excerpts from Qatar Tour
Spanish surprise as Rojas conquers Gold
The first stage of the Tour of Qatar was as eventful as expected with wind, crashes, echelons and a first surprise. As fifty riders powered to the front in the closing moments of the stage, José-Joaquin Rojas proved to be the fastest of the field of favourites. On his debut in Qatar, the Spaniard captured a fine success by the Sealine Beach, ahead of Tom Boonen and Arnaud Démare. The Movistar rider captures the first overall leader’s Golden Jersey of the event.
Two days after the final stage of the women’s Tour of Qatar, the wind had picked up but was this time blowing from the south-east. In other words, it would be a tough day for the men who gathered to Dukhan for the start of their edition of the Tour. Facing the wind for most of the day, the 141 riders took off at 1:23 for a 136-km race towards the Sealine Beach situated in the South-East of Qatar.
After just a kilometer of racing, two riders managed to break away: Salomein (TSV) and Luca Sterbini (BAR). Their lead rapidly grew and went from 2’50 at km 8 to a maximum 10’40 at km 22, while Breschel (TCS) and Vandenberghe (EQS), on a counter-attack, were 7’15 adrift. Eventually, as the race headed east to cross the peninsula, the pack moved closer to the escapees. While the counter attackers were caught at km 32, the front two reached the first intermediate sprint (Km 38), won by Salomein, with a 5’05 lead. The two riders were eventually caught at km 65. Shortly after, the battle between favourites started.
Indeed, as the Trek and Etixx Quickstep teams picked up the pace at the front, the pack broke up into several groups. 46 men were present in a front group. The only favourites or big names having failed to make it to the front were Valverde (MOV), Bouhanni (COF), Boom (AST) and Wiggins. After enjoying a 25” advantage the leader’s group was eventually caught at Km 81. As the bunched pack headed towards the second bonus sprint, Boonen (EQS) and Sagan (TCS) were caught in a crash. Nothing serious but a first big fright for two of the title contenders. The sprint was then claimed by Arndt (TGA) ahead of Terpstra (EQS) and Ferrari (LAM). After having tried his luck a first time, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) gave it a second go at km 95. After enjoying a 25” lead, the Belgian was rapidly caught back.
At km 107, three other riders took off on a breakaway: Breschel (TCS), Boom and Westra (AST). Their lead reached an interesting 1′, five kilometres later. But as the pack chased harder and broke up into several groups, there wasn’t much the escapees could do. They were indeed caught at km 125.
Meanwhile just over fifty riders were leading the race. The only big names not present at the front were Kittel (TGA), Boasson Hagen (MTN), Wiggins (SKY) and Pozzato (LAM). With 10 kilometres to go, the leaders had a 45” advantage. That gap dropped down to 11” with 3 kilometres to go. But there was no catching the front group. In a final bunched sprint, José-Joaquin Rojas (MOV) surprised the field as he took off early.
The Spaniard managed to keep his impressive pace all the way to the line, beating Tom Boonen (EQS) and Arnaud Démare (FDJ) to conquer his first ever success in Qatar. Thanks to his victroy, the Spaniard captures the overall leader’s Golden Jersey that he’ll be wearing tomorrow from Al Wakra to Al Khor. Rojas also leads the points classification while Démare conquers the Pearl White Jersey for the best young rider.
Stage 1 Results ESP 1 ROJAS GIL, Jose Joaquin (MOVISTAR) 3:49:50 BEL 2 BOONEN, Tom (ETIXX – QUICK STEP) FRA 3 DEMARE, Arnaud (FDJ) SVK 4 SAGAN, Peter (TINKOFF – SAXO) IRL 5 BENNETT, Sam (BORA-ARGON 18) BEL 6 STUYVEN, Jasper (TREK FACTORY RACING) AUS 7 HAUSSLER, Heinrich (IAM CYCLING) ITA 8 GUARDINI, Andrea (ASTANA) NOR 9 KRISTOFF, Alexander (KATUSHA) FRA 10 BOUHANNI, Nacer (COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS) KAZ 11 TLEUBAYEV, Ruslan (ASTANA) ALG 12 REGUIGUI, Youcef (MTN – QHUBEKA) NED 13 BOS, Theo (MTN – QHUBEKA) ITA 14 FERRARI, Roberto (LAMPRE – MERIDA) LUX 15 DRUCKER, Jean-Pierre (BMC RACING) NED 16 VEELERS, Tom (GIANT – ALPECIN) NED 17 TERPSTRA, Niki (ETIXX – QUICK STEP) UKR 18 GRIVKO, Andriy (ASTANA) SUI 19 CANCELLARA, Fabian (TREK FACTORY RACING) AUS 20 HAYMAN, Mathew (ORICA GreenEDGE)
General Classification after Stage 1 ESP 1 ROJAS GIL, Jose Joaquin (MOVISTAR) 3:49:40 BEL 2 BOONEN, Tom (ETIXX – QUICK STEP) + 4 FRA 3 DEMARE, Arnaud (FDJ) + 6 NED 4 TERPSTRA, Niki (ETIXX – QUICK STEP) + 8 ITA 5 FERRARI, Roberto (LAMPRE – MERIDA) + 9 SVK 6 SAGAN, Peter (TINKOFF – SAXO) + 10 IRL 7 BENNETT, Sam (BORA-ARGON 18) BEL 8 STUYVEN, Jasper (TREK FACTORY RACING) AUS 9 HAUSSLER, Heinrich (IAM CYCLING) ITA 10 GUARDINI, Andrea (ASTANA)
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