Dutch rider Niki Terpstra of Omega Pharma Quick Step crosses the finish line in Dukhan yesterday. Terpstra won the first stage of Tour of Qatar ahead of Belgium’s Jurgen Roelandts of Lotto-Belisol and Swiss rider Michael Schar of BMC.
DOHA: Niki Terpstra yesterday helped top side Omega Pharma Quick-Step (OPQ) draw first blood as the Dutch rider clinched the first stage at Tour of Qatar with a convincing finish in Dukhan.
Terpstra topped the 135.5km stage ahead of Belgium’s Jurgen Roelandts and Switzerland’s Michael Schar in a time of 3 hours 13 minutes and 42 seconds.
Four-time Qatar champion Tom Boonen, also of OPQ, was sixth fastest on a day when howling winds greeted the riders at the start in Al Wakra Beach.
Boonen, who has won 20 stages in Qatar, finished behind Swiss pair of Martin Elmiger and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (OPQ).
Dutch rider Barry Markus, Frenchman Arnaud Demare, Belgium’s Michael Van Staeyen and Germany’s Marcel Sieberg completed the group of top-10 riders yesterday.
“In the end, I still had enough energy to do the sprint and it worked out well,” Terpstra said after picking up the golden jersey.
“I’m just really happy that Guillaume Van Keirsbulck was in the front group with me. He rode really hard and gave me some motivation.”
Like a year ago, in Dukhan, when Brent Bookwalter captured the first stage, clear from the pack of sprinters, Terpstra made the best of his breakaway to clinch his first win.
With just under 30kms to go, the Dutchman from Omega Pharma Quick-Step who had been extremely active all along the day, managed to break away, taking with him four other men.
He eventually out-sprinted his rivals.
After rain showers hit Qatar during the morning, the skies miraculously cleared for the start of the first stage of the men’s Tour of Qatar by the sea in Al Wakra.
A total of 152 riders took off at 1:06pm for a 135.5-kilometre ride all the way to Dukhan beach on the west coast of Qatar.
The pace was impressively fast straight from the start (over 70km/h).
Lieeuwe Westra (AST) was the first to manage a significant break at the 9-km mark, enjoying a 20-second lead but he was soon gobbled up by the chasing pack at the 18-km mark.
The first intermediate sprint (Mesaieed, 20-km mark) was claimed by Terpstra ahead of Alexander Kristoff (KAT) and Sam Bennett (TNE) while the pack remained bunched together.
Under the influence of the crosswind and while some of the big guns of the Tour pushed harder on their pedals, the pack broke up into several groups after the 32-km mark.
A total of 21 riders managed to break away including Boonen, Fabian Cancellara (TFR), Andre Greipel (LTB) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC). They caught the front five at the 59-km mark. Eventually, the different groups bunched up together again at the 95-km mark. Another decisive move occurred just before the second bonus sprint (Umm Bab, km 107.5) when Terpstra took off on his own.
He went on to win that sprint with a five-second lead over Roelandts and Schar (BMC).
These three men continued their efforts and were joined by Guillaume Van Kersbulck (OPQ) and Martin Elmiger (IAM), already a key actor of last year’s final breakaway on stage one.
The front five riders had a 25-second lead with 25 kilometres to go and that advantage grew to 32-second in the last 5kms.
Despite strong efforts from the sprinting teams but not Omega Pharma-Quickstep, the escapees at the front kept a decent enough lead to consider stage victory on the last straight along Dukhan Beach.
Ever present all along the day, Terpstra powered to the line to win his first individual stage in Qatar. Thanks to his 12th career win, Terpstra captured the overall leader’s golden jersey as well as the leadership in the points’ classification.
Bennett (TNE) claimed the ‘Pearl white jersey’ for the best young rider. THE PENINSULA