by the Belgian Greg van Avermaets (Predictor-Lotto). Stéphane Poulhies (AG2r) was third. Wilfried Cretskens (Quick Step) took over the lead in the overall classification from his team-mate Tom Boonen and leads now with 2:19 minutes.
The tour's longest stage over 160,5 kilometers was dominated by an early break of ten riders. Among the escapees was MILRAM's new rider Marcel Sieberg, who worked hard for the speed in the lead. 20 kilometers before the finish, when there was still a gap of about six minutes, it was clear that the winner would be coming from this group. Up to the two kilometres mark the ten leaders worked together harmonically. Then the first attacks followed on a wet road. The last one to try was the Belgian Wilfried Cretskens at the 1.000 meters mark. Marcel Sieberg, who had contained himself for long, only reacting on attacks, closed the gap right before the finish line but was outpaced by Greg van Avermaet. "When Wilfried Cretskens started up 400 meters before the finish I only thought 'no, not again a Quick Step rider'," Marcel Sieberg, who in his attempt of following had problems with his gear shift, said in the finish. "Sure you also think of winning, everything could have turned out differently. But I can build on this," the 24 year-old MILRAM pro continued.
The main group, in which Team Saunier Duval did most of the tracking work, split up on the last kilometres. In a first big pursuers' group Alessandro Petacchi and Tom Boonen crossed the finish line together with a leeway of 2:50. Alessandro Cortinovis was involved in a mass crash of 20 riders on the final kilometers. The Italian contracted several considerable abrasions, yet is able to continue the race.
Greg Van Avermaet is from Zogge in Belgium, and his success in cycling is surprising because until 3 years ago it looked like he would have a career as a footballer, he played for SK Beveren Juniors.
However after a good 2005 when he won Hasselt-Spa-Hasselt and a stage of the Triptyque des Barrages he signed for Bodysol-Win for Life-Jong Vlaanderen, and an impressive season there, in which he won the Internationale Wielertrofee Jong Maar Mo saw him move up a grade to sign for Davitamon-Lotto and the end of 2006.
Naturaly the 21 year old neo Pro was delighted “This is my first season and its great to get my first victory so soon. I know that I am quick –that was my strong point with the amateurs- but coming to the finish with the other 9 escapees I had no idea of how I would do.
Now, I am set up", joked the young racer.
The Quickstep View
No victory for Quickstep today in the round of Qatar. It was the Belgian rider Greg Van Avaermaet who finished first of a 10 headed leading group.
Wilfried Cretskens finished 5th and took over the yellow shirt from Tom Boonen who finished in group at 2.30 minutes
Wilfried Cretskens said "It’s a bit of a surprise to find myself with the golden jersey on my shoulders today. I certainly wasn’t expecting that. After what we had managed yesterday with Tom Boonen, the goal this morning before the start of the stage was to have a Quickstep rider in all breakaway attempts. So I was the one to be in the good group. I then really wanted to win the stage but I unfortunately missed out on victory for 20 metres. To be the leader of the Tour of Qatar with only one stage to go is incredible for me. I’m only a team mate for Tom Boonen and my job is to launch him for his sprints. It’s a fantastic reward, a great gift."
Young and Local rider
The blue jersey for the best young rider has changed hands again with AG2R’s Lloyd Mondroy now in second spot and Alexandre Pichot now taking the lead.
The Iranian rider Mehdi Sohrabi is now the best placed local rider.
Stage 6, Friday 2nd February: Sealine Beach Resort Doha Corniche (134 km)
Stage Four result :
1. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL, Predictor-Lotto) les 156,5 km en 3h26'13" (45,5 km/h)
2. Marcel Sieberg (ALL, Team Milram) m.t.
3. Stéphane Poulhiès (FRA, Ag2r Prévoyance) m.t.
4. Erki Pütsep (EST, Bouygues Telecom) m.t.
5. Wilfried Cretskens (BEL, Quick Step-Innergetic) m.t.
6. Mauro Da Dalto (ITA, Liquigas) m.t.
7. Kim Kirchen (LUX, T-Mobile) m.t.
8. Aleksandr Kuschynski (BLR, Liquigas) m.t.
9. Sven Krauss (ALL, Gerolsteiner) m.t.
10. Maarten Tjallingii (PBS, Skil-Shimano) m.t.
1. Wilfried Cretskens (BEL, Quick Step-Innergetic) en 12h54'41"
2. Tom Boonen (BEL, Quick Step-Innergetic) à 2'19"
3. Steven De Jongh (PBS, Quick Step-Innergetic) à 2'44"
4. Bernhard Eisel (AUT, T-Mobile) à 2'52"
5. Gregory Henderson (NZL, T-Mobile) à 3'01"
6. Andreas Klier (ALL, T-Mobile) à 3'08"
7. Leif Hoste (BEL, Predictor-Lotto) à 3'09"
8. Alexandre Pichot (FRA, Bouygues Telecom) à 3'11"
9. Mathew Hayman (AUS, Rabobank) à 3'30"
10. Servais Knaven (PBS, T-Mobile) à 3'44"
Tour of Qatar – courtesy ASO