Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) failed to take the third win of his season in yesterday's opening stage of the Tour of Oman. His team appeared to have everything lined up for their fast sprinter but made a stupid mistake that allowed the Lotto Belisol lead-out train to move ahead, leaving Boonen with only a 5th place as his result.
After a disastrous 2013 season, Tom Boonen has got 2014 off to a perfect start after the Belgian won to stages and the points jersey and finished 2nd overall in the Tour of Qatar. He is now in Oman to continue his preparations for the classics in the 6-day national tour that started yesterday.
Boonen may no longer be the sprinter he once was but he still harbours some ambitions as a sprinter. With the Omani course being one for the climbers, he has set his sights on the bunch kicks in the Arabian race and he got his first chance to shine yesterday.
His team appeared to have everything under control when they hit the front inside the final 2km, moving to the right-hand side of the road as the wind was coming from the left. The plan was to close the door for their rival lead-out trains who had to go into the wind to pass the Belgian formation.
Unfortunately, the team made a bad mistake in the hectic finale. Someone in Boonen's lead-out train moved to the centre of the long finishing straight, leaving the door wide open along the barriers. Lotto Belisol lead-out men Marcel Sieberg and Jurgen Roelandts exploited the opportunity to accelerate through the gap and gave André Greipel another textbook lead-out. While the German took his fourth win of the season, Boonen had to settle for 5th.
After the race, Boonen regretted the mistake.
"It's not that I'm mad because I lost but that we missed a chance," he told Cyclingnews at the finish. "It's stupid when you do a perfect lead-out and then f**k it up a little bit. The Lotto guys deserved the win today, they did a great job."
However, Boonen was quick to praise his rivals who had done most of the work to chase down the early break.
"Lotto deserved the win," he said. "It was an impressive sprint but we made the space for them. We were on the right but then we went to the middle. If we'd stayed right, nobody could have passed us, even if we go 10km an hour slower. They came from the right. Sieberg brought them to the front and then Roelandts accelerated the two of them clear.
"We had a good lead-out until the last kilometre but then it got a little hectic and we left a little bit too much space on the right side. A small mistake cost us victory. Everybody came over us from the right."
Greipel insisted that his team would have found an opening even if the Omega Pharma-Quick Step train hadn't made a mistake.
"I trust my guys 100% and they know what they have to do," he said. "Even if Quick Step didn't open on the right side, we could have passed them on the left. I stuck to the wheel of my teammate and we were not panicking. We had the horse power with a kilometre to go. When Sieberg started it was pretty amazing and fast. I think we deserved it."
Boonen will get another chance in today's 2nd stage which is expected to end in another bunch sprint.
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