February 10, 2015 (Qatar) – After three stages of the Tour of Qatar, Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx-Quick Step is in the lead as he pulled out all the stops and bested ITT heavy hitters on the 10.9km Stage 3 time trial. Dominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions Credits is the top Canuck in the mix in 50th place, followed by Svein Tuft (Can) Orica GreenEdge in 95th. Check out our recap of the first three days of the UCI WorldTour stage race below.
The first stage of the Tour of Qatar was as eventful as expected with wind, crashes, echelons and a first surprise. As fifty riders powered to the front in the closing moments of the stage, José-Joaquin Rojas proved to be the fastest of the field of favourites. On his debut in Qatar, the Spaniard captured a fine success by the Sealine Beach, ahead of Tom Boonen and Arnaud Démare. The Movistar rider captures the first overall leader’s Golden Jersey of the event.
Two days after the final stage of the women’s Tour of Qatar, the wind had picked up but was this time blowing from the south-east. In other words, it would be a tough day for the men who gathered to Dukhan for the start of their edition of the Tour. Facing the wind for most of the day, the 141 riders took off at 1:23 for a 136-km race towards the Sealine Beach situated in the South-East of Qatar.
After just a kilometre of racing, two riders managed to break away: Salomein (TSV) and Luca Sterbini (BAR). Their lead rapidly grew and went from 2’50 at km 8 to a maximum 10’40 at km 22, while Breschel (TCS) and Vandenberghe (EQS), on a counter-attack, were 7’15 adrift. Eventually, as the race headed east to cross the peninsula, the pack moved closer to the escapees. While the counter attackers were caught at km 32, the front two reached the first intermediate sprint (Km 38), won by Salomein, with a 5’05 lead. The two riders were eventually caught at km 65. Shortly after, the battle between favourites started. Indeed, as the Trek and Etixx Quickstep teams picked up the pace at the front, the pack broke up into several groups. 46 men were present in a front group. The only favourites or big names having failed to make it to the front were Valverde (MOV), Bouhanni (COF), Boom (AST) and Wiggins. After enjoying a 25” advantage the leader’s group was eventually caught at Km 81. As the bunched pack headed towards the second bonus sprint, Boonen (EQS) and Sagan (TCS) were caught in a crash. Nothing serious but a first big fright for two of the title contenders. The sprint was then claimed by Arndt (TGA) ahead of Terpstra (EQS) and Ferrari (LAM). After having tried his luck a first time, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) gave it a second go at km 95. After enjoying a 25” lead, the Belgian was rapidly caught back.
At km 107, three other riders took off on a breakaway: Breschel (TCS), Boom and Westra (AST). Their lead reached an interesting 1′, five kilometres later. But as the pack chased harder and broke up into several groups, there wasn’t much the escapees could do. They were indeed caught at km 125. Meanwhile just over fifty riders were leading the race. The only big names not present at the front were Kittel (TGA), Boasson Hagen (MTN), Wiggins (SKY) and Pozzato (LAM). With 10 kilometres to go, the leaders had a 45” advantage. That gap dropped down to 11” with 3 kilometres to go. But there was no catching the front group. In a final bunched sprint, José-Joaquin Rojas (MOV) surprised the field as he took off early. The Spaniard managed to keep his impressive pace all the way to the line, beating Tom Boonen (EQS) and Arnaud Démare (FDJ) to conquer his first ever success in Qatar. Thanks to his victroy, the Spaniard captures the overall leader’s Golden Jersey that he’ll be wearing tomorrow from Al Wakra to Al Khor. Rojas also leads the points classification while Démare conquers the Pearl White Jersey for the best young rider.
Day two of the Tour of Qatar was the scene of one of the most spectacular stages in the history of the event. A sand storm indeed hit the peloton in the first hour of what was to be an action packed stage. After a tremendous battle between the teams of the favourites, fifteen men eventually made it clear to the finish in Al Khor where Alexander Kristoff conquered his first ever stage in Qatar. The Norwegian beat Guardini and Van Avermaet on his way to conquering the overall leader’s Golden Jersey.
While the riders had struggled against the wind on stage 1, the conditions were a lot more favourable for the second and longest day of the event: a 187.5 ride from the Al Wakra harbour to the corniche in Al Khor. The 141 riders at the start knew the wind would make the day a fast one, little had they imagined that a sand storm would hit the pack as soon as they left Al Wakra. Straight fro the start, making the best of the strong tailwind, the favourites’ teams moved to the front and manage to break the pack apart. At the front of the wind and sand swept race, where the likes of Golden Jersey Rojas, title holder Terpstra, four-time winner Boonen, as well as Sagan, Cancellara, Kristoff, Blythe and Haussler. The front group’s lead grew to 45” over the first chasing bunch but things calmed down and the peloton bunched up again at km 50 for the end of Round 1.
