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“I was not thinking about him, we were thinking about the stage. It’s a pity about him, but when he punctured at the end, there’s nothing you can do."

Photo: Paumer Kare Dhelie Thorstad






























11.02.2016 @ 19:04 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff bounced back from his disappointing time trial by claiming his second victory in three days on a very dramatic fourth stage of the Tour of Qatar. With an impressive lead-out, Katusha split a select front group to pieces inside the final kilometre and Kristoff easily held off Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) to take the win, with his lead-out man Jacopo Guarnieri completing the podium. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) punctured out of the front group and instead his teammate Mark Cavendish takes the golden jersey with a 2-second advantage over Van Avermaet.


We have gathered several reactions.


Alexander Kristoff: We were only going for the stage win, not trying to distance Boasson Hagen

An ideal lead out on the final kilometer of stage 4 in Madinat Al Shamal brought Alexander Kristoff in a perfect position for his second victory in the Tour of Qatar. The powerful lead of the KATUSHA riders split the front group and provided an excellent possibility for him to show his sprint abilities.


“In the first part of the race it was not windy, but later the wind became stronger. We thought the peloton would come together at the finish and we had a plan for that situation, but the group was definitely split up. We still had many of our riders in the front group; the guys did a powerful lead-out, we split the group again and it worked well. It was a perfect finish for us with first and third places. Today I felt good, as strong as I was two days ago, so everything was ok for me. I want to thank my team, it was a great day for us – all guys did a fantastic job both during the stage in every dangerous moment and at the end,” said Alexander Kristoff.


“We knew Cavendish was in the group so we had to make it perfect to win. There were enough guys working on the front with BMC and Lotto. BMC had two riders up there on GC so it was up to them a little bit also. So we saved our legs for the really last kilometres to make a lead-out.


“We got the speed really high for the last 2k so nobody was able to move up or almost even to keep up with us, because there was a bit of a crosswind today. So it was perfect teamwork today.”

Boasson Hagen


Behind Kristoff finished Greg Van Avermaet, from BMC, and another Team KATUSHA rider Jacopo Guarnieri, who was able to save some power to take the third place in this stage. Also Viacheshav Kuznetsov and Michael Mørkøv were not far with 7th and 10th places respectively.


“I am really sorry for Edvald (Boasson Hagen), he had a flat tire at the wrong moment. A few teams pulled in front because there was a fight for the general classification. We stayed behind, saving our legs for the last 2 km. The stage victory was the main goal for us and we achieved it,” added Alexander Kristoff.


“I was not thinking about him, we were thinking about the stage. It’s a pity about him, but when he punctured at the end, there’s nothing you can do.


“Lotto and BMC were pulling but they had already attacked before he had punctured so it was just bad luck for him. I feel sorry for him because he would have won the race here overall, he had enough of a lead.


“It’s a pity, but he should be confident from the way he rode yesterday that he is on the way back. For sure he’s at a really good level.


“Usually the wind doesn’t blow so hard on that last lap [in the final stage] but you never know. If the wind is right, it can split again tomorrow. The classification is really close and we will see what happens but Cavendish is fast and also good in the crosswind. Normally he will manage to protect his lead but you never know. We saw today, Edvald was leading by a lot but he had a bad puncture at the wrong time and then it was over. The race is open again.” 


After coming back in the race it was impossible for Boasson Hagen and half of the group to come back because of the strong wind. In the final sprint, Team KATUSHA went to the front with 1.8 km to go, creating a great lead out for Alexander Kristoff.


“We were aware of the strong wind in the second part of the race. We won here last year and today we were able to repeat it. Unfortunately Boasson Hagen had a puncture and it is a really pity for him as a race leader to lose the jersey in this way. LottoNL-Jumbo and BMC pulled hard in the head wind; they fought for the overall classification, but we stayed a little bit behind, because it was a headwind and our focus was a stage victory and not the GC. On the other hand I want to say it is a pleasure to work with the group of riders we have here. All the guys are really focused, they are very united, they know what to do on the road and which decision to take. It was a beautiful team’s victory today and I am really proud of the team,” said sports director Torsten Schmidt.


