Tour of Qatar: Tom Boonen wins fourth title as Arnaud Démare comes of age
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Friday, February 10, 2012

Tour of Qatar: Tom Boonen wins fourth title as Arnaud Démare comes of age

by Ben Atkins at 8:07 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Qatar
 
Mark Cavendish crashes in final sprint as no team takes control

arnaud demareWorld under-23 champion Arnaud Demaré (FDJ-BigMat) scored his first ever win as a professional, to take the sixth and final stage of the 2012 Tour of Qatar, between the Sealine Beach Resort and the Doha Corniche. The 20-year-old Frenchman opened up his sprint early, but it turned out to be just the right time, as a crash from elite World champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) disrupted the rest of the sprinters.

Nobody was able to get on terms with Demaré as he launched himself for the line but, after an unlucky week of ill-timed punctures, Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) held on to take second, just ahead of 2011 race winner Mark Renshaw (Rabobank).

While he was boxed in again, and unable to properly launch his own sprint, race leader Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) finished safely in the front part of the peloton. Despite losing a few seconds to overall rival Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) at an intermediate sprint, Boonen confirmed his fourth edition of the Middle Eastern race, 28 seconds ahead of the American.

The 120km stage was pushed along the peninsular’s east coast by a tailwind but, in the eleven laps of a 6km finishing circuit, a seven-man group managed to get away. Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan), Jens Mouris (GreenEDGE), Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ-BigMat), Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), Alan Marangoni (Liquigas-Cannondale), Klaas Lodewijck (BMC Racing) and Mart Ojavee (Champion System) managed to build a lead, but were always going to be closed down by the sprinters’ teams.

The break was pulled back with 14km to go, leading to an untidy sprint as no one team was willing or able to take full control.

"My teammates, including Yoann [Offredo] and Mickaël [Delage] put me int the ideal position in the last two kilometres,” Démare told the Eurosport cameras after the stage. “I had amazing legs. I didn’t need to ask myself the question.

“Tom Boonen and Tyler Farrar came to congratulate me,” he added excitedly. “It’s an extraordinary feeling. These are riders that not so long ago I was sat in front of my TV admiring.”

A tailwind sees a speedy start and a fight for the bonus seconds

The first part of the stage consisted of a 54km route along the Qatari east coast, with strong winds helping the peloton stay together. Farrar took the intermediate sprint at Al Wakra after 38km, as Boonen’s teammate Gert Steegmans just failed to stop him, and the American moved three seconds closer to the Belgian’s overall lead.

There were to be two more chances for Farrar to take time bonuses, coming at the second sprint on the fourth crossing of the finish line in the eleven finishing circuits, and at the finish itself. This only added up to a maximum of 13 seconds though, so the American would have to rely on leaving Boonen behind to prevent him taking a fourth gold jersey.

Unfortunately for Farrar, the seven-man group escaped just 2km after that first sprint, and by kilometre 47 they were 2’20” clear. By the time they reached the second sprint they were still 1’20” ahead; Lodewijck took the first place, ahead of Gallopin and Ladagnous. Gallopin was the danger man in the group, just 1’33” behind Boonen at the start of the day – which was reduced to 1’31” with the two seconds bonus that he had just earned – but the Belgian’s team was clearly confident that they could keep the Frenchman under control.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step led the chase initially, to keep the break under control, until Team Sky took over as the race entered the finishing circuit. Gallopin in the break was a threat to Juan Antonio Flecha’s third place overall, but more importantly the British team was aiming for a third stage win for Mark Cavendish.

With 25km to go the gap was just under a minute and, as the peloton crossed the finish line with four laps to go, it was down to 50 seconds.

Farnese Vini-Selle Italia joined the chase at the front of the peloton and, at the end of the next lap – with three to go – the gap was down to 40 seconds. The seven riders began to look at one another, as they felt the hot breath of the peloton on the backs of their necks, and suddenly it was 20 second and falling fast.

Halfway through the lap the breakaway riders began to sit up and, with 14km to go, it was all over. This was a little soon though, and the peloton now had to be careful not to let any fresh riders get clear.

The break is over; the sprint is on; but disaster strikes the World champion

Irish champion Matt Brammeier (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) had control of the front of the peloton, along with Team Sky and Farnese Vini-Selle Italia, but with Marangoni now caught, the Liquigas-Cannondale team began to mass forward.

FDJ-BigMat, after the capture of Ladagnous, had now got themselves organised and surged through to battle for the front with 9km to go. As the peloton slowed for a bend Dominique Rollin jumped off the front, but it didn’t seem to be a deliberate move and he was calmly reeled in by Bernhard Eisel at the head of the Team Sky train.

Into the final 5km Katusha took over, hoping for better luck in this stage for Denis Galymzianov; a kilometre later though, Yaroslav Popovych pulled the RadioShack-Nissan team through to the front. The Luxembourg team briefly battled with BMC Racing, before Lotto-Belisol and FDJ-BigMat surged through.

With no team wanting to lift the pace too soon, a Rabobank and Farnese Vini-Selle Italia led train surged forward on the opposite side of the road.

Once again though, as the race entered the final kilometre, there was no team able or willing to take full control of the peloton. As the sprinters began to line up for the line the pace dropped and, as they began to fan out across the road, Cavendish found himself hitting the Qatar tarmac for the second straight year.

As the World champion was preparing to launch himself, sitting on the wheel of sprint rival Farrar, he found himself boxed in by Roger Kluge (Project 1t4i) as the German Moved across on his right. Cavendish checked, but touched Farrar’s rear wheel and suddenly came down; the positive consequence of the relative low speed though, was that thankfully nobody else came down as the peloton was able to ride around him.

As a number of riders seemed to check their speed Démare surged forward, and clapped his hands and punched the air in triumph, as he took the line several lengths clear of Galimzyanov and Renshaw.

Eisel, Cavendish’s “minder” stopped to help the World champion up, which – now that the race was over – took some time; Cavendish appeared to be unhurt and, since his crash was so close to the finish, did not lose any time overall. Eisel though, had not actually been delayed by the crash, just his concern for his fallen teammate, and so he was given the time that he crossed the line – 1’48” behind Démare – and lost his fifth place overall.

Boonen’s 15th place on the stage meant that the Belgian won his fourth edition of the Tour of Qatar; his first since 2009, the year that he went on to win Paris-Roubaix for the third time.

Result stage 6
1. Arnaud Demaré (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
2. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha Team
3. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank
4. Roger Kluge (Ger) Project 1t4i
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team
6. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda
7. Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
8. Allan Davis (Aus) GreenEDGE
9. Aaron Kemps (Aus) Champion System
10. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Belisol

Final overall standings
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda @ 28s
3. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Team Sky 33
4. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 34
5. Tom Veelers (Ned) Project 1t4i @ 1’00”
6. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky @ 1’05
7. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan @ 1’06”
8. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Barracuda @ 1’09”
9. Aidis Kuopis (Ltu) GreenEDGE @ 1’10”
10. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing Team @ 1’14”

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