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After another textbook lead-out by Guarnieri, Kristoff held Cavendish off in a photo finish on the final stage of the Tour of Qatar, with Jans taking third; Cavendish took the overall win with a 5-second advantage over Kristoff

Photo: QCF/Paumer

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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DIMENSION DATA

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GREG VAN AVERMAET

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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MARK CAVENDISH

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TOUR OF QATAR

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12.02.2016 @ 15:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) confirmed his status as king of Qatar by claiming his third stage win in the 2016 edition of the Tour of Qatar on the final day of the five-day race. After another textbook lead-out from Jacopo Guarnieri, he held Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) off in a very close photo finish while Roy Jans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) was a distant third. Second place was enough for Cavendish to win the race for the second time in his career while Kristoff moved into second ahead of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).

 

Last year Alexander Kristoff signaled his intentions for what would be a magnificent season by winning three stages and finishing third overall at the Tour of Qatar. If his performance in Qatar is an indication of what’s to come, he will have an even better 2016 season as he leaves the desert race with the same hal of stage wins and an overall runner-up spot.

 

After two sprint wins in the first four stages of the race, Kristoff confirmed his excellent form by winning the final stage which ended in the traditional bunch sprint on the Doha Corniche. Unlike last year when he failed completely in the Qatari capital, he and his Katusha team made no mistakes and he managed to hold off race leader Mark Cavendish in a very close photo finish.

 

Everything was back together with 10.4km to go just after the start of the final lap of the 5.7km circuit in Doha. At that point, Katusha were in control with young Nils Politt but as the fight for position intensified, Dimension Data, Unitedheathcare, Ag2r, Fortuneo-Vital Concept and BMC moved up next to them.

 

The Drapac train made a surge in the left hand side of the road but it was Dimension Data that won the battle with Jay Thomson. Wanty-Groupe Gobert was next to take control with Björn Thurau and they led the peloton onto the final lap.

 

With 4km to go, Wanty lost ground as BMC took control with Daniel Oss and they managed to hold off the trains from Astana, LottoNL-Jumbo and Dimension Data. One kilometre later Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r) made a solo move but Oss brought him back when just 2.7km remained.

 

With 2.5km to go, Katusha finally came to the fore with Sven Erik Bystrøm, Marco Haller, Viachelsav Kuznetsov, Michael Mørkøv, Jacopo Guarnieri and Kristoff and they looked like they would dominate the finale. However, Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data) managed to pass and they drifted backwards when LottoNL-Jumbo came to the fore.

 

Robert Wagner led the Dutch team under the flamme rouge before Tom Van Asbroeck took over. However, Michael Mørkøv managed to bring Katusha back to the front and things seemed to be back on track for the Russians.

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen sprinted past Mørkøv but he had lost Cavendish in the process and instead it was Guarnieri who surged forward, followed by Kristoff, Cavendish, Yauheni Hutarovich (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Roy Jans and Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18).

 

From there, Kristoff started his sprint while Cavendish tried to pass him on the right. Both riders threw their bikes across the line, with no one celebrating. In the end, Kristoff was given the win in a very close photo finish while Jans passed Hutarovich to take his second third place of the race.

 

With the win, Kristoff gained four seconds on Cavendish but it was not enough to take the overall win. The Brit wins the race for the second time of his career with a four-second advantage over the Norwegian while Greg Van Avermaet slipped to third, two seconds further behind.

 

With three stage wins, Kristoff won the points competition. Søren Kragh Andersen (Giant-Alpecin) was the best young rider while BMC was the best team.

 

With the Tour of Qatar over, racing in the Middle East will be resumed on Tuesday when the six-day Tour of Oman kicks off in much hiller terrain.

 

A short, flat finale

After yesterday’s windy drama, it was time for a Tour of Qatar classic on stage 5 which brought the riders over just 114.5km from the Sealine Beach Resort to the spectacular finish at the Doha Corniche. After a first part through the desert, the riders reached the capital of Doha where they ended the race by doing ten laps of a flat, non-technical 5.7km circuit along the seafront.

