Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky were present in force in the decisive front group of stage four of the Tour of Qatar on Thursday, but despite a strong collective ride, the win eventually went to HTC-Highroad fastman Mark Renshaw in a bunch sprint.
“It wasn’t the easiest of wins, I was on [Leopard-Trek's Daniele] Bennati’s wheel, which was perfect and had a bit of tussle with [Quick Step's Tom] Boonen, but it worked out fine in the end,” Renshaw said.
“Tomorrow will be tricky, probably very nervous, and there’s no way I’m saying I’ve won this until I’ve crossed the final finish line.”
“But I’m feeling good, I’ve been training hard all winter and this is an opportunity I’m not going to let go by.”
Bradley Wiggins was pleased both with Sky’s collective performance, with six team-mates in the front group as well as his late attack in the stage. The Briton’s last international road-race win not in a time trial* dates from the Tour de L’Avenir back in 2005, but today’s move could have changed that.
“It was a brilliant team effort today, we took the initiative with five kilometres to go in the gutter there and put them in trouble a bit more,” Wiggins said.
“I jumped away with 1.5 kilometres to go, [Qatar prologue winner Lars] Boom [Rabobank] came with me, but I ran out of legs.”
“It didn’t feel massively windy today, but you don’t need a lot for it to make a difference. A lot of the guys are tired. This is a really hard race.”
“I will say, without having the radios, you’re having to think more, communicate more, and we took the initiative without waiting for orders and that’s quite good.”
The race overall now comes down to the final sprint, with former leader Heinrich Haussler expecting that HTC-Highroad will let a break go to try and soak up the bonus seconds on offer and maintain the status quo.
“It’s a little bit disappointing, but I really didn’t have the legs, we rode really well but I didn’t have the legs,” said Haussler. “In the last kilometre I just didn’t have the power.”
“There’s very little time between us and hopefully it’ll come down to a sprint tomorrow, although I expect HTC will be happy to see some guys go clear. Maybe we can do something special, win the stage.”
“But in any case we’ve got two stages, we’re the strongest team, so we can be pleased with what we achieved.”
As Renshaw said yesterday, the sprint duels between the two Australians stretches right the way back to when they were ten years old and fighting it out in junior championships events Down Under. 18 years on, the battle continues.
* Wiggins won the Jayco Herald Sun Tour stage race overall in 2009 after winning the individual time trial stage
Tour of Qatar 2011: Related links
Stage four: Renshaw takes win and overall lead
Tour of Qatar 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
Bradley Wiggins: Rider Profile