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The Tour of Qatar pack makes its way through a desert during stage four of the six-day race. A total of 139 riders took part in the stage that was eventually won by Mark Cavendish.PICTURES: SYED OMAR
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: British cyclist Mark Cavendish yesterday produced another slick performance, reeling off his second successive stage win to grab the overall lead at the six-day Tour of Qatar.
The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider won stage four with a time of 3hrs 30mins and 5secs. It was the 27-year-old’s sixth stage win in Qatar.
With finish in sight at Al Khor Corniche, Cavendish escaped a crash against a fellow rider before edging Markus Barry (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Andrea Guardini (Astana team) to the top spot.
Cavendish’s 10-second time bonus gave him the race leader’s yellow jersey ahead of Brent Bookwalter, who managed to finish at the back of the 30-man bunch sprint after being delayed by the crash near the finish line.
BMC Racing Team’s Bookwalter is two seconds behind Cavendish.
Bookwalter’s team-mate Taylor Phinney is third (8 seconds).
Cavendish also won stage three, beating Markus and Lithuania’s Addis Kruopis in a sprint finish on the 143-km stage between Al Wakra and Mesaieed on Tuesday.
Cavendish’s wins were his second and third for his new Belgium-based team, following a victory on the opening stage of the Tour of San Luis in Argentina in January.
“I’m really happy, I won here last year on the same parcours,” Cavendish said.
“It’s pretty much the same wind, not enough to break the race, but everyone’s a bit nervous,” he added.
The Briton said his experience of racing in Qatar helped him tackle the chaotic end yesterday.
“I knew from experience at this finish that the wind comes from the right so you want to be on the left. But the road sweeps right and the peloton naturally moves to the right, so I knew the gap would open on the left,” the 27-year-old said.
“In the end, I was able to do what I did last year and surf around the peloton with 300-200 to go and sprint from there.”
For the 12th year in a row, the Tour of Qatar’s stage four started at the Camel Race Track. A pack of 139 riders headed out for the finish exactly 160kms from the starting point.
After 13 kilometres of racing, three men managed to break away: Andriy Grivko (AST), Primin Lang (IAM) and Gatis Smukulis (KAT).
Their lead grew rapidly and reached 6’30 at the first intermediate sprint (37kms) won by Grivko ahead of Smukulis and Lang.
Not too concerned by the escapees, the pack remained 7’15 adrift at the 81-km mark. From then on, the gap dropped gradually. The second bonus sprint (km 124.5) was again claimed by Grivko in front of Lang and Smukulis with the peloton 5’15 behind.
As several teams took on the chase, the front men’s advantage dropped to 3’45 with 25 kms to go and then 1’35 ten kilometres later.
The escapees were finally caught at the 146-km mark. The pack remained bunched all the way to the final showdown in Al Khor.
With less than one kilometre to go, a crash occurred, throwing to the ground around 15 riders. That, however, didn’t prevent Cavendish from powering to his second consecutive stage win.
Today’s fifth stage is a 154-km run from Al Zubara Fort to Madinat Al Shamal.