Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick-step) took his fourth consecutive stage of the Tour of Qatar to wrap up overall victory and claim only the second stage race of his professional career.
In terms of the competition and the prestige, however, Qatar ranks higher than his previous win, at last year’s Ster ZLM. There, Cavendish was a lean climbing machine and didn’t win any stages as he built towards the London Olympics.
Here in Qatar, Cavendish has been back to his very best. Together with his win at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina, he now has six victories in 2013, his best haul so early in the season, and a testament to his form, which appears even better than 2009, when he won Milan-San Remo.
He has been talking down his prospects for a second San Remo, but he was similarly dismissisive of his chances of winning the overall in Qatar for most of the race. It was only on the eve of the final stage that he finally admitted the possibility.
And on the Corniche in Doha, after a short final stage, he finished in style by once again emerging at the front to claim the win by a wheel from Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r) with young Dutchman Barry Markus (Vacansoleil) third, fellow Brit Adam Blythe fourth and his BMC teammate Taylor Phinney fifth. Phinney and Blythe finished third and fourth overall, with another BMC rider, Brent Bookwalter, second.
The stage was not quite incident-free for Cavendish, who crashed after 15km. He suffered cuts and grazes to his elbow and knee and was patched up after the stage, but he admitted he had no idea what caused it.
“I said this morning that I’ve won this stage and crashed heavily [last year] and I came off again,” he said. “I don’t know what happened, but it’s bike racing. Someone has to fall off.
“I’m over the moon,” Cavendish continued. “The team comes here every year with Tom Boonen and they’re almost guaranteed the overall. It’s more difficult for me, but I’m really happy; the guys worked incredibly, they really looked after me. I’m so, so pleased and very proud.”
Tour of Qatar 2013, stage six: Sealine Beach Resort to Doha Corniche, 116km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
2. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Ag2r
3. Barry Markus (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
4. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing
5. Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing
6. Kenny Van Hummel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
8. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Sky
9. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ
10. Guillaume Boivin (Can) Cannondale all same time
Final overall classification
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 15-55-20
2. Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing at 25 secs
3. Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing at 26 secs
4. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing at 30 secs
5. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Sky at 32 secs
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 32 secs
7. Michael Schar (Swi) BMC Racing at 35 secs
8. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky at 39 secs
9. Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky at 40 secs
10. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 40 secs
Tour of Qatar 2013: Related links
Stage five: Cavendish makes it three in a row
Stage four: Cavendish sprints into race lead
Stage three: Mark Cavendish takes bunch sprint
Stage two: BMC win team time trial
Stage one: Brent Bookwalter wins Tour of Qatar opener
Tour of Qatar 2013: Preview and coverage