11, February 2014
Niki Terpstra is in command of the GC leader’s Golden Jersey after two stages dominated by Omega Pharma Quickstep
A breakaway win by Nikki Terpstra on stage one followed by the entire team in a break on stage two saw Omega Pharma Quickstep in the dominant position.
Stage 1 - Terpstra clinches win to take lead
Morning rain showers had cleared for the start of the first stage of the men’s Tour of Qatar by the sea in Al Wakra. 152 riders took off at 1:06 PM for a 135.5-kilometre ride to Dukhan beach on the west coast of Qatar. The rain may have abated but a very strong tailwind saw an impressive pace of 70km/h set from the off. Lieeuwe Westra (AST) was the first to manage a significant break at km 9, enjoying a 20” lead but he was soon to be gobbled up by the chasing pack at km 18.
The first intermediate sprint (Mesaieed, km 20) was claimed by Terpstra (OPQ) ahead of Kristoff (KAT) and Bennett (TNE) while the pack remained bunched. At kilometre 32, five men broke away: Kohler (BMC), Westra (AST), Houlé (ALM), Salomein (TSV) and Chtioui (SKD). Their lead went from 1’35 at km 34 to a maximum 6’20 at km 40.
With the tailwind turning to crosswinds the big guns of the Tour pushed harder on their pedal and managed to split the bunch into several groups. 21 riders managed to break away including Boonen (OPQ), Cancellara (TFR), Greipel (LTB) and Gilbert (BMC). They caught the front five as soon as km 59. Eventually, the different groups bunched up together again at km 95.
Another decisive move occurred just before the second bonus sprint (Umm Bab, km 107.5) when Niki Terpstra took off on his own. He went on to win that sprint with a 5” lead over Roelandts (LTB) and Schar (BMC). These three men continued their efforts and were joined by Van Kersbulck (OPQ) and Elmiger (IAM), already a key actor of last year’s final breakaway on stage 1. The front five riders had a 25” lead with 25 kilometres to go and that advantage grew to 32” in the last 5 kilometres.
Despite strong efforts from the sprinting teams with QPQS taking a break with two men at the front, the escapees kept a decent enough lead to consider stage victory on the last straight along Dukhan Beach. Ever present all along the day, Niki Terpstra powered to the line to win his first individual stage in Qatar (he had already won a team time-trial).
The 29 year-old Dutchman from Bewerwijk beat Jurgen Roelandts and Michael Schar to the line. Thanks to his 12th career win, Terpstra captures the overall leader’s Golden Jersey as well as the leadership in the points’ classification. After this first stage, Sam Bennett (TNE) claims the Pearl White jersey for the best young rider.
Stage 2 - Boonen clinches stage win
Omega Pharma Quickstep reinforced its reputation as the hard men of windy stages with an impressive performance that had all eight riders in the day's decisive break.
The day's stage would take the 152 riders 157.5 kilometresAl Sheehaniya Camel Race track to the Al Khor Corniche with wind continuing from the previous day.
The pack together only as far as the 13-kilometre mark when the strong men pushed harder and several groups spread apart with a front group of around 40 riders containing the favourites. It was a short break and the pack was back together again at kilometre 22. Almost immediately two men decided to take off: Gilbert (BMC) and Reijnen (UHC). After enjoying a 1’20 advantage, the escapees were caught at km 33.
The first intermediate sprint (km 34.5) was claimed by Maes (OPQ) ahead of Golden Jersey Terpstra (OPQ) and Kruopis (OGE). At kilometre 89, Gatis Smukulis (KAT) tried his luck on his own. The Latvian saw his lead reach 2’20 at km 96. After a right turn and as the pack headed east, the wind again played an essential part in the day’s stage and the Omega Pharma Quickstep made the best of it. Indeed after several Tinkoff-Saxo men pushed harder at the front, all eight riders of the Belgian squad managed to be in the front group as the pack broke up.
At the front, 23 men took off and caught Smukulis at km 104. Other than the OPQS riders, the only others to survive were Popovych (TFR), Boom, Wagner (both BEL), Eisel, Rowe, Stannard (all SKY), Guarnieri (AST), Smukulis (KAT), Kruopis (OGE), Bennati, Breschel, Juul Jensen, Kroon and Morkov (TCS). While the second bonus sprint (at km 121.5) was claimed by Roelandts (LOT) ahead of Boonen (OPG) and Terpstra (OPQ), a first chasing group including Greipel (LOT), Gilbert (BMC) and Démare (FDJ) was 25” adrift. Further back, it looked to be all over for Fabian Cancellara (TFR), trapped behind a fall and stranded in a dropped group, 1’45 behind. With 20 kilometres to go, the leaders had a 35” lead over the first group and 3’10 over the Cancellara bunch.
With the Omega Pharma-Quickstep and Belkin teams working perfectly together, the gap remained the same with 5 kilometres to go. Time had come to start considering stage victory. The first attempt came from both Wagner and Boom taking off just before the final straight but they were finally caught at the Red Flame. And there wasn’t much to be done against Qatar master Tom Boonen. The Belgian 4-time winner of the event flew to his 21st stage win in the peninsula, beating Morkov and Roelandts to the line.
Seventh of the stage, Niki Terpstra keeps command of his GC leader’s Golden Jersey. The Dutchman now has a 5” lead over new Silver Jersey Roelandts and 14” over Boonen. Great Britain’s Andrew Fenn becomes the new best young rider of the Tour and will be wearing the White Pearl jersey tomorrow for what should be a decisive time-trial for overall victory.