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US cyclist Brent Bookwalter (left) of the BMC Racing team celebates after being given the golden jersey by a cycling official during the presentation of the first stage of the Tour of Qatar held between Katara Cultural Village and Dukhan Beach, yesterday. RIGHT: British rider Mark Cavendish of the Omega Pharma Quick Step team in action during the first stage.
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DUkhan: American cyclist Brent Bookwalter yesterday produced a shock stage win to grab the golden and silver jerseys on day one of the Tour of Qatar.
Bookwalter, who rides for BMC Racing, picked up speed at the right time, edging a strong field that included Mark Cavendish to win the 145km first stage of the six-day race.
The American rider, 28, crossed the finish line with a time of three hours 38mins and seven seconds to secure two jerseys.
Bookwalter finished the race ahead of Martin Elmiger (I Am Cycling) and Gregory Rast (RadioShack Leopard), both from Switzerland.
The three riders enjoyed a 45-second gap on the rest of the riders who eventually caught up with the leaders close to the end of the first stage, forcing a tight finish.
Team Sky rider Bernhard Eisel of Austria finished ahead of Tour de France sprint giant Cavendish.
Italian rider Elia Viviani (Cannondale) was fifth fastest.
Cavendish, leading the Omega Pharma Quick-Step in the absence of defending champion Tom Boonen, finished sixth-fastest at 10 seconds adrift of Bookwalter.
“Yes, this is a complete surprise for me,” Booklwater said.
“It’s incredible. I never really expected to win this stage in Qatar,” the exhausted American, now into his sixth year as a pro, added.
“I was fortunate to go past two really strong guys. My team worked well together,” he said.
“They didn’t couldn’t get ahead of me so I kept them behind me in the last 500m. They are my good friends. We go a long way back.
“I have been working on my strengths,” the American rider said when asked about his preparation in the run up to the Tour of Qatar.
“I have had a decent career so far but it is great to get a good start like this,” he added.
“My work was cut but the guys did a great job. We fought back after falling a little with the pack. So it was all good in the end,” Bookwalter said.
When reminded about today’s team trial, Bookwalter said: “We are really excited about the team trial. We’ve been working hard, especially at the training camp.”
The American added: “We are ready for the challenge.”
Cavendish congratulated Bookwalter on his Twitter account, tweeted: “Congratulations to @brentbookwalter for the win here today (yesterday). Takes some guts for a breakaway to stay away in this race!”
The Briton had a few words for his team-mates also. He tweeted: “1st stage of#TourOfQatar done. It’s like war at this race with the crosswind. @opqscyclingteam boys looked after me superbly. Thanks guys!”
Bookwalter said the team orders were simple prior to the start of the stage which kicked off from Katara Cultural Village and ended on the beach front in Dukhan.
“We just figured that we needed to ensure that we don’t get too tired at the end. Basically we were just watching out for each other,” Bookwalter said.
“I felt really good all day. I was maybe a little nervous at the start but felt good overall,” the American said.
“It was hard to calculate in the end as it was a straight end. I guess nobody knew who was going to be at the end. So maybe we got a little advantage in the end.
“At the final 1km mark, I knew the other two guys were really quick. So I tried to keep them on one side and watch them. It was a tight win,” he said.
Winning outside Europe meant a lot to Bookwalter.
He said: “It is exciting as this my first stage win outside Europe. It means so much.”
He added: “It is a combination of so much of hard work, not just for me but for everyone involved with the team.”
“Everyone in the team has really stood up and supported me in the past few years,” he said.
Today’s second stage will be the team time trial to be held at Al Rufaa Street.