Tom Boonen took his second stage win in Qatar today, to cement his position as the race’s pre-eminent sprinter.
Another long, fast lead-in to the stage finish, punctuated by identikit Qatari roundabouts, saw a long-term split reeled in by the leading group. Liquigas, who had three riders in the small break, had been going all out to keep ahead of the chase. Yet they were caught by the implacable peloton at around the 1km-to-go mark.
Then, all hell broke loose as Katusha’s Danilo Napolitano spearheaded the group charge. Theo Bos broke early, only to be reminded that track pace does not easily translate to long road sprints. He should come away from Qatar with some valuable lessons on reining himself in until the last 100m, as he again blew up, this time leaving Boonen, well-marshalled by his Quickstep team-mates, to take first place in front of Napolitano and late arrival Edvard Boasson Hagen of Team Sky.
Boonen, more than anyone, must be regretting letting the stage two break succeed, which saw Wouter Mol and Geert Steurs (TopSport-Vlaanderen) gain more than two minutes on their rivals. But for that, Boonen would surely be in line for a fourth Tour of Qatar win. As it is, Mol, who is riding well, looks favourite to take the Tour, nine seconds in front of Steurs and 1’45” ahead of Boonen in third place.