Mark Cavendish has won the Tour of Qatar, and he did it in style, prevailing today in a bunch sprint in Doha to take his fourth successive stage victory in the race. Yauheni Hutarovich of AG2R La Mondiale finished second again today, as he had done yesterday, with Barry Markus of Vacansoleil-DCM third. There was a bit of a scare for the Manxman on his way to victory as he hit the deck when a rider ahead of him fell as the peloton was negotiating a roundabout.
"I tweeted this morning that I've won and crashed this stage before — the previous one — and the fact is I did both again," said Cavendish, who also won the points jersey, afterwards. "I was just going along after 15km, came to a roundabout not going hard, just riding.
"I was riding on someone's wheel and he just went down. He doesn't even know what happened. But, that's bike racing. It was a freak accident. I'm a bit banged up, but I'm OK. I am just kind of twisted, but we'll get it sorted."
It’s Cavendish’s second GC victory of his career, and more prestigious one than the previous stage race he won, last year’s Ster ZLM Toer in the Netherlands. His victory is the sixth in Qatar by an Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider in eight years, four of those belonging to Tom Boonen, and Cavendish emulates the Belgian’s 2006 feat of winning four stages.
The team's record in this race wasn't lost on Cavendish. "I'm over the moon," he said. "We come here every year almost guaranteed an overall victory with Tom Boonen, but he's recovering from an injury. So it put a little bit of pressure on me and I was a bit nervous.
"But I'm really happy to get the win. The guys worked incredible here. They really looked after me so, so well here and delivered every single day. I am so happy and proud I can bring it home again for the team again.
"We've won Tour of Qatar six times, and I don't know how many stages, so I am happy to be a part of that."
Today’s sixth and final stage, covering 116 kilometres, went from the Sealine Beach Resort to finish at Doha Corniche with the skyscrapers of Qatar’s capital providing the backdrop to a ten-lap circuit along the waterfront, contrasting with the flat, featureless, desert terrain that characterises much of the race’s parcours.
With a lead of 15 seconds this morning, Cavendish’s prospects of taking the overall were unlikely to be threatened, nevertheless his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team kept the tempo high as the race approached its final 10 kilometres before other sprinters’ teams started jostling for position.
With Cannondale picking up the pace inside the final five kilometres, the peloton was beginning to get strung out with riders struggling to hang on at the back, before Sky, then Argos-Shimano, moved to the front.
Cavendish, sitting around 30 riders back on the left hand side of the road as the peloton passed the flamme rouge to signify 1 kilometre to go, momentarily seemed boxed in as individual riders started to rev up for the sprint, and also had to take quick action to evade a BMC rider who moved across his line.
No-one’s better than the former world champion at finding a way through in a chaotic bunch sprint, however, and Cavendish burst clear inside the closing metres to win from Hutarovich by half a wheel.
"It was kind of like Al Khor, actually," reflected Cavendish, referring to the finiah of Stage 4 on Wednesday. "I knew the wind was coming from the right, knew a gap was coming from the left. Same as when I won in 2009. The same tactics.
"The guys were going, and going, and going. Other teams started winding up with four laps to go. Still, it ended up the same way with one lap to go. It's a bit safer into the last lap and everyone's happy.
"The guys had been a bit used up for working for me all day and the entire race, so I knew I can kind of just go alone, can leave it late and come up the left side again.
"That's exactly what I did. I knew they would go right, and I could just use other leadouts to move up in the last 300 meters and jump on the left hand side."
Cavendish is the first British winner of the race, and three others got into the top ten - BMC Racing's Adam Blythe, who finished third, and the Team Sky pair of Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas, respectively ninth and tenth.
Tour of Qatar Stage 5 result 1 CAVENDISH Mark OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 2h 24' 31" 2 HUTAROVICH Yauheni AG2R LA MONDIALE All at same time 3 MARKUS Barry VACANSOLEIL-DCM 4 BLYTHE Adam BMC RACING TEAM 5 PHINNEY Taylor BMC RACING TEAM 6 VAN HUMMEL Kenny VACANSOLEIL-DCM 7 KRISTOFF Alexander KATUSHA TEAM 8 EISEL Bernhard SKY PROCYCLING 9 BOUHANNI Nacer FDJ 10 BOIVIN Guillaume CANNONDALE 11 COLBRELLI Sonny BARDIANI VALVOLE-CSF INOX 12 KLUGE Roger TEAM NETAPP-ENDURA 13 LADAGNOUS Matthieu FDJ 14 BRAMMEIER Matt CHAMPION SYSTEM 15 GALLOPIN Tony RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 16 CANTWELL Jonathan TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 17 DOWNING Russell TEAM NETAPP-ENDURA 18 GUARDINI Andrea ASTANA PRO TEAM 19 VIVIANI Elia CANNONDALE 20 KRUOPIS Aidis ORICA GREENEDGE Overall standings after Stage 5 1 CAVENDISH Mark OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 15h 55' 20" 2 BOOKWALTER Brent BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 25" 3 PHINNEY Taylor BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 26" 4 BLYTHE Adam BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 30" 5 EISEL Bernhard SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 32" 6 VAN AVERMAET Greg BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 32" 7 SCHÄR Michael BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 35" 8 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 39" 9 ROWE Luke SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 40" 10 THOMAS Geraint SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 40"
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.