Boonen Easily Defends Leader's jersey
Tom Boonen may have been boxed in within the final 1.3 km of Tour of Qatar Stage 5, but he easily defended his gold leader's jersey in a bunch sprint finish on Thursday. He finished close enough to the front where he considered going for the stage victory.
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team worked hard for the entire 160km race, in which two riders escaped but were pulled back within the final 15-20km. However, as the final kilometers approached, chaos erupted in the peloton. Riders were spread out across the road, leadout trains fought for position, and Boonen and his leadout Gert Steegmans calmly held their ground.
Unfortunately, the narrow roundabout prevented Boonen from moving up close enough to contest an eventual winning sprint by world champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky).
Boonen maintains his general classification (GC) lead, and the final stage of Qatar is Friday. Steegmans will also remain in GC contention, as he was 36 seconds back from Boonen going into stage 5 and he finished at or near the front in stage 6.
"Tom didn't take risks at the sprint because he's thinking about the GC," Sports Director Wilfried Peeters said. "The team managed to control the race perfectly. Same for Francesco Chicchi, who was pedaling very well. Today could be his stage. Tomorrow is the last effort to try to win the race. If Boonen wins the GC I think it's his 4th victory in the Tour of Qatar.
Francesco Chicchi did not start the race on Thursday because he was ill with fever. Matthew Brammeier was seen working hard at the front on stage 5 to help pull back the two rider breakaway, but Frantisek Rabon and Stijn Vandenbergh also worked with Brammeier throughout the race to protect Boonen's GC lead.
Video courtesy of Eurosport