February 09, 2016 – The 15th edition of the Tour of Qatar started in style and full speed ahead. At an average speed of close to 52km/h, Mark Cavendish flew to an impressive stage success for his return on the race after his last triumph in 2013. The Brit captured his first win under his new Dimension Data colours, earning his 9th victory in Qatar. After being among a 21-man group taking off early, ‘Cav’ was the fastest of the sprint on the Al Khor Corniche, beating Modolo.
For the first stage of the 2016 Tour of Qatar, the riders are gathered on the eastern coast of Qatar, in the city of Dukhan for the start of the race. Under a bright sunshine and in rather windy conditions, 140 competitors took off for a 180.5-km ride all the way to Al Khor on the north-western coast.
After an extremely fast start due to the favourable wind, the first real action started at km 38 when the pack broke up into two main groups. Twelve kilometres later, again the front group of around 100 men parted leaving only 21 riders at the front. Among the leading group were the likes of Kristoff (KAT), Cavendish, Boasson Hagen (DDD), Andersen (TGA), Van Avermaet (BMC), Bennett (BOA), Gerard (FVC), Guardini (AST) and Modolo (LAM). Their lead grew from 35” at km 57 to 50” at km 81.
The first intermediate sprint (km 106.5) was claimed by Kristoff ahead of Cavendish and Modolo while the first chasing group remained 1’05” adrift. And the gap remained the same all the way to the second bonus sprint, claimed by Cavendish in front of Kuznetsov (KAT) and Van Avermaet, and beyond. Indeed with 20kms to go, the front men could still enjoy a 1’10” lead. Eventually a group of 16 men reached the final 3 kms with a 1’30 advantage and could start considering stage victory.
Taking off from far out and making the best of the tailwind on the Al Khor Corniche, Mark Cavendish stayed clear of his rivals, victoriously crossing the finish line ahead of Sacha Modolo and Andrea Guardini. The Brit conquers his 9th stage in Qatar and triumphs for the third time in Al Khor after 2012 and 2013.
Thanks to his success, the 2011 road World Champion captures the overall leader’s golden jersey that he last wore when he won the event back in 2013. Cavendish also leads the points classification while Soren Andersen (TGA) captures the white pearl jersey for the best young rider.
Stage 2 – 135km Katara Cultural Village to Qatar University
After conquering stage 1 and the golden jersey yesterday, there wasn’t much Mark Cavendish could do against Alexander Kristoff on day 2 of the Tour of Qatar. In a final bunched sprint by the Qatar University, the Norwegian powered to the line, beating his main rival by just a few inches and capturing his fourth stage success in Qatar. The day had been intense for Cavendish not present in the group of favourites that had taken off in the early stages of the race. And after things had settled, once on the circuit of the next World Championships, and the pack bunched up, the Brit had to be content with second spot on the day. Before the all-important time-trial, he keeps his GC leader’s Golden jersey.
On the occasion of the Qatar National Sport Day, stage 2 of the Tour of Qatar would indeed be an intense one. The reason: a very strong wind blowing from the north-east of the peninsula. On this second day of the event, the riders would also have the opportunity to discover the final circuit of the next road World Championships in october. And on such an occasion, it was only natural to see UCI president Brian Cookson launch the 136 riders for their 145.5-km effort.
Facing the wind, the first part of the stage was rather slow, unlike yesterday’s extremely fast day that saw Mark Cavendish conquer his 9th win in Qatar. After only two kilometres, four men managed to break away from the pack: Lieuwe Westra (AST), Preben Van Hecke (TSV), Gediminas Bagdonas (ALM) and Brian van Goethem (ROP). The gap rapidly grew and reached 1’30 at km 25.
But after a change in direction, heading back south, the pace dramatically changed and the pack broke up into several groups. While the front four were caught at km 35, just over 20 men powered away at the front. Among the group were the likes of Kristoff (KAT), Boasson Hagen (DDD), Bennett (BOA), Guardini (AST) and Hofland (TLJ). At the first intermediate sprint (km 39) claimed by Kristoff ahead of Boasson Hagen and Kuznetsov (KAT), the chasing bunch including Cavendish and Modolo (LAM) were 14” adrift. That gap grew to 50” as the leaders entered the Pearl World Championship circuit (km 79).
Eventually the golden jersey group managed to catch up with the front group and the pack bunched up at km 84. That was the moment chosen by two men to take off : Preben Van Hecke, again, and Gatis Smukulis (AST). The second bonus sprint set on the finish line of the next ‘Worlds’ was won by Van Hecke ahead of Smukulis while the peloton led by Boasson Hagen, third, remained 43” adrift. The front duo’s advantage reached a maximum 1′ lead at km 110 before teams Dimension Data, BMC and Katusha started chasing them down. They were eventually caught at km 125.
After exiting the Pearl circuit, the pack remained bunched all the way to the final straight by the Qatar University. On the slightly uphill sprint, several riders, including Guardini (AST), Brown (DPC) and best young rider Andersen (TGA) suffered a crash. That didn’t prevent the big guns to battle it out for victory. Well led out by his Katusha boys, Alexander Kristoff only just managed to capture the win, beating Cavendish to the line by just a few inches, while Roy Jans (WGG) finished third. The Norwegian captured his 4th stage success in Qatar after triumphing three times last year.
In the new general classification, Mark Cavendish keeps his golden jersey but now only has a 5” lead over Kristoff and 14” over Modolo. The Brit also keeps command of the points classification (silver jersey) while Sven Erik Bystrøm (KAT) becomes the best young rider of the event (white pearl jersey).
Stage 1 – Dukhan to Al Khor Corniche – 176 km
1. Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Dimension Data 3:28:46
2. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre – Merida
3. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro Team
4. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
7. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
8. Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team
9. Arnaud Gerard (Fra) Fortuneo – Vital Concept
10. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Giant-Alpecin
106. Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale 11:53
Stage 2 – 135km Katara Cultural Village to Qatar University – 145.5km
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 3:11:26
2. Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Dimension Data
3. Roy Jans (Bel) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
6. Andrea Francesco Palini (Ita) Skydive Dubai
7. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre – Merida
8. André Looij (Ned) Roompot – Oranje Peloton
9. Tomasz Kiendys (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
10. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha
89. Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale 11:53
GC after Stage 2
1. Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Dimension Data 6:39:51
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 0:05
3. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre – Merida 0:14
4. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:17
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data 0:18
6. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha
7. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:20
8. Arnaud Gerard (Fra) Fortuneo – Vital Concept 0:21
9. Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Team Katusha
10. Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team
102. Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale 12:14