Tour of Qatar: Mark Cavendish cruises into the lead in fourth stage sprint
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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Tour of Qatar: Mark Cavendish cruises into the lead in fourth stage sprint

by Ben Atkins at 8:18 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tour of Qatar
 
Manxman takes over gold jersey after Bookwalter delayed by crash in the final two kilometres

mark cavendish

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) cruised into the overall race lead as he took his second victory in as many days in the fourth stage of the 2013 Tour of Qatar, between the Camel Race Track in the centre of the Qatari peninsular and the Al Khor Corniche on the east coast. The Manxman latched onto the early sprint of Italian Andrea Guardini (Astana), and cruised past him in the final 200 metres to take what looked like an easy victory.

Guardini faded in the final metres, and was overtaken by Dutchman Barry Markus (Vacansoleil-DCM), who took his second straight second place behind the Manx Missile; the Astana rider managed to jump again in the final metres, however, to hold off a challenge from Filippo Fortin (Bardiani-CSF Inox) and take third place.

The 160km stage was characterised by a long breakaway from Ukrainian champion Andriy Grivko (Astana), Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling) and Gatis Smukulis (Katusha), who escaped in the early kilometres. The three riders still had a lead of more than four minutes inside the final 25km, but a concerted chase from the teams of the sprinters in the peloton saw them reeled in with eight kilometres to go.

"We were a little bit nervous about the breakaway," Cavendish explained after the stage. "We started to ride — two of our guys, two from BMC, and one from Vacansoleil — and with the break only being three riders it's kind of too hard to control. But when we started riding, we started pulling them back really quickly. That was a really strong group out there.

“There wasn't enough wind to split the peloton but enough to keep it from being easy riding,” he continued. “It looked like it wasn't coming back, but with 12, 13 kilometres to go teams really went to the front to bring everything back. When that started, there was a headwind and it looked like it was going to be a bunch sprint. There were only about three of us left at that point because we'd been working to bring the break back.

“Zdeněk Štybar did a perfect job with 5km to go, and then Matteo Trentin put me in perfect position in the last roundabout at the 1.5 kilometre point,” said the Manxman, crediting his team for their part in his victory. “Niki Terpstra found me with a kilometre to go and moved me into the top 15, and I used the same tactics I did last year when I won on the same stage. The wind came from the right, everyone goes right, so I went left, and was shielded. So, I got the perfect position and acceleration in the sprint to get the win."

Overnight race leader Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), who had worn the gold jersey since his victory on stage one, was delayed by a crash in the final kilometres. Although the American would be credited the same time as Cavendish - as the incident occurred less than three kilometres from the line - the ten second time bonus saw the Manxman take over the overall lead.

"I think tomorrow is the main stage of the Tour of Qatar," Cavendish said. "We will see what happens, and then Friday is the last day, but we'll keep going for the stage wins and see what comes from that. I am really, really happy right now. Three wins already, shows me, and shows Patrick Lefevere, that I made the right move to Omega Pharma-Quick Step. I get along really well with the guys already. I am really happy with how things are going. We have a good ambiance with the team. I hope this can continue and we can keep getting good results this year."

Very little wind and a three-man group gets away

Unlike the previous days, the fourth stage started out from the Camel Race Track with very little wind to obstruct the race. Grivko, Lang and Smukulis escaped in the early kilometres and were allowed to go; Grivko was the best place of the trio, 38 seconds behind Bookwalter in 38th place, and the Ukrainian champion was soon the virtual leader of the race on the road.

The three-man group managed to open up a maximum advantage of 5’30” before the sprinters’ teams began to share the work to bring it back. Grivko took first place at both intermediate sprints, however - at Umm Al Qahab after 37km and Umm Thenaitain Farm after 124.5km - reducing his overall deficit by six seconds.

Inside the final 25km the three riders still led by four minutes which, under normal circumstances would see them comfortably stay away; with the coastal wind now becoming a factor, however, and with a high pace in the peloton behind them, this lead melted quickly and they were caught with 8km to go.

Into the final kilometres, Orica-GreenEdge and Team Sky tried to take control, but FDJ hit the front into the final kilometre. The French team had come forward too soon, however, with French champion Nacer Bouhanni in second wheel, so it allowed Team Sky and Astana to take over.

A crash in the peloton saw several riders come down and a number of others delayed, including Bookwalter; the American was unlikely to have been able to challenge Cavendish at the finish, but was now powerless to prevent the Manxman taking his gold jersey.

Team Sky was leading Edvald Boasson Hagen into the finishing straight, but Guardini launched his sprint down the middle of the road with Cavendish on his wheel. Cavendish started his own sprint in the final 300 metres; once the Manxman was up to speed, nobody was able to get close to coming past.

The BMC Racing Team brought Bookwalter home a minute and a half later; his gold jersey passing into the hands of Cavendish.

Result stage 4
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
2. Markus Barry (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
3. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Team Astana
4. Filippo Fortin (Ita) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team
6. Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
7. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ
8. Aidis Kruopis (Ltu) Orica-GreenEdge
9. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
10. Davide Appollonio (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale

Standings after stage 4
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
2. Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team @ 2s
3. Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team @ 8s
4. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing Team @ 9s
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team @ 12s
6. Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team
7. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky @ 13s
8. Mathew Hayman (Aus) Team Sky @ 14s
9. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky @ 16s
10. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky @ 17s

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