Tom Boonen (Quick Step) sprinted to win the opening road stage of the 2011 Tour of Qatar in Al Khor Corniche on Monday, his 18th stage win in the race, and took the overall lead.
Characteristic Qatari crosswinds whipped the bunch to pieces, allowing a large and star-studded escape group to gain a solid advantage over the main bunch containing prologue winner and race leader Lars Boom (Rabobank).
Boonen, Gert Steegmans (Quick Step), Graeme Brown (Rabobank), Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek), Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad), Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky), Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek), Jeremy Hunt (Team Sky), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Roger Hammond (Garmin-Cervelo) were all present in the sprinter-heavy breakaway.
Triple Tour of Qatar winner Boonen went out early in the final 500 metres, catching his fellow fastmen by surprise. Haussler followed Boonen home to take second, with Renshaw third. Brit Hammond finished in eighth spot.
Boom came across the line in the main bunch some five minutes adrift of the leaders, his performance not helped by a stomach upset. Boonen took over from Boom at the top of the leader board. The Belgian leads second-placed Renshaw by four seconds, with Cancellara slipping from second overall to third, at eight seconds.
Boonen previously won the Tour of Qatar in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) sat in the second of the two groups behind the leaders, still suffering from injuries sustained as a result of a crash during the prologue. The Manxman finished 12-30 down on Boonen.
Hunt is now Britain’s highest placed rider in the general classification in ninth. Alex Dowsett, who started the stage as best young rider after finishing fifth in the prologue, lost contact with the second group on the road to finish in the same bunch as Cavendish, 12-30 down.
On Tuesday, the riders face the second road stage in the six-day race, a 135.5km trip from Camel Race Track to Doha Golf Club. The race concludes on Friday, February 11.
Tour of Qatar 2011, stage one: Dukhan to Al Khor Corniche, 145.5km
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
2. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Cervelo
3. Mark Renshaw (Aus) HTC-Highroad
4. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard-Trek
5. Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
6. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Team Sky
7. Dominique Rollin (Can) Francaise des Jeux
8. Roger Hammond (GB) Garmin-Cervelo
9. Andreas Klier (Ger) Garmin-Cervelo
10. Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Leopard-Trek all same time
12. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Team Sky at same time
31. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 5-01
33. Ian Stannard (GB) Team Sky at 5-01
40. Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank at 5-01
76. Mark McNally (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly at 12-30
80. Matt Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad at 12-30
81. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad at 12-30
84. Andrew Fenn (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly at 12-30
85. Russell Downing (GB) Team Sky at 12-30
89. Alex Dowsett (GB) Team Sky at 12-30
90. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at 12-30
Overall classification after stage one
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
2. Mark Renshaw (Aus) HTC-Highroad at 4secs
3. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard-Trek at 8secs
4. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Team Sky at 9secs
5. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Cervelo at 11secs
6. Daniele Bennai (Ita) Leopard-Trek at 16secs
7. Andreas Klier (Ger) Garmin-Cervelo at 16secs
8. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step at 17secs
9. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Team Sky at 19secs
10. Dominique Rollin (Can) Francaise des Jeux at 19secs
Lars Boom succumbed to a stomach upset and lost the race lead
Heinrich Haussler, Fabian Cancellara, Daniele Bennati and Stuart O’Grady in the break
Briton Jeremy Hunt and Sky team-mate Juan Antonio Flecha
Tom Boonen wins
Tom Boonen takes the lead