Team Effort Sets up Boonen For Sprint Victory
Four Omega Pharma - Quick Step Cycling Team riders made a substantial and strong breakaway at Tour of Qatar Stage 4. Three of those riders, Nikolas Maes, Tom Boonen and Gert Steegmans, stayed at the front when that large front group split with a little more than 19 km to go. The team's aggressiveness allowed Boonen prime position for a sprint victory on Wednesday.
Steegmans worked tremendously hard at the front to keep general classification (GC) leader Boonen in perfect position in the group. Steegmans also helped push a pace that eventually ballooned the front group's gap over the peloton to a minute and 10 seconds with less than 5 km to go.
That's when two riders — Radioshack-Nissan rider Fabian Cancellara and BMC Racing Team rider Adam Blythe — attacked the front group. They had a small gap, until Steegmans helped Boonen and Maes bridge. Another Team Sky rider bridged with them, but it was clear the numbers were favorable to Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team with 2 km remaining.
As the riders approached the final meters, Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team pushed the pace. However, Cancellara had ideas of his own and began his sprint early.
Boonen, who was second wheel in the group, saw Fabian's move and immediately countered with his own sprint.
Boonen rode away from the group at that point, crossing the finish line with several bike lengths between he and the others. He still threw his bike across the line, knowing time was of importance with his gold leader's jersey on his back.
Boonen also earned time bonuses in the break. Because of his victory, the time bonuses, and second place GC contender Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda)puncturing and losing the initial large breakaway, Boonen now has a 31 second overall lead.
Steegmans finished 5th, and Maes 6th. Matthew Brammeier was the fourth rider who made the original break.
Steegmans is 4th in the GC, 36 seconds back.