It was then the turn of five men to break away at km 51: Morkov (TCS),Van Avermaet (BMC), Van Zyl (MTN), Wallays (TSV) and Hayman (OGE). Their advantage grew to a 1’10 at km 68 just before poor old Wallays was hit by a puncture. The front four continued their efforts and the gap reached 3’50 at km 102. At the first intermediate sprint (km 108.5), won by Van Avermaet ahead of Hayman and Morkov, the gap had dropped down to 3’30. Round 2 of the battle between favourites could then commence. Led by the riders of Etixx Quickstep, around forty riders powered away. The only big names missing where Kittel (TGA), Wiggins (SKY) and Valverde (MOV). Meanwhile, the front five saw their lead drop down dramatically. They were finally caught by the Golden Jersey group at km 123. Sixty riders eventually bunched up together again before another big explanation occurred. This time 36 strong men made a difference. A decisive move that Cancellara (TFR), Kittel (TGA), Bouhanni (COF), Valverde (MOV and Wiggins (SKY) missed out on. The second bonus sprint (km 157.5) was clinched by Boonen (EQS) ahead of Maes (EQS) and Burghardt (BMC). As the pace continued being impressive, several riders failed to keep up. White Pearl Jersey Arnaud Démare (FDJ) was the first to be dropped. Then came the turn of overall leader José Joaquin Rojas. The Golden Jersey would never manage to move back to the front. With 25 kilometres to go, only 15 riders remained at the front: Terpstra, Boonen, Maes (EQS), Sagan, Bodnar (TCS), Stuyven (TFR), Burghardt, Van Avermaet (BMC), Kristoff (KAT), Guardini, Tleubayev (AST), Rowe, Stannard (SKY), Blythe (OGE) and Haussler (IAM).
The front group remained together all the way to the Al Khor Corniche. Despite a few attempts, victory was to be decided after a group sprint. Without the slightest team mate, an exhausted Alexander Kristoff flew to victory claiming his first ever success in his sixth appearance at the Tour of Qatar. Winner of Milan-San Remo and two stages of the Tour de France last year, the 27-year-old Norwegian adds a prestigious win to his victory record by beating Guardini and Van Avermaet to the line. Kristoff takes command of the GC with a 1” lead over Boonen and 3” over Van Avermaet and will be wearing the Golden Jersey on tomorrow’s individual time-trial. Fifth on the day, Tom Boonen captures the Silver Jersey (points classification) while Peter Sagan claims the White Pearl Jersey for the best young rider.
In extremely windy conditions, Niki Terpstra surprised the field of specialists to clock the fastest time of the day’s stage 3 individual time-trial. On the 10.9kms course designed around the Lusail circuit and sports complex, the Dutchman managed to beat Fabian Cancellara and Bradley Wiggins. Terpstra captures the overall leader’s Golden Jersey and is on task to retain his title.
After yesterday’s hectic stage that saw Alexander Kristoff conquer his first stage win in Qatar and the Golden Jersey, it was time for a totally different exercise. The wind however was just as vicious, it was even stronger than on the previous day with sand sweeping across the roads of the 10.9kms circuit.
The first man to clock a fast time was Lars Boom (AST) who had finished second of the same time-trial a year ago. But his time of 14’33 would be beaten by the former hour record holder Mathias Brandle (IAM) in 14’21.
Then came the UCI World time-trial champion: Bradley Wiggins (SKY). After clocking the fastest time at the halfway mark, the Brit went on to conquer top spot in 14’12. At least for the time being. Wiggins would finally have to settle for third spot overall. Indeed two men managed to do better. First of all, Fabian Cancellara (TFR) whose time of 14’11 looked good enough to give him his first success this year. Eventually, Niki Terpstra (EQS) went on to smash that best time. The Dutchman clocked an impressive 14’03 that gave him his second stage victory on qatari soil.
While the last man on the course, Golden Jersey Alexander Kristoff (KAT) eventually finished 26th, 44” adrift, the Tour of Qatar changed leader as Terpstra conquered the overall lead in impressive fashion. The 2014 champion now has an 11” advantage over Maciej Bodnar (TCS) and 12” over Ian Stannard (SKY). The Silver jersey (points classification) remains on the shoulders of Tom Boonen while Luke Rowe who finished at a great 15th spot today conquers the White Pearl Jersey for the best young rider.
Stage 2 – Dukhan to Sealine Beach – 136km
1. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Esp) Movistar Team 3:49:50
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
3. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18
6. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing
7. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
8. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro Team
9. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
10. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
71. Dominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:33
97. Svein Tuft (Can) Orica GreenEdge 1:16
Stage 2 – Al Wakra to Al Khor Corniche – 194.5km
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 3:49:51
2. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro Team
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
6. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
7. Adam Blythe (Gbr) Orica GreenEdge
8. Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team
9. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing
10. Ian Stannard (Gbr) Team Sky
36. Dominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 3:08
106. Svein Tuft (Can) Orica GreenEdge 9:18
Stage 3 – Lusail Circuit ITT – 10.9km
1. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx – Quick-Step 0:14:04
2. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Trek Factory Racing 0:08
3. Bradley Wiggins (Gbr) Team Sky 0:09
4. Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Ian Stannard (Gbr) Team Sky 0:10
6. Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling 0:18
7. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step 0:20
8. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka 0:21
9. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:24
10. Reto Hollenstein (Sui) IAM Cycling 0:25
24. Svein Tuft (Can) Orica GreenEdge 0:42
73. Dominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 1:17
GC after Stage 3
1. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx – Quick-Step 7:53:42
2. Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:11
3. Ian Stannard (Gbr) Team Sky 0:12
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:19
5. Luke Rowe (Gbr) Team Sky 0:33
6. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 0:36
7. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step 0:42
8. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling 0:44
9. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:46
10. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:48
50. Dominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 5:00
95. Svein Tuft (Can) Orica GreenEdge 11:18