Mark Cavendish (Sky) took his second victory of this year’s Tour of Qatar in Al Khor Corniche this afternoon.
Cavendish benefited from an impressive display of teamwork from Bernie Eisel and Juan Antonio Flecha in a frantic and messy finale, before beating Liquigas pair of Daniel Oss and Peter Sagan to the line.
“It’s nice to get the season off to a good start,” Cavendish told press at the finish. “It was very hectic; there was a bit of wind, but not enough to break it up. It left a big peloton at the finish, and everybody fancied their chances.”
“The wind wasn’t right to get a train going. It was just about staying up there: I had guys from my team keeping me there.”
Shredded nerves and lycra
Nerves were more fraught than usual in the 160-kilometre fifth stage – the longest of the tour – as riders jostled for position, wondering whether Omega Pharma-Quick Step would put the race in the gutter.
The tension eventually told: a crash with 40 kilometres to go took down several riders, including Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing Team) and Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini). Pozzato tried to continue, but was forced to abandon the race.
A five man breakaway went a few kilometres into the day’s racing. As the bunch hared down, Alexander Kuschynski (Katusha) and Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas-Cannondale) escaped for a bit more freedom.
After the chaotic finale, Cavendish prevailed. It was a markedly different dynamic and victory to his one on Tuesday: an edgy bunch of eighty riders rather than thirty and a more twisty finishing straight.
Cavendish had to pinball around various leadout trains before striking for home. Gaining ten bonus seconds, he also moved up to seventh overall.
The fast and nervous stage lent to a testy atmosphere at the finish – even over at winning camp Team Sky.
When asked who caused the chaos, Cavendish said: “Katusha. Always Katusha.”
“Other riders go out there, taking every risk. It’s like they don’t have family or friends,” Eisel said.
“Katusha have been trying to put us in a crosswind [echelon] for the last three days in a headwind, because they can’t read a map,” he said.
Race leader Tom Boonen finished in the peloton to consolidate his position at the top of the GC.
The Tour of Qatar concludes tomorrow afternoon with a 120km stage from Sealine Beach Resort to Doha Corniche.
Tour of Qatar 2012, stage five: Camel Race Track to Al Khor Corniche, 160km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky in 3-30-40
2. Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Project 1t4i
5. Rudiger Selig (Ger) Katusha
6. Allan Davis (Aus) GreenEdge
7. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
8. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Farnese Vini
9. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
10. Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto-Belisol all same time
Overall classification after stage five
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda at 31 secs
3. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Sky at 34 secs
4. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 36 secs
5. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Sky at 45 secs
6. Tom Veelers (Ned) Project 1t4i at 1-00
7. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky at 1-05
8. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan at 1-06
9. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Barracuda at 1-09
10. Aidis Kruopis (Ltu) GreenEdge at 1-10
11. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing at 1-14
Mark Cavendish takes his second stage win in the 2012 Tour of Qatar
Tom Boonen safely maintained the overall race lead