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The Belgian classics specialist takes his first win of the season after his team splits the peloton to pieces in the crosswinds, with all 8 Omega Pharma-Quick Step riders making the first group; Terpstra defends his lead

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele

JURGEN ROELANDTS

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MICHAEL MØRKØV

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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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10.02.2014 @ 15:02 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Omega Pharma-Quick Step again proved that they are the best team in the world when it comes to racing in the crosswinds when the Belgian team took a dominant win for Tom Boonen on the second stage of the Tour of Qatar. Having placed all 8 riders in the 24-rider front group when the race blew to pieces, they finally delivered their big sprinter to his first win of the season while Niki Terpstra finished in the same time to defend his leader's jersey.

 

It is no secret that Omega Pharma-Quick Step is one of the best classics teams in the world and it is not secret either that they have always dominated the Tour of Qatar. Today those facts were underlined when the team put in an impressive showing in the second stage of the Tour of Qatar.

 

When the peloton made a turn with 60km to go that saw them head into a crosswind section, the team again took the initiative to cause havoc on the group. When the dust had settled, the peloton had blowN to pieces, with a 24-rider group emerging at the front.

 

In a demonstration of force, the team had put all of its 8 riders into that group that also included 2nd placed Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) and 5 Tinkoff-Saxo riders. However, Michael Schär (BMC) and Martin Elmiger (IAM) who had both been in yesterday's escape had both missed the split as had one of the pre-race favourites Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and favourite on the day, Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol).

 

In the second group, BMC and Lotto Belisol chased hard as they tried to get Schär and Greipel back in contention and the stage was a huge battle between the two groups, with the gap staying stable at around 30 seconds for the final 30km. With several teams keen on keeping the first group going, however, there was no coming back for the second group.

 

In the end, all was set for another Boonen win and despite a brave move from the Belkin duo of Lars Boom and Robert Wagner, the team had everything under control. Marcel Sieberg tried to lead out Roelandts for the sprint but the Belgian was no match to Boonen who powered clear and put daylight into his rivals to take his 21 stage win in the Qatari race.

 

Michael Mørkøv (Tinkoff-Saxo) managed to pass Roelandts just before the line while the group splintered to pieces, with just 8 riders finishing in the same time as Boonen. Race leader Niki Terpstra was one of those and even though bonus seconds reduced his advantage over Roelandts to 5 seconds, he remains the leader of the race.

 

Terpstra will have a chance to extend his lead even further in tomorrow's crucial 10.9km time trial in Lusail. The short, technical course suits a mixture of sprinters and time trialists and will play an important role in shaping the final GC of the race.

 

Starting at 12.45 CET you can follow the stage on CyclingQuotes.com/live.

 

A windy day

The 160.5km 2nd stage took the riders from the Camel Race Track to Al Khor Corniche and zigzagged its way through the Qatari desert. As it was another windy day and the riders faced several crosswind sections, a true battle was expected.

 

This turned out to the case already early in the stage. The first part saw the riders travel into a headwind which put a dampener on any desire for aggression but when the riders turned into a crosswinds just before the intermediate sprint at the 37.5km mark, the war began.

 

8 groups

In a matter of second, the bunch had splintered into 8 groups that were spread across the row. The carnage became even more confusing due to several crashes that brought down a number of riders in the hectic phase.

 

Omega Pharma-Quick Step were again the ones to take the initiative and they benefited from their work at the sprint when Nikolas Maes and Terpstra took the bonus seconds. Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE) was on a good day and sprinted across the line to take the final second on offer.

 

Back together

A little further up the road, the groups turned into a headwind. As the key riders had all made the selection, no one was keen on maintaining the splits and things came back together.

 

This allowed the stage to calm down and it now started to shape up like a classic sprint stage. Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) exploited the lull to attack and he managed to build up a 3-minute gap.

 

More drama

60 km from the finish the peloton made another turn that changed the conditions from a head- to a crosswind. Again Omega Pharma-Quick Step took the initiative and the peloton splintered to pieces.

 

When the dust settled, a 23-rider front group had emerged, with all 8 Omega Pharma-Quick Step riders being present. Boonen, Andrew Fenn, Iljo Keisse, Nikolas Maes, Gert Steegmans, Terpstra, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Stijn Vandenbergh (all Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Yaroslav Popovych (Trek), Roelandts, Sieberg (both Lotto Belisol), Boom, Wagner (both Belkin), Bernhard Eisel, Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe (all Sky), Jacopo Guarnieri (Astana), Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE), Daniele Bennati, Matti Breschel, Christopher Juul Jensen, Michael Mørkøv and Karsten Kroon (Tinkoff-Saxo) made up the first group that quickly caught Smukulis, making it a 24-rider move.

 

Greipel tries to get back

30 seconds behind another group had formed and it was desperately chasing as it tried to get back in contention. Greipel, Barry Markus (Belkin), Schär and Sam Bennett (NetApp-Endura) were all there and their teams were joined by Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r) and Topsport Vlaanderen in doing the hard chase work.

 

For the final 30km, the gap hovered between 30 and 35 seconds but with Tinkoff-Saxo and Omega Pharma-Quick Step both going full gas, the second group never got any closer than that. Further behind, the third group with Elmiger and Cancellara kept losing ground while the main peloton completely gave up and was quickly more than 5 minutes behind.

 

Disaster for Kruopis

When the riders approached the finish at Al Khor Corniche, disaster struck for Kruopis who was one of teh fastest riders in the group. 4km from the finish he had a puncture that ruined all his hopes of a stage win.

 

The teams were now starting to prepare for the sprint and this meant that all the work was now left to Omega Pharma-Quick Step. While Vandenbergh and Van Keirsbulck worked hard, Tinkoff-Saxo started to move up their train.

 

Belkin attack

With 2km to go, the Belkin boys attacked as Wagner accelerated off the front with Boom on his wheel. Wagner took a huge turn before dropping off and Boom passed the flamme rouge with a slight gap.

 

However, Omega Pharma-Quick Step had things under control and with 800m to go, Boom was back in the fold. Maes, Terpstra, Fenn and Boonen were now lined out on the front while Mørkøv had taken Boonen's wheel.

 

Sieberg proved that he is one of the best lead-out riders in the world when he moved ahead with Roelandts safely behind him but Boonen was quick to react and latched onto the back end of the train. When Roelandts opened his sprint, Boonen powered down the middle of the road and took a very convincing 21st stage win in Qatar while Mørkøv just manage to pass Roelandts to take 2nd.

 

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