 

It was a sunny and very windy day when the riders gathered for the start. All riders that finished yesterday, were present as they headed out for the neutral ride.

 

Three riders get clear

With a strong headwind blowing in the opening section in the desert, there was less stress at the start and that made it possible for three riders to escape almost immediately. Steven Tronet (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Jesse Sergent (Ag2r) and Tim Declercq (Topsport Vlaanderen) took off and quickly put 30 seconds into the peloton. Meanwhile, Yukiya Arashiro (Lampre-Merida) crashed out of the race.

 

Brian van Goethem (Roompot) had missed the move and took off in lone pursuit. When the gap had gone out to 1.45, he was just 35 seconds behind but he started to lose ground. At the 11km mark, the gaps were 1.00 and 2.20 respectively.

 

A nervous peloton

There was no calm atmosphere in the peloton and so there was no organized chase. Instead, it was a huge fight for position as Dimension Data, BMC, Lampre-Merida, Skydive, Ag2r and Roompot lined out their trains in the front row of the peloton.

 

The nervous atmosphere meant that the break was losing ground and the gap had dropped to 1.40 with 95km to go. At this point, van Goethem was just 1.15 ahead and he quickly decided to sit up and wait for the peloton.

 

Van Goethem is caught

The peloton calmed down a bit and as there was no chase going on, the gap slowly grew. With 85km to go, it was 2.30 and it had gone out to 3.05 just two kilometres later. Meanwhile, Rudiger Selig (Bora-Argon 18) hit the deck and had to receive medical assistance from the medical car.

 

The peloton covered just 38.5km during the first hour after which the gap had gone out to 3.45. It went out to 3.50 with 72km to go but that was as much as they would get.

 

Katusha and Bora-Argon 18 lead the chase

Katusha decided that it was time to organize a chase and they put Dmitriy Kozontchuk and Nils Politt on the front. Bora-Argon 18 also added some firepower to the chase with Lukas Pöstlberger and it immediately had a big impact on the gap.

 

With 67km to go, the escapees saw their advantage drop to just 2.30 and while Manuel Quinziato (BMC) worked his way back to the peloton after a mechanical, it dropped to 1.50 at the start of the final 60km. However, it was too early for the peloton to catch the break and they had allowed it to go out to 2.05 at the first passage of the finish line with 57km to go.

 

The peloton accelerates

Pöstlberger, Kozontchuk and Politt kept the gap at around 2 minutes for most of the first laps until the accelerated to cross the line 1.40 behind the escapees. It was 1.35 at the end of the second lap but the escapees bounced back and when Sergent led Tronet and Declercq across the line to win the first intermediate sprint at the end of the third lap, they had an advantage of 2.10.

 

At the end of the fourth lap, the gap was still 2.05 but during the fifth lap, the peloton accelerated. With 30km to go, the gap had dropped to 1.20 and at the start of the sixth lap it was only 55 seconds.

 

Declercq attacks

Sergent was doing most of the work in the break but it was Declercq who tried to attack with 25km to go. The Kiwi easily brought him back and after a slight hesitation, the group again started to cooperate but their advantage had dropped to 45 seconds

 

Sergent took some massive turns and often tried to distance his companions by accelerating out of the turns but the group stayed together. At the start of the seventh lap, their advantage was 35 seconds.

 

The break is caught

During the next lap, the peloton got more nervous as Dimension Data and Lampre-Merida moved up next to the Katusha riders. As a consequence, the gap was coming down and when Declercq led Sergent and Tronet across the line to win the final intermediate sprint with 17km to go, they were only 25 seconds ahead.

 

Katusha again took control with Politt and Kozontchuk and they kept the gap at around 25 seconds until Dimension Data hit the front with Mekseb Debesay 14km from the finish. He swiftly brought the gap down to 5 seconds which prompted Tronet to sit up with 12km to go.

 

Declercq and Sergent had a gap of just 3 seconds at the start of the penultimate lap and just one kilometre later, they were back in the fold as Politt had again taken control to set up what would ultimately be another win for his Norwegian teammate Kristoff.

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