Tour of Qatar 2009: Stage 3. Napolitano second again
Tom Boonen took his first win of the season outside Doha’s Golf Club in the Tour of Qatar today. It came on the day a Belgian court ruled that the Quick Step rider would not face further charges stemming over the positive control for cocaine in 2008.
“My season really started today,” said Belgium’s Boonen in response to the court ruling that it would not pursue further charges.
Boonen sprinted clear of an elite group of 26 at the end of a 137.5-kilometre stage from Al Zubarah. He won over Danilo Napolitano (Katusha), Belgian Champion Jürgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto) and Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo Test Team).
The entire Cervélo team made the final move, including race leader Roger Hammond. He finished sixth and slightly behind Tom Boonen. With the 10 bonus seconds for winning, Boonen now leads the race with six seconds over Hammond.
“There are a lot more guys, and I am pretty surprised by the Cervélo team. I was not expecting to see them in such good shape this early,” Boonen said.
The race started immediately at kilometre zero with the riders sprinting for position. Hammond positioned himself at the front during the race’s first moments. The strong crosswinds split the 134-rider peloton into five groups in the first five kilometres.
A right-hand turn at kilometre 20 signaled the start of a long tailwind section. The front groups with the favourites came back together.
Following the first intermediate sprint at kilometre 21.5, Polish Champion Marcin Sapa (Lampre-NGC) fought to form a solo escape. Swiss Martin Kohler (BMC Racing Team) joined Sapa.
At 71 kilometres, the duo had 4:05 over a new chase trio and five minutes to the main chase group. The trio contained Omar Hasanin (Doha), Blel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale) and Mickaël Damiens (Meitan).
The main chase group caught the trio’s move in a strong headwind section that started at 91 kilometres. The leading duo continued their efforts, still maintaining a 1:40 lead at kilometre 114.
The front chase group slimmed down to 26 riders and caught both of the escapees with 16 kilometres remaining.
Cervélo sent Jeremy Hunt off the front first. Teammate Martin Reimer countered with Italy’s Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) but the moves were not successful.
Steven De Jongh led the sprint for Quick Step teammate Boonen down the Al Jamiaa finishing straight. Behind him were Boonen, Napolitano, Roelandts and Haussler – the eventual finishing order.
Briton Mark Cavendish made the winning move, but a flat tyre with 1200 metres to go spoilt his chance for victory.
The race continues tomorrow with a 141-kilometre stage from Doha to Qatar’s north, in Madinat Al Shamal. The riders will face another flat stage that is suited for the sprinters.