Mark Cavendish takes his first rainbow victory in Qatar stage three
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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Mark Cavendish takes his first rainbow victory in Qatar stage three

by Ben Atkins at 8:17 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tour of Qatar
 
World champion outsprints race leader but Tom Boonen reopens overall lead

mark cavendish

Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) has opened his 2012 account, taking his first victory for his new team, and his first in the rainbow jersey, in the third stage of the Tour of Qatar. The World champion cruised around race leader Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in the final hundred metres of the 146.5km stage between Dukhan on the west coast and the Al Gharafa Stadium on the outskirts of the capital Doha.

"I’m very happy with that," said Cavendish at the finish. "I’m still not 100-per-cent but we wanted to ride well as a team and if it came down to a sprint then it came down to a sprint. It split up which we weren’t really expecting but the wind picked up and I was looked after by the lads who got me to the front group."

Aidis Kroupus (GreenEDGE) tried to hold Cavendish’s wheel as he opened up his sprint around Boonen, but was not quite able to come past the Belgian and had to settle for third.

"We didn’t really have to ride once we were in the group. I had Bernie Eisel and Flecha there in the final with me to just keep me in position,” explained Cavendish. “I wanted to come off Boonen’s wheel but then the guy from GreenEDGE came over on the right and boxed me in.

“I had to swing out and I wanted to wait for the headwind finish so left it late and came past Boonen,” he added.”

The victory is Cavendish’s third in the Tour of Qatar, but his first in the desert race since 2009; more importantly though, it is his first in the rainbow jersey of World champion.

"It’s incredible to win [while wearing it],” he said. “I said I wanted to make the jersey proud. You never really get the season going until you get that first win under your belt. So now it’s there I can hopefully get on a roll now and we can win some things."

With six bonus seconds for his second place, Boonen opens up a clear lead over second place Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda), who finished sixth. The three-time race winner now leads the American by those six seconds, with Cavendish moving into third overall, 8 seconds back.

The breakaway threatens the leader but he lets them take the bonuses

After just one kilometre of racing a group of four riders escaped from the rest of the peloton, as it traversed the out and back leg of the stage along the western Qatar coast. The group was made up of Mehdi Sohrabi (Lotto-Belisol), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha), Mart Ojavee (Champion System), and Alexandre Lemair (Bridgestone-Anchor); by the time they reached the first sprint, at Umm A Qahab after 66km, their lead was up to 5’25”.

This put Ignatiev – who’d started the day just 12 seconds behind Boonen – well and truly in the race lead; he was beaten to the line though, by Sohrabi, who took the maximum three second bonus.
Their presence up the road suited Boonen though, since they would swallow up the keep the time bonuses away from the Belgian’s rivals. The gap was policed by Omega Pharma-Quick Step, but the team allowed Sohrabi to outsprint Ignatiev for a second time, in Al Otouriya after 104.5km; by this time though, the gap had come down to just 2’25” and the race was heading straight into the wind.

Into the final 40km GreenEDGE, Garmin-Barracuda, and BMC Racing came forward and the pace went up sharply; then Garmin-Barracuda took control with most of its riders, and turned up the gas again.

With the wind coming onto the riders’ left shoulders with 30km to go echelons began to form and the peloton split into three pieces. The front group was made up of just 39 riders, but in there were Boonen, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda), Mark Cavendish (Team Sky), Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan), Mark Renshaw (Rabobank), Philippe Gilbert and Adam Blythe (both BMC Racing) and John Degenkolb (Project 1t4i).

Among those to miss out were Denis Galymzianov (Katusha) and Peter Sagan – along with the entire Liquigas-Cannondale team – but their teams seemed powerless to close the gap once it had opened up.

The race is over for the break, and also for most of the peloton

Such was the speed of the front peloton, that, with 27km to go, the gap to the leaders dropped below a minute, and they had them in sight; Ignatiev gestured to the others in frustration, but they knew that their time was almost up, and with a little over 25km to go it was all over.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step, GreenEDGE, Rabobank and Garmin-Barracuda were keeping the pressure on to prevent the second peloton from regaining contact; even Boonen himself was putting in turns on the front.

Cavendish and Renshaw were tucked comfortably in the middle of the group; in a reverse of their familiar role as HTC-Highroad teammates, the Australian was spending most of the time tucked in behind the Manxman’s wheel.

Most of the represented teams shared the work as the front peloton approached the outskirts of Doha, as the sprinters began to choose the wheel that they were going to follow into the finish. Cavendish was now safely tucked in behind Sky teammate Bernhard Eisel, but Blythe – whose only teammate was Gilbert – had chosen to position himself behind Boonen.

With 3km to go Lotto-Belisol took control into a roundabout, with XXX leading Sohrabi, and the sudden injection of pace briefly split the group, as those that had worked so hard had trouble holding on. Garmin-Barracuda calmly came through to regain control though, then Ignatiev hit the front with just over a kilometre left.

Brazilian champion Murilo Fischer led Garmin-Barracuda past the red kite, with most of the American team behind him, but as the front of the peloton approached the final few hundred metres, Gert Steegmans pulled Boonen past and the former World champion launched himself at the line.

Cavendish was well positioned though and, as Boonen began to fade on the slightly uphill finishing straight, the Manxman accelerated again to come around on his right hand side. Kroupus spotted Cavendish’s move, but didn’t quite manage to come around Boonen before they hit the line.

Result stage 3
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
3. Aidis Kroupus (Ltu) GreenEDGE
4. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank
5. John Degenkolb (Ger) Project 1t4i
6. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda
7. Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Katusha Team
8. David Boucher (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
9. Robert Wagner (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan
10. Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr) Katusha Team

Standings after stage 3
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda @ 6s
3. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky @ 8s
4. Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Barracuda @ 12s
5. Thomas Dekker (Ned) Garmin-Barracuda
6. Robert Hunter (RSA) Garmin-Barracuda
7. Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Katusha Team @ 17s
8. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky @ 18s
9. Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Katusha Team
10. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing Team @ 19s

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