Lotto-Belisol’s Andre Greipel of Germany, winner of stage five at the Tour of Qatar celebrates after receiving his prize from the President of Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF), Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Thani in Al Shamal yesterday. RIGHT: Cyclists competing at stage five of the Tour of Qatar from Al Zubara Fort to Madinat Al Shamal, yesterday. PictureS by: Salim Matramkot
DOHA: German rider Andrei Greipel yesterday finally grabbed a stage win at the Tour of Qatar where Omega-Pharma Quickstep’s Niki Terpstra retained his overnight lead on what was the penultimate day of the high profile race.
Greipel, who was nudged into second spot in stage four by Tom Boonen on Wednesday, won the 159-km stage ahead of Lithuania’s Aidis Kruopis (Orica Greenedge) and Dutchman Theo Bos (Belkin Pro Cycling Team) in a close finish at Madinat Al Shamal.
The German clocked a time of 3 hours 48 minutes 53 seconds.
Italy’s Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) finished in fourth spot whereas compatriot Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling) was fifth fastest.
Boonen, the OPQ giant who has won four Tour of Qatar titles, finished stage five in eight spot, a notch above team-mate Terpstra who still owns the golden jersey going into today’s final stage.
“I think QuickStep wanted to let the breakaway go today so we took the responsibility and tried to set up the sprint,” Greipel said after winning stage five. “I think the team did a really good job during the whole stage to chase the breakaway down and to keep me out of trouble in the last kilometres.”
Earlier, Greipel got things right during stage five by improving upon his second-place finish on Wednesday.
The German sprinter and national champion conquered his first ever success in Qatar, winning the bunched sprint in Madinat Al Shamal ahead of Kruopis and Bos.
After Wednesday’s record-breaking stage in terms of speed, the wind was still extremely present for the Tour of Qatar’s fifth stage but it wouldn’t be as decisive.
The 148 riders took off from the Al Zubara Fort for the longest day of the event: 159 kilometres of riding all the way to Madinat Al Shamal.
Despite a fairly fast start (48.6kms covered during the first hour), four riders - Belgium’s Stijn Devolder (TFR), Vladimir Isaychev (KAT), Daniel Schorn (TNE) and Patrick Gretsch (ALM) - managed to breakaway as soon as the 6-km mark.
Their advantage over the pack grew rapidly and reached 2 minute 05 seconds at the 26-km mark while a counter-attacking rider, Refaa Chtioui (SKD) remained 50 seconds adrift.
The first intermediate sprint (at 44-km mark) was claimed by Schorn ahead of Isaychev and Gretsch while Chtioui was at 2 minute 20 seconds and the pack, not too concerned by the escapees, was 5 seconds behind.
The Tunisian national champion eventually stopped his solitary effort and was caught by the pack after the 50-km mark. Meanwhile, the gap grew in favour of the front men and reached a maximum 6 minute 50 seconds at the 59-km mark.
The sprinters’ teams took command of the pack and started chasing. At the second bonus sprint, at the first crossing of the finish line (at 95.5-km mark), won by Gretsch ahead of Isaychev and two-time Tour of Flanders winner Devolder, the gap had dropped down to 4 minute 05 seconds.
The riders would then have to cover one big lap of the circuit (36.5 kms) and two small ones (13.5 kms). At the second crossing of the line, the leading four could still enjoy a 3-minute advantage.
The escapees were eventually caught by the bunched pack at the 150-km mark, just before the final showdown.
In the final kilometres of the race, all the big names of sprinting moved to the front of the pack for what would be quite an explanation on the long and very slightly uphill straight in Madinat Al Shamal.
Unlike the previous day when he had to settle for second spot just behind Boonen, Greipel flew to a convincing first win in Qatar.
The German national champion beat Kruopis and Bos to the line, claiming a second success in 2014 after his win at the Tour Down Under.
After a rather comfortable day in the pack, well protected by his OPQ team mates, Terpstra retained his overall leader’s golden jersey.
The Dutchman still has a solid 17-second lead over Boonen, and 20 seconds over Jurgen Roelandts (LTB).
With a day to go and a final stage on the Doha Corniche today, Terpstra is on pole position to capture his first ever overall victory on the Tour of Qatar.
Boonen kept command of the points’ classification while Guillaume Van Keirsbulck remained the best young rider yesterday.