Tour of Qatar Stage 2: Boonen Top 5 Out of the Echelon
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Tom Boonen finished 5th in the 194km 2nd Stage of Tour of Qatar, making a front echeleon in a day of crosswinds and exceptionally fast racing.
Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) won the stage. Andrea Guardini (Astana) was 2nd, and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) was 3rd.
The peloton averaged 54.4km/h in the first two hours of racing, putting the race far ahead of schedule. The race split apart more than once, with Etixx - Quick-Step putting four riders in the front 25 the first time crosswinds splintered the peloton. But the groups came back together at the 50km mark.
However, a group of five riders quickly attacked, and then it was Tom Boonen who again split the peloton apart, taking the lead and pushing the pace after a curve on the right. The front group had an advantage of 1'40" to the Boonen group, and 2'15" to a group that included Marcel Kittel (Giant Alpecin), with 65km to go in the stage.
There were 35 riders in the first echelon, including Boonen, Niki Terpstra the 2014 race winner, Nikolas Maes, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, and Stijn Vandenbergh. Boonen and Maes also went 1-2 in an intermediate sprint.
Eventually that front group caught the leaders, and was down to 15 riders including Maes, Boonen, and Terpstra. Their gap to the chasing group was decreasing, but they were able to stay away and decide the stage that finished in Al Khor Corniche.
Boonen now trails Kristoff in the GC by a second, but remains the points leader (21). Terpstra is now 5th GC, 8" down.
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to a 10.9km ITT in Lusail on Tuesday.
"Today was a windy stage, but there was also a lot of sand blowing with the wind," Boonen said. "It was a sand storm at the start. The conditions were heavy and there were also a lot of kilometers to cover. It was a long, hard day and at the end it was a very demanding race. We controlled well and I think in the end, with three guys in the 15 who decided the stage, I think the situation wasn't bad at all. But with how demanding the race was I think we were all a bit tired in the end. Kristoff deserved the win today. The guy with a little bit in the reserves won. I'll do my best in the time trial tomorrow, even if it doesn't suit my skills. Niki Terpstra is also close in the GC and think the defending overall winner can be a factor again this year."