First it was Tom Boonen (Quick Step) on Monday, then it was Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) on Tuesday: the Tour of Qatar is fast turning into the Tour of the Comebacks, as for the second time in two days, a rider who had an injury-blighted second half of the 2010 season managed to snatch a morale-boosting victory.
Like Boonen, Haussler had suffered from knee injuries after he fell in the Tour de Suisse, but a close-run sprint victory against Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) on Tuesday’s stage two of the Tour of Qatar finally put the Australian’s lengthy win-drought to an end.
“My team was working hard all the way through and this was the best possible reward,” Haussler said.
“For the last 10 kilometres they kept me out of the wind and put me up there, and I had enough strength in the last kilometre to get on Bennati’s wheel. It was a perfect sprint.”
“This win’s definitely a weight off my shoulders ‘cos last year was a bit of a disaster. And I’ve had so many second places here, it’s good to get that victory. Now I’ll see if I can get the overall as well.”
“I was never in the lead, and I never had the possibility to win today,” race leader Boonen – sixth on the stage, and just a second ahead of Haussler overall – said.
“With 200 metres to go, my sprint was already finished, I needed to work a lot to get back in the last kilometre and a half, and basically that was it.”
Meanwhile Mark Cavendish is slowly but steadily regaining ground after his bad crash on Sunday’s opening prologue. The HTC-Highroad pro finished 12th on the stage.
“He tried to lead out Mark Renshaw, but there’s no point in taking risks at this point and the sprint was total chaos,” HTC-Highroad team manager Valerio Piva said.
“We’re pleased though, he’s much better today than yesterday and if he goes on progressing at this rate, he could be up for the sprint later on this week.”
Tour of Qatar 2011: Related links
Stage two report and results: Haussler wins
Tour of Qatar 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index