In the general classification Mark Cavendish from Team Dimension Data got back into the gold jersey, while Alexander Kristoff moved up to 4th place, only 9 seconds behind. Also Sven Erik Bystrøm and Viacheslav Kuznetsov are still in the top 10 with 8th and 9th positions, respectively.


Moreover, Alexander Kristoff took the lead in the points classification and will wear the silver jersey.


Greg Van Avermaet: We were always there and are still up there in GC

Greg Van Avermaet has taken second place behind Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) in a sprint finish on stage 4 of the Tour of Qatar.


Van Avermaet picked up six bonus seconds to move him into second overall on the General Classification, two seconds behind Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) who reclaimed the leader’s Gold Jersey.


Manuel Quinziato crossed the line in sixth, retaining his third place overall on the GC at six seconds.


Multiple breakaways spent time at the front of the race before the peloton reformed in the last 15 kilometers. Strong winds created splits in the peloton as they approached the line, leaving a small group to battle it out for the sprint. Edvald Boasson Hagen, who started the day in the Gold Jersey, had a flat tire with ten kilometers to go, eventually losing his lead.


It was a good day in the saddle for Van Avermaet, who started the day fourth in the GC.


“You have to take Qatar by day. It wasn’t so good for Boasson Hagen but unfortunately that’s racing with crashes and flat tires. We will see what happens tomorrow. I was pretty happy with the race and how the team rode in the front. We were always there, and we’re still up there in GC so it was a good day.”


Van Avermaet believes the team has shown their form at the Tour of Qatar.


“We have a strong team with the Classics guys here. It’s always important to build the team around me and I’m really happy with the work they did. I think everybody is in good shape. Everybody knows what work he has to do, even the first guy who was pulling from the first meters until the last lap, so I think we have great condition.”


The Tour of Qatar wraps up tomorrow with a 114.5 kilometer stage in the heart of Doha finishing on Doha Corniche.


With the top four riders on GC separated by only nine seconds, tomorrow’s final stage is set for a battle for the podium places.


BMC Racing Team Sports Director Fabio Baldato said the team will do everything possible to remain on the podium after tomorrow’s stage.


“The course definitely plays in favor of the sprinters, but we will give it everything we have tomorrow. It’s looking good for the Teams Classification which is a great reflection on how the riders have worked throughout the race.”


BMC Racing Team retains the lead in the Teams Classification, 57 seconds in front of Katusha.


Sam Bennett takes fourth after unfortunate day in the saddle

After a good 4th place in the opening stage, Sam Bennett and Rudi Selig crashed in the second stage just outside the last kilometre. Even tough both riders had no serious injuries, it had been a painful meeting with the tarmac.


The performance of Bennett in the time trial of stage 3 was a little surprise then. He showed no signs of being affected from the crash the day before and was the Bora-Argon 18’s best rider to finish in 22nd place 1:04 behind stage winner Edvald Boasson Hagen who took over the leaders’ jersey. Also Lukas Pöstlberger did a courageous ride, finishing just one place behind Bennett in the same time.


Today’s stage 4 had a thrilling finish. The bunch was split into two groups after LottoNL-Jumbo and BMC Racing increased the pace significantly. Bora-Argon 18 had 3 riders in the front group with Sam Bennett, Rudi Selig and Zak Dempster. It was an impressive ride of the team which showed its unity and strength.

Sam Bennett took 4th place again in this stage, by outsprinting Mark Cavendish who is the new race leader. Bennettis now 7th overall but only 0:41 down, so the podium is still within reach for the captain of Bora-Argon 18.


Earlier in the stage Bennett had missed a split when he suffered an untimely puncture.


”Big thanks to all the guys @BoraArgon18 for riding so hard for me after double puncture. I think they went to the limit haha #understatement,” he tweeted after the stage.


