Tour of Qatar 2009: Stage 5 tragedy
The Tour of Qatar continued Thursday despite the sudden death of Belgian Frederiek Nolf the night before at the official race hotel. The riders rode a shortened, neutralised stage of 30 kilometres from Al Kharaib to Doha. They took 55 minutes in memory of the 21-year-old of Team Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator, who died of a suspected heart attack in his sleep.
“The riders were not in shape to compete today, above all the Belgians. I think that to stop the race all together would have been bad. When [Fabio] Casartelli died they did not stop the stage [Tour de France stage 15, July 18, 1995 – ed.], they kept going,” said cycling legend and race official Eddy Merckx.
The stage started at 14:05 after the 131 riders observed one minute of silence in honour of Nolf. Teams Katusha and Doha led the riders from the start at the camel racetrack.
The peloton covered the short ride east to Doha’s capital city. Team Doha led a silent peloton over the line.
Riders reported the mood of the group silent and sombre during the stage.
The Tour of Qatar, February 1 to 6, concludes tomorrow with its final stage. The riders will face a 121-kilometre stage from Sealine Beach to Doha’s waterfront.
Tom Boonen is the current general classification leader. The two-time winner leads in what is a three-way fight with two Cervélo riders: Roger Hammond at 10 seconds and Heinrich Haussler at 12 seconds back.