Tour of Qatar Stage 2: Boonen Gets 21st Victory in Qatar After Textbook Race in the Wind
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team played their strengths to perfection in the 160.5km Stage 2 of Tour of Qatar, shattering the field to pieces in the wind, putting all their riders in the front group to chase down the breakaway, and making sure Tom Boonen was in perfect position to go for his 21st career victory.
The team worked hard and pulled the breakaway back in the last kilometers, and also chased down an attacking Lars Boom of Belkin Pro Cycling Team. Boonen's sprint to the finish was so strong he left a considerable gap to the 2nd and 3rd place finishers, Michael Morkov (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol). Despite winning with multiple bike lengths of an advantage, Boonen still made sure he sprinted all the way to the line, and even added a bike throw for good measure.
"I always sprint to the line, because a few years ago I was beaten by a certain guy named Mark Cavendish at Scheldeprijs," Boonen said with a smile. "I didn't sprint to the line then. So, from that day on, I sprint until the last centimeter."
OPQS also had three riders finish in the top 10 for the second straight day: Andrew Fenn in 4th and GC leader Niki Terpstra in 7th. Terpstra kept the GC lead, having also fought for crucial intermediate sprint points throughout the stage. Fenn, with his 4th place finish, now wears the white jersey for best young rider.
This was the 4th win, in three disciplines, in 2014 for OPQS.
OPQS will once again work hard for a top finish at Tour of Qatar on Tuesday.
"I am really happy about this result," Boonen said. "This race always brings me luck. It's only the second race after Tour de San Luis and I already have a victory. So I am happy about it especially after a stage like today, a stage that was really hard. From the beginning we went full gas together with Tinkoff and Sky, and we created an immediate action. We went away with about 20 guys, including eight guys of our team. So with that many riders in the group we kept riding during the stage. We only thought about riding, and not the sprint. At 5km to more or less I was talking with Nikolas Maes to try and organize a sprint when I suddenly I hit a hole in the road. My saddle went down about 4cm, and was pointing downward. I broke also my wheels. I was super lucky that I didn't have a flat tire or crash. But at that point it was too late to think about it or change the bike. I only thought about going fast for the sprint, not thinking about what could happen. There's always something at Tour of Qatar to make this race hard — the wind, or an accident for example. So, considering that I am thrilled with this victory."
Boonen gave much credit to the hard work of his teammates throughout the stage.
"I'm especially happy for the team, we won two races in two days which is important for the morale," Boonen said. "Tomorrow there is a time trial, and we will see. Niki is in the lead, and of course it would be nice to be there in the top five tomorrow with Niki and maybe someone else on the team. Because when you have more than one guy you can play a little bit tactically in the next stages. We will see. It's only a question to go full gas for 10 kilometers tomorrow and see the results at the end."
"Obviously we have Niki in the leader jersey and we're trying to keep him there. Tom knows the race and has won so many stages before, so we're looking for him for the sprint. Tom was so clever in the final, he was really going hard for the stage. I stayed with Niki and Tom won the stage, which was amazing! My thoughts for tomorrow are good. The team is showing up pretty strong as they have been constantly present in the front. Niki's a specialist in the time trial as well, which is good for his GC chances. Hopefully I'll try and put up a good performance. Riding on my Specialized Shiv is a big difference than the Specialized road bikes, but I think we've got a good team and can get good results tomorrow. As for my white jersey, of course the GC jersey is the most important and we'll do our best to keep that one and what happens after that is just a bonus!"
"We knew the last 60km would include a tailwind, which is really hard because the speed goes up until about 60km an hour. We had the team in front and went full throttle knowing this. We had to keep the pace up to keep the second group behind us, so we had to go full gas to stay in front. In the last kilometer we all pulled the sprint for Tom, and it's nice he could finish the job! For tomorrow I have no tactic really, it's just going from the start to the finish as fast as I can. I hope I can keep the jersey but it will be hard. I will try my best for a good result."