Main group just fails to make catch - Bernie leads it home in fourth place, two ahead of ex-room mate Cav

Brent Bookwalter of BMC Racing has won the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar. The American got clear with Martin Elmiger of IAM and RadioShack-Leopard’s Gregory Rast with 10km to go and proved strongest in the finale. The trio just held off a chasing bunch including Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, who finished sixth – two places behind close friend and former room mate Bernie Eisel of Sky, who led the bunch home.

With crosswinds causing echelons to form, making the peloton split into three groups on the 145 kilometre stage from the Katara Cultural Village in Doha to Dukhan Beach, Eisel himself had launched an attack at the head of the race with a little over 20 kilometres to ride, Roy Curvers of Argos-Shimano, BMC Racing’s Michael Schär and Domique Rollin of FDJ going with him.

The quartet were sucked back into the front bunch with 12 kilometres to go, and shortly afterwards the trio who eventually contested the win went off the front and rode hard to quickly established a gap of three quarters of a minute. By now, what had been the second group on the road had joined the chasing bunch, including Cavendish who worked hard alongside his Omega Pharma-Quick Step colleagues to help bridge the gap.

With the gap from the three riders out in front still more than half a minute with 5 kilometres to go it was touch and go whether the main group had left it too late to catch the break – no race radios here, although the topography meant they were in sight for most of the time – and so it proved as Bookwalter led Elmiger across the line, with their pursuers breathing down their necks but just unable to make the catch.

Tour of Qatar Stage 1 result

1   BOOKWALTER Brent     BMC Racing Team            3:28:47
2   ELMIGER Martin       IAM Cycling                   “
3   RAST Gregory         RadioShack -Trek              “
4   EISEL Bernhard       Sky Procycling                “
5   VIVIANI Elia         Cannondale Pro Cycling        “
6   CAVENDISH Mark       Omega Pharma -Quick Step      “
7   BRESCHEL Matti       Saxo-Tinkoff                  “
8   PHINNEY Taylor       BMC Racing Team               “
9   HAUSSLER Heinrich    IAM Cycling                   “
10  LADAGNOUS Matthieu   FDJ                           “

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.