Tom Boonen comfortably won the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar in a bunch kick on Sunday afternoon, ahead of Britain’s Adam Blythe (BMC Racing) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
It came after a virtuouso leadout from Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates Gert Steegmans and Francesco Chicchi.
“It was a little bit hard today… I only just arrived from Argentina. But I was feeling better and better during the stage and happy to finish with the victory,” Boonen told journalists at the finish.
A three-time Tour of Qatar winner, Boonen had a poor 2011 season, beset by injuries and bad luck.
However, this counts as the second win of the year for the Belgian, after claiming the final stage at the Tour de San Luis. “I’m already at a good level,” he said.
Blythe pushes Boonen close
Young British sprinter Adam Blythe (BMC Racing Team) donned the leading young rider’s jersey after his second place finish, unable to come out of Boonen’s wheel.
“I wasn’t sure of my form after Down Under, I was a bit demoralised after that,” Blythe said.
“I’m happy with second. I had to go with 400 metres to go just to move position, which took my initial kick away and I was dying towards the end.”
Appollonio takes over Sky sprint duty
After catching a fever after Friday’s flight to Doha, world champion Mark Cavendish started his first race for Team Sky, but did not contest the sprint.
Responsibility fell on the shoulders of understudy Davide Appollonio. Team Sky drove the bunch into the final kilometre, and Appollonio went on to finish eighth.
“Cavendish and I talked, and he said that I could try because he didn’t feel so good. They did the perfect work, I didn’t follow them very well. It was a good experience for the next days,” Appollonio told CW at the finish.
However, gaining two seconds in the second intermediate sprint means that the young Italian could yet move into the race lead should Sky enjoy a strong team time trial tomorrow.
The second stage is an 11.3-kilometre TTT around the Lusail cycling circuit.
Teams are separated by three minute intervals; Omega Pharma-Quick Step is the last team off at 1545 AST (1245 GMT).
Tour of Qatar 2012 stage one: Barzan Towers – College of the North Atlantic, 141.5km
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 3-11-32
2. Adam Blythe (Gbr) BMC Racing Team
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
4. Tyler Farrar (Usa) Garmin-Barracuda
5. Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
6. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
8. Davide Appollonio (Ita) Team Sky
9. Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
10. Robert Wagner (Ger) Radioshack-Nissan all at same time
31. Ian Stannard (Gbr) Team Sky
49. Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Team Sky
66. David McCann (Irl) RTS Racing Team
94. Alex Coutts (Gbr) RTS Racing Team
97. Lee Rodgers (Gbr) RTS Racing Team
99. Matt Brammeier (Irl) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
105. Jeremy Hunt (Gbr) Team Sky all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 3-11-22
2. Adam Blythe (Gbr) BMC Racing Team at 4secs
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale at 6secs
4. Tyler Farrar (Usa) Garmin-Barracuda at 7secs
5. Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto-Belisol
6. Davide Appollonio (Ita) Team Sky at 8secs
7. Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha
8. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank at 9secs
9. Nikolas Maes (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
10. Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 10secs
Stage one crash
Strong winds played their part in shaping the race
Brits Ian Stannard, Adam Blythe and Jeremy Hunt. Blythe went on to finish second
Mark Cavendish was recovering from illness and didn’t contest the sprint
Tom Boonen wins
Tom Boonen on the podium