By Yash Mudgal/Doha
Mark Cavendish claimed his first win of 2016 with a victory in the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar 2016 yesterday.
The 30-year-old, riding for Team Dimension Data, won on a typically windswept stage in an impressive sprint finish ahead of Sacha Modolo of Lampre and Andrea Guardini of Astana.
“I am really happy to get the first win of the year. It was a long day and a hard one,” said Cavendish, who last raced in Qatar in 2013 when he won the event with QuickStep.
The Dimension Data rider was part of a 21-man lead group when the peloton split early in the race, and he made the best of the tailwind for his third victory at Al Khor.
The former world road race champion covered the 175km from Dukhan to the Al Khor Corniche in 3 hours 28 minutes and 3 seconds, receiving 10 bonus seconds for his win, as well as five more at earlier intermediate sprints. He now leads Modolo by eight seconds and Guardini by 11 seconds at the top of the general classification.
The high-paced stage saw the peloton remaining together for the first 38km, until they changed direction off the main dual-carriageway. Here, increasing cross winds split the peloton into two, before splitting even further, until a group of 21 riders remained, eventually opening the gap to around 1:20s.
The group contained a number of pre-race favourites including Alexander Kristoff of Katusha and Greg van Avermaet of BMC, both accompanied by three teammates each.
Cavendish had Edvald Boasson Hagen and Tyler Farrar with him, though the American was forced to work hard after he suffered a punctured tyre with almost 60km more to go.
That gap was reduced and hovered around one minute for a significant distance, though success was not guaranteed when the chasing group brought it down to below 50 seconds with only 10km left.
However, as the line approached, the break gained momentum under pressure from the BMC team, though it was Katusha who led the group onto the finishing straight. Kristoff eventually had to settle for fifth place in a 16-man sprint.
“We did not make it today but at least we were there. We tried to do the lead-out and I was there fighting for the victory but in the end, I was not strong enough,” the 28-year-old Kristoff, who claimed three stage wins in Qatar a year ago, said.
“Tomorrow is another day and we’ll try again to do better in the sprint,” Kristoff said. “But Cavendish, he is fast and it will be hard to beat him,” the Norwegian said.
Manx Missile, who has 26 Tour de France stages under his belt, gave credit of his victory to his new team.
“We’ve probably got the best race director in the world for this race in Roger Hammond. We had a lot of confidence for today after last night’s team meeting. The split went pretty soon in the beginning and I was always looked after from the start. Jay Thomson always kept me there at the front in the beginning ready to go and when the group split, Youcef Reguigui did a big turn to get me there, and then we had three in the front so that was okay,” said Cavendish, who averaged around 52km/h.
“Obviously I was there for the sprint and we wanted Edvald there for the overall. So we were content with having the three there. Unfortunately, Tyler punctured and he used too much energy to get back to me for the sprint but he was incredible in helping to keep the group away. Edvald just stayed with me in the final and I wanted Kristoff’s wheel because they had the numbers so we knew they’d do the lead out and Edvald just sweeped, he was there in case I needed him. I launched from Kristoff with about 200m to go, the road turned right so I hugged the right side and I knew no one would come round me then. It was great that Edvald was there as for sure he will be in contention after the time trial on Wednesday,” said Cavendish, who raced to his ninth stage victory in Qatar yesterday.
It is a big year for Cavendish, who, in addition to targeting more Tour de France stages, is bidding for an Olympic medal on the track. Cavendish failed to win a stage in recently-concluded Dubai Tour and finished overall third.
Comparing his Dubai Tour performances with this outing in Qatar, he said: “With the crosswinds it’s a different race here. It was a smaller group, it was on all day. It’s about being on all day here. We had a 20-man finish rather than a 200-man finish, so it’s a bit less hectic in the final. It’s different sprinting after 130km in a bunch to sprinting after 180km in the front group.”
Today’s 135km second stage around the campus of the University of Qatar will see the peloton tackle the course prepared for the world road race championships in October.
The stage incorporates four laps of the Worlds finishing circuit on the Pearl, and is likely to be Cavendish’s only opportunity to reconnoitre the parcours before October.
“It’s not that important but it’s definitely good to know,” the 2011 road World Champion said. “I don’t think I’ll be back in Qatar before the World Championships again so it’s good to see it. We’ll do a few laps. I think they’ve changed it, so we won’t see the full circuit but we’ll definitely be going around the Pearl.”
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) Giant-Alpecin
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) Dimension Data 3:28:31
2. Sacha Modolo (ITA) Lampre - Merida +0:00:08
3. Andrea Guardini (ITA) Astana +0:00:11
4. Alexander Kristoff (NOR) Katusha +0:00:12
5. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (RUS) Katusha +0:00:13
6. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) BMC Racing +0:00:14
7. Sam Bennett (IRL) Bora-Argon 18 +0:00:15
8. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) Dimension Data
9. Manuel Quinziato (ITA) BMC Racing Team
10. Arnaud Gerard (FRA) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) Dimension Data 20pts
2. Sacha Modolo (ITA) Lampre – Merida 13
3. Alexander Kristoff (NOR) Team Katusha 9
4. Andrea Guardini (ITA) Astana Pro Team 9
5. Sam Bennett (IRL) Bora-Argon 18 7
6. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) BMC Racing Team 5
7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) Dimension Data 5
8. Manuel Quinziato (ITA) BMC Racing Team 3
9. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (RUS) Team Katusha 2
10. Arnaud Gerard (FRA) Fortuneo - Vital Concept 2
1. Søren K Andersen (DEN) Giant-Alpecin 3:28:46
2. Sven Erik Bystrøm (NOR) Team Katusha
3. Moreno Hofland (NED) LottoNl-Jumbo +0:01:43
4. Soufiane Haddi (UAE) Skydive Dubai
5. Mekseb Debesay (ERI) Dimension Data
6. Xhuliano Kamberaj (UAE) Skydive Dubai
7. Simone Antonini (ITA) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
8. Daniel Eaton (USA) UnitedHealthcare
9. Nils Politt (GER) Team Katusha
10. Lukas Postlberger (AUT) Bora-Argon 18 +0:02:06
1. BMC Racing Team 10:26:18
2. Team Katusha
3. Bora-Argon 18 +0:00:04
4. Dimension Data +0:01:43
5. Astana Pro Team +0:03:26
6. Fortuneo-Vital Concept
7. Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise +0:05:09
8. Skydive Dubai
9. Team LottoNl-Jumbo
10. UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team
FIRST INTERMEDIATE SPRINT
At 102.0 KM (Sub Station)
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 3pts
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data 2
3. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre – Merida 1
SECOND INTERMEDIATE SPRINT
At 148.0 KM (Ras Laffan)
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data 3pts
2. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha 2
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 1
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