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The Belgian is brought back into position by a strong Andrew Fenn, latches onto Greipel's wheel and finally passes the German champion just before the line to take his 22nd stage win in the Tour of Qatar

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele

ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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BARRY MARKUS

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NIKI TERPSTRA

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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TOUR OF QATAR

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12.02.2014 @ 14:14 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) again proved that he is very hard to beat in a sprint that comes at the end of a hard race when he took his 22nd ever win in the Tour of Qatar in today's 4th stage. After a true battle in the crosswinds that saw the riders average around 52km/h, the Belgian narrowly edged out André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) who had been given the perfect lead-out, while Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) finished safely in the bunch to defend his overall lead.

 

As usual, Tom Boonen  seems to be unstoppable in the Tour of Qatar and today he again underlined his status in the desert race when he took his second win of this year's edition and the 22nd in the race's short history. In a very fast and dramatic stage, the Belgian narrowly edged out André Greipel in a photo finish.

 

A cross-tailwind produced a true battle that saw the riders average around 52km/h during the short stage and the peloton split into several groups on a number of occasions. However, all the key protagonists seemed to make the splits and so a rather large group gathered for a bunch sprint in the end.

 

As usual, Omega Pharma-Quick Step was the dominant team in the finale but they faced the hard challenge of having to overcome the exceptional Lotto Belisol train of Marcel Sieberg, Jurgen Roelandts and Greipel. The trio again proved that they know how to time a lead-out to perfection and when Greipel launched his sprint, the race appeared to have been decided.

 

Initially, Boonen had been perfectly positioned on Greipel's wheel but by the time the Lotto train moved up, he was pushed away by Sam Bennett (NetApp-Endura) and several other riders. With only 500m to go, he found himself too far back but his teammate Andrew Fenn saved the day.

 

The Brit moved him back into position and by the time when Greipel launched his sprint he was back where he needed to be. In a close photo finish, he just managed to pass his rival in the hard headwind sprint.

 

With the bonus seconds, Boonen moves into 2nd overall, 18 seconds behind teammate Niki Terpstra who defended his overall lead after taking 2 bonus seconds along the way. As opposed to this, Lars Boom (Belkin) had a disastrous day as a late puncture saw him fall out of the lead group and lose his overall 3rd place.

 

The 6-day race continues tomorrow when the 159km penultimate stage brings the riders from Al Zubara Fort to Madinat Al Shamal. Another windy day is in store but as the riders will mostly have a headwind, we could be in for the first real bunch sprint of the race.

 

A windy stage

After yesterday's time trial, the riders were back battling the wind in today's 135km fourth stage from Dukhan to Mesaieed. As always, it was a completely flat affair but a strong wind was blowing and as the riders mostly had a cross-tailwind, a fast and dramatic stage was expected.

 

That prediction proved to be correct as already at the 6km mark, the peloton had split into 4 different groups. A long pursuit ensued, with first two groups battling maintaining a 20-30-second gap for a long time.

 

Groups merge

The second group managed to regain contact with the leaders but at that time, the third group was still 1.30 behind. Despite not having given up, the hard racing in the front group meant that they would never rejoin the leaders.

 

Michael Mørkøv (Tinkoff-Saxo) beat Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) and his teammate Karsten Kroon in the first intermediate sprint after 60.5km of racing, meaning that Roelandts closed his gap to Terpstra on GC to 19 seconds. A little later, BMC decided that it was time to again make an attack in the windy conditions but the American team didn't have any success.

 

Gilbert on the attack

Instead, they sent Philippe Gilbert on the attack and the former world champion was joined by Jarl Salomein (Topsport Vlaanderen). The duo managed to build up a gap that at one point reached 33 seconds.

 

However, Omega Pharma-Quick Step had not given up hope of splitting things up even more and they tried another attack a little later. Immediately, the group split in two and in a matter of seconds, Gilbert and Salomein had been swallowed up by the first one.

 

Cancellara is dropped

Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) were some of the riders who were caught in the second group and now a fierce pursuit ensued. The gap stayed at around 20 seconds while Omega Pharma-Quick Step drove the pace in the front group.

 

At this point, disaster struck for Boom who punctured out of the lead group and with the peloton at full speed, he would never rejoin the leaders. Cancellara had a similarly ill-timed mechanical and fell out of the second group.

 

Omega Pharma-Quick Step take control

The front group slowed down with around 10km to go and this allowed the second group to rejoin them. Omega Pharma-Quick Step now decided that it was time to set up a sprint, moving their entire team to the front.

 

Iljo Keisse and Stijn Vandenbergh swapped turns on the front and got a bit of assistance from Luke Rowe (Sky). However, it was now all about the Belgian team which had gathered its troops on the front while the sprint trains started to form behind them.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE hit the front

With 2km to go, Orica-GreenEDGE hit the front, trying to set up Aidis Kruopis for the sprint. The Australian team appeared to be well-placed but got swamped just after the flamme rouge when Sieberg, Roelandts and Greipel moved up with Boonen on their wheel.

 

While the Lotto guys performed their lead-out, Boonen lost position but his teammate Fenn managed to bring him back onto Greipel's wheel just at the right time. When the German champion laucnhed his sprint, he seemed to be heading for the win but Boonen just managed to edge him out for his 22nd win in Qatar.

 

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