Mark Renshaw has moved into the lead of the Tour of Qatar after winning the fourth stage into Al Kharaitiyat.
Just four seconds behind leader Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) before the start of the stage, the HTC-Highroad rider abandoned his usual role as lead-out man to contest the bunch sprint himself.
The Australian crossed the finish line comfortably ahead of Leopard-Trek’s Daniele Bennati and Quick Step’s Tom Boonen.
Haussler – winner of the previous two stages – finished in fourth place, just outside the time bonuses.
Thanks to the 10-second bonus he picked up for the stage win, Renshaw has now moved six seconds ahead of Haussler in the overall competition.
The race was once again ravaged by crosswinds today, the bunch splitting into echelons on the 153.5km north then south route.
By the finish, just 20-odd riders remained in contention.
After a big pull by Sky riders in the final 10km, team leader Bradley Wiggins launched an opportunistic flyer with just under 3km to go.
The British time trial champion was briefly joined by prologue winner Lars Boom (Rabobank) before Bernhard Eisel – working for Renshaw – pulled the rest of the group back up to him with 1.5km to go.
Brits Roger Hammond (Garmin-Cervelo) and Jeremy Hunt (Sky) were also in the front group and maintain top ten positions overall.
Friday’s final stage of the 2011 Tour of Qatar is a short 126.5km ride from Sealine Beach Resort to Doha Corniche.
Tour of Qatar 2011, stage four: West Bay Lagoon – Al Kharaitiyat 153.5km
1. Mark Rensahw (Aus) HTC-Highroad in 3-12-36
2. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard-Trek
3. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
4. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Cervelo
5. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
6. Roger Kluge (Ger) Skil-Shimano
7. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Team Sky
8. Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Astana
9. Roger Hammond (GB) Garmin-Cervelo
10. Greg van Avermaet all same time
Overall classification after stage four
1. Mark Renshaw (Aus) HTC-Highroad 12:47:00
2. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Cervelo at 6 secs
3. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard-Trek at 15secs
4. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Team Sky at 24secs
5. Roger Hammond (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at 36secs
6. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Team Sky at 37secs
7. Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Garmin-Cervelo at 40s
8. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) HTC-Highroad at 1-03
9. Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team at 1-31
10. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step at 1-33
Early escape group
Heinrich Haussler and DanielLloyd
Arvesen and Flecha
Mark Renshaw takes the win, and the overall lead
Tour of Qatar 2011: Related links
Tour of Qatar 2011 stage three: Haussler takes control
Tour of Qatar 2011: Latest news
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Hunt and Hammond move up in Qatar
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Tour of Qatar 2011: Stage reports
Stage three: Haussler takes control
Stage two: Haussler wins stage two
Stage one: Boonen wins opening road stage and takes lead
Prologue: Boom wins Tour of Qatar opener