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The FDJ sprinter powers down the middle of the boulevard at the Doha Corniche to take a hugely convincing sprint win while Niki Terpstra finishes safely in the bunch to seal his overall win in the 6-day race

Photo: Sirotti

ARNAUD DEMARE

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BERNHARD EISEL

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DANIELE BENNATI

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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JURGEN ROELANDTS

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NIKI TERPSTRA

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TOUR OF QATAR

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14.02.2014 @ 15:07 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After a difficult week, Arnaud Demare (FDJ) ended his Tour of Qatar on a high when he took his second ever win at the Doha Corniche. Two years after his first win, the Frenchman powered down the centre of the road to hold off Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Bernhard Eisel (Sky) with a big margin while Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) sealed his overall win, with Tom Boonen making it a 1-2 for the Belgian team.

 

Two years ago Arnaud Demare took his first professional win in first ever race for FDJ when he beat some of the world's fastest sprinters in the big sprint at the Doha Corniche that usually ends the Tour of Qatar. Two years later the Frenchman repeated the feat when he held off another host of the fastest riders to double his tally in the famed finish.

 

With his team having lost three riders due to crashes, Demare hadn't featured much at the pointy end of this year's race but today he finally got everything right. He powered down the centre of the road to take a hugely convincing win ahead of Daniele Bennati and Bernhard Eisel.

 

The sprint came at the end of a surprisingly dramatic stage that was characterized by a very strong 5-rider breakaway that almost derailed the sprinters' plans. Only inside the final kilometre did the peloton get back to the final escapee Alessandro Bazzana (Unitedhealthcare), setting up the expected bunch sprint.

 

All was set for a repeat of yesterday's win for André Greipel when his Lotto Belisol train powered down the left hand side of the road but in a very rare move the Belgians could not keep the front positions. Michael Mørkøv launched a fantastic lead-out for Bennati down the right-hand side, having a host of strong sprinters on his wheel.

 

The Lotto train got swamped, leaving Greipel with no chance to sprint for the win and instead it was Demare who got the chance to show off his excellent skills. No one had any match to the Frenchman's excellent burst of speed who took his first win of the season where he did it two years ago as well.

 

Niki Terpstra finished safely in the bunch to seal the overall win in a race that he has led since winning the opening stage. Despite narrowly missing out on bonus seconds in 4th, his teammate Tom Boonen was second while Jurgen Roelandts made was the only rider from another team on the podium as he took third.

 

With two stage wins, Boonen was also a deserved winner of the points classification while Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was the best young rider. Unsurprisingly, Omega Pharma-Quick Step took a convincing win in the teams classification, having put 5 riders inside the top 10 on GC.

 

With the Tour of Qatar now over, racing in the Middle East resumes on Tuesday with the Tour of Oman. Many of the same riders will be back in action but they will be joined by a host of grand tour stars led by defending champion Chris Froome who look to excel on the hilly course in the sultanate.

 

A circuit race

The Tour of Qatar ended with its usual stage which took the riders over a 113.5km from the Sealine Beach Resort to the Doha Corniche. The stage finished with 10 laps of a 5.7km banana-shaped circuit along the Doha seafront that was perfectly suited to a big bunch sprint, with several of the fastest riders having excelled there in the past.

 

As the riders faced a cross-headwind during their northern run to the circuit and as everybody expected a big bunch sprint, the peloton was content to let an early breakaway slip clear. Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Jesse Sergent (Trek), Alessandro Bazzana (Unitedhealthcare), Rafaa Chtioui (Skydive Dubai), and Marcus Burghardt (BMC)  were allowed to go up the road and they entered the finishing circuit with a 2.30 gap over the peloton.

 

Not much leeway for the break

With the break containing several strong TT specialists, the main group was unwilling to give them too much leeway and several teams started to chase hard. Lotto Belisol were eager to get Greipel back on top and asked Lars Bak and Gert Dockx to do a lot of the work. They got assistance from Iljo Keisse (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Davide Villella (Cannondale) who worked hard for Boonen and Elia Viviani respectively while Bardiani also had a rider up there, hoping to see Nicola Ruffoni and Filippo Fortin excel in the sprint.

 

With 44km to go, the gap was down to just 1.05 and as the peloton continued its pace-setting, the gap dropped to less than a minute. To avoid catching the break too early, the bunch slowed down a bit, with Lotto Belisol briefly disappearing from the front.

 

The break goes full gas

While Chtioui rolled first across the line at the first intermediate sprint ahead of Sergent and Westra, Ag2r reopened the chase in the peloton. However, the gap had now come up to 1.30 and it became apparent that the escapees had been playing a bit of a game.

 

The quintet still had plenty of energy left in reserve and they now started to go full gas. With 26km to go, the gap had come up to 2 minutes, while Dockx, Bak, Keisse and Villella were still doing all the work.

 

Sky start to chase

With 20km to go, the gap was still 1.45 and more teams now sensed that something had to be done. Sky moved ahead with Christian Knees, Danny Pate and Luke Rowe all upping the pace a bit further while Orica-GreenEDGE  used Michael Hepburn and Svein Tuft for the chase.

 

The gap now started to come down at a quicker rate. Tinkoff-Saxo also briefly lend a hand to the chase but it was mostly left to Sky and Orica-GreenEDGE to close down the move.

 

Belkin and Lotto fight for control

When the peloton crossed the line to start the final lap, IAM and Ag2r had taken over but the sprint trains were now jostling for position. With the gap being 20 seconds, Belkin and Lotto Belisol were fighting hard for control but it was the Dutch team that came out on top.

 

With 3km to go, Katusha hit the front with Vladimir Isaychev leading the Russian team and they were now breathing down the neck of the escapees. In the final U-turn just 1.6km from the line, it was over for the break and all was set for a big bunch sprint.

 

Bazzana makes a move

However, Bazzana refused to give up and out of the turn, he launched another attack. He quickly opened up a bag gap while Burghardt set off in pursuit.

 

For a moment, it seemed that Bazzana could make the surprise but by now the Lotto Belisol train had taken control. The Belgian reeled in the escapees and when Marcel Sieberg opened his sprint for Lotto, all appeared to be a copy of yesterday's sprint.

 

However, Mørkøv made the surprise by powering down the right-hand side, delivering Bennati in the perfect position. Demare was well-placed just behind and the Frenchman was the one to capitalize from the lead-out, taking his second win at the Doha Corniche.

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