Mark Cavendish: I am very disappointed for Boasson Hagen

It would be a dramatic finish to the 4th stage of the Tour of Qatar as race leader Edvald Boasson Hagen punctured with just 8km to go while in a select front split of just 25 odd riders. The split happened with around 14km to go when LottoNL-Jumbo surged to the front of the race after Dimension Data had done a great job controlling proceedings for the first 170km of the stage with Mekseb Debesay and Matt Brammeier.


Initially it was a good situation for the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka boys as Boasson Hagen and Mark Cavendish easily made the front echelon when the peloton broke into pieces. Unfortunately, the Norwegian champion couldn't have had a worse timed puncture as he lost the air in his front wheel with just 8km left to race.


BMC then came to the front, trying to capitalise on Boasson Hagen's misfortune by driving the front group as hard as they could along with the LottoNL-Jumbo team. This played right into the hands of Katusha though as they could concentrate on organising the leadout for Kristoff. They did this with such effectiveness from 2km out, that it was only 4 riders that crossed the line together on the same time as Kristoff at the end of the stage.


Vastly outnumbered in the front group while the rest of the team tried to get Boasson Hagen back, Cavendish could only sit on the wheels of BMC and Katusha, crossing the line in 5th place. By the time Boasson Hagen crossed the line riding Youcef Reguigui's bike, 45 seconds had already passed. This meant the Norwegian drops to 5th on the general classification. 


The good news of the day for the African Team though is that Boasson Hagen gave up his top spot on the general classification to teammate Cavendish. With just 2 seconds separating Cavendish and Van Avermaet in the overall, there is all to play for during tomorrow's final 114km stage to Doha.

”It was horrible to lose 1st and 2nd on GC in such a disappointing way,” Cavendish said. “Edvald punctured in the last 10km and unfortunately Lotto Jumbo went full gas, BMC as well but obviously they had a reason to but Lotto Jumbo don't have anyone on GC so it was a bit sad.


“All the guys waited for Edvald to try and bring him back. It was a full cross-tail finish so it means you need a full team with you otherwise you just going to be hammered in the gutter. So we put all our eggs in Edvald's basket and I knew I just needed to bury myself deep and we'd still hang onto the jersey anyway.


“The team rode incredibly strongly today. Matt and Mekseb controlled the race alone, with no help from any other teams and that was awesome to see for 190km. Honestly we got to pay back the good work the guys have done all week and hold on to the jersey tomorrow.


“I’m not too worried about the gold jersey right now, I’m majorly disappointed for Edvald. He was in such a good position. The lads rode incredible all day and controlled it. We didn’t need to control it but we did. But unfortunately Edvald punctured with less than 10k to go. BMC and Lotto-Jumbo went straight to the front full gas as soon as they heard on the radio, so there was no chance of Edvald coming back.


“We knew that would handicap the sprint because in a full crosswind, you need to be kept out of the gutter. Like, I was on Michael Schär’s wheel in the crosswind and he kept losing the wheel in front, so you’ve got to keep coming around and you’re never going to be able to compete in the end, so you’ve got to limit your losses. But it was the right decision for everyone to ride with Edvald. Even I didn’t win the stage, I was going to be in gold.


“It was always going to be difficult to win in the crosswind. Alone, you’ve just got to limit your losses and not lose time. If you’re on your own in the gutter, you can lose a few seconds in 500 metres, so I had to make sure I didn’t lose any time. Ok, the time bonuses would be alright, but if they got the times bonuses and there was a gap, then we’d lose everything.”


”It's a bit sad that after the team rode incredibly strongly all day, not getting any help from any other teams, that the only difference separating us from having complete control today was the double puncture,” sports director Roger Hammond said. “If you not winning because you not good enough that is one thing but just through a puncture, well that's just disappointing.”


Edvald Boasson Hagen after double puncture: Shit happens

“First I got a flat on the front. Well, actually it was a double puncture but I only realised the front wheel at the time,” Edvald Boasson Hagen told Cyclingnews. “I stopped, got a new front wheel and then I started going again, but then I realised I had a flat at the back too. A double flat and then the group was gone and it was too hard to chase back.


