Tom Boonen has won his 20th career stage of the Tour of Qatar to consolidate his overall lead in a race he has won three times in the past, and with a lead of more than half a minute seems set to take his fourth title. Only five riders contested the sprint finish in a tailwind, with Tom Veelers of Project 1T4i second and RadioShack-Nissan's Fabian Cancellara, who went for the line early, third on another day when the wind played havoc with the race. Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha and Boonen's team mate Gert Steegmans rounded out the quintet.
Going into the last 10km, just 16 riders were left in the front group, with yesterday's stage winner Mark Cavendish of Team Sky among those missing, but an attack by RadioShack-Nissan's Cancellara 5km out whittled that group down further.
Initially, only Adam Blythe of BMC Racing was able to go with him, but the young Briton suffered a puncture at a critical point and with the leaders zipping along, there was no hope of getting back on.
Another to drop off the leading bunch in the closing kilometres was Garmin-Barracida's Tyler Farrar, who had started the day second overall. The American remains Boonen's closest challenger for the overall, but there are now 31 seconds between them.
“I told the guys I was feeling strong today and it was a perfect day to really take the jersey,” said Boonen afterwards, outlining how the team had set out to use the wind to its advantage to ride hard and distance some of his rivals.
“We had a good team today on a perfect stage for us,” he added. “Like I said yesterday, trying to win one more stage would be very important for the Tour of Qatar, today was a very good day.”
Tour of Qatar Stage 4 result
1. Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 3 hours 03’ 14”
2. Tom Veelers (Project 1t4i) same time
3. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) same time
4. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) same time
5. Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at 4”
6. Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at 11”
7. Johann Offredo (FDJ-BigMat) at 14”
8. Bernhard Eisel (Sky) same time.
9. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) same time
10. Ian Stannard (Sky) at 36”
Overall standings after Stage 4
1. Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 9 hours 50’ 50”
2. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) at 31”
3. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) at 34”
4. Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at 36”
5. Bernhard Eisel (Sky) at 45”
6. Tom Veelers (Project 1t4i) at 50”
7. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) at 1’ 06”
8. Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Barracuda) at 1’ 09”
9. Aidis Kruopis (GreenEDGE) at 1’ 10”
10. Adam Blythe (BMC) a 1’ 14”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.