“It was too fast up front, they were too far away and it was hard to get back. But the guys did really well, a really good job. I’m impressed by the whole team. But shit happens.”


“That’s a good point from the day. We still keep the jersey, so I’m happy with that. It would have been nice to win. But now it’s gone. You can’t do much.” 


Another impressive performance by Søren Kragh Andersen in Qatar

Team Giant-Alpecin did a good job in looking after Søren Kragh Andersen all day in the preparation of the finish and he managed to sprint to 8th place. He stays in 6th position and keeps the pearl white jersey.


After the race coach Marc Reef said: “After the first intermediate sprint, the peloton got split up but we fought well for the front positions and Søren and Zico [Waeytens] managed to stay in the first group. After 110km, the peloton got back together.


“With one lap remaining, a crash split the group up again and the team did a very good job and put a lot of effort in keeping Søren at the front with Zico.


“In the sprint, Søren gave his maximum and finished 8th in the sprint. It was a good race and we look forward to tomorrow.”


Team LottoNL-Jumbo after big attack in Qatar: We failed to finish it off

Moreno Hofland wasn’t able to win the fourth stage of the Tour of Qatar today in the country’s northwest. Team LottoNL-Jumbo took the initiative in the final and forced a leading group of 30 riders, but the effort took its toll and Hofland settled for ninth place behind stage winner Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha).


The 189-kilometre stage from Al Zubarah Fort was open to echelons and in fact, the peloton broke into pieces after 70 kilometres.


“We were with six men in the first group,” sports director Jan Boven said. “That was a very strong position for us, especially when you look at the first two stages here.”


Everything came back together, but Team LottoNL-Jumbo forced another split to give Hofland a greater chance.


“We wanted to take the initiative in the penultimate loop,” Boven continued. “We took the lead at that point and maintained our positions very well. The peloton split up and we had all of our riders bar one in the first group of 30 riders. You have to finish it off, as well, but we failed. We were blown away when team Katusha put the hammer down. This ninth place was bad result.”


Team LottoNL-Jumbo aimed to save three riders for the sprint lead-out, but something went wrong.


“We were busy holding the pace as high as possible after we forced those echelons,” Hofland said. “When the sprint came, though, there was no lead-out left for me. We were a bit overconfident.”


The Tour of Qatar finishes on Friday with a classic final stage from Sealine Beach 60 kilometres to Doha’s seaside, where the cyclists will race for ten laps.


“There’s a big chance that the wind plays a role again in the first part of the stage,” Boven added. “The start will be hectic because of that, but I’m expecting that everything comes back together on the circuit and that the stage ends in a bunch sprint.”


No support for Sacha Modolo in dramatic stage in Qatar

Sacha Modolo made the split in the final part of the stage but with no teammates at his side, he had to settle for 14th. He is still 11th in the overall standings.


"I'm sorry that we were not able to give the necessary assistance to Modolo to stay in the lead. Sacha has a good condition which he has already shown, and even today he was fighting for a good result,” said sports director Philippe Mauduit. “There remains the last stage to try to offer a convincing team performance.”


Inattentive Astana miss out, Lars Boom improves his form

“This is a high speed race and it’s very useful to improve the condition. Every day, my legs are getting better and better,” said Lars Boom.


The Dutch rider will do a training period at altitude and then rider Paris-Nice to prepare for the Northern Europe classics, one of his main objectives for this season.


Boom and his Astana teammates missed out in the finale.


“We were a bit surprised in the finale,” said sports director Stefano Zanini, “but tomorrow we'll try again with Andrea Guardini on the same finish line where he arrived in second place last year.”


Broken arm for young Stölting rider in Qatar

After his breakaway efforts earlier in the stage, Thomas Koep was unfortunately involved in a crash in the bunch. Sadly the injuries sustained by Koep mean that he has withdrawn from the race. He suffered a broken arm in the fall and will stay in Qatar to undergo surgery before returning home to start his recovery period.



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