Under-23 world road race champion Arnaud Démare (FDJ-Big Mat) took his first ever professional victory in the final stage of the Tour of Qatar on Friday, as Mark Cavendish (Sky) fell heavily in the race for the line.
Cavendish tangled innocuously with Roger Kluge (1T4i) within the final 200 metres and, despite his best attempts to stay upright, hit the ground hard.
Up front, Demare took advantage of an unorganised peloton to win, while Tom Boonen secured the overall victory in the race for the fourth time.
Finishing at full tilt
The Tour of Qatar ended at full tilt. Though the 120-kilometre final stage, which takes the bunch for circuits of central Doha, is based loosely on the Tour equivalent in Paris, this was anything but processional.
Crashes were the order of the final day in Qatar: race leader Tom Boonen had a minor off in the opening hundred metres, while Cavendish was left dazed by his late tumble.
Even the van transporting race press got in on the action, driving into a car on the way to the start at the Sealine Beach Resort.
The tailwind and fight for bonus seconds saw virtually half the stage’s distance covered in the first hour.
The day’s escape returned on the circuits of Doha, leading to another hectic bunch sprint.
Cav goes down
As Cavendish launched his sprint next to Roger Kluge, the pair appeared to go for the same gap.
Cavendish bounced off the German, but hit the deck after touching the back wheel of Tyler Farrar, in front. The Briton sustained cuts and abrasions; afterwards, Kluge played down the incident.
In front, French first-year pro Arnaud Demare carved a path ahead of the chaos for his maiden professional win.
Meanwhile, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) stayed out of trouble to win his fourth Tour of Qatar title.
Chaos in Qatar
There’s a simple reason for why the sprints in Qatar are so unhinged.
“This is the only race in the world where nobody can get a leadout going,” Team Sky rider Jeremy Hunt said at the finish. “There’s so much wind and so many small teams.”
Feverish on the eve of the race, Cavendish’s week may have started and finished with him on the sickbed.
But his two stage victories and strong riding mean it can still be called a good start to the year. On to the Tour of Oman, which starts on Tuesday, for the world champion.
“He’s still the fastest sprinter in the world by far – if he doesn’t fall off,” Hunt added wryly.
Tour of Qatar 2012, stage six: Sealine Beach Resort to Doha, 120 kilometres
1. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
2. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
3. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank
4. Roger Kluge (Ger) Project 14ti
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
6. Tyler Farrar (Usa) Garmin-Barracuda
7. Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
8. Allan Davis (Aus) GreenEdge
9. Aaron Kemps (Aus) Champion System
10. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
15. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
29. Adam Blythe (Gbr) Lotto-Belsiol
34. David McCann (Irl) RTS Racing Team
58. Lee Rodgers (Gbr) RTS Racing Team all at same time
97. Jeremy Hunt (Gbr) Team Sky at 1-26
98. Ian Stannard (Gbr) Team Sky
103. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky at 1-48
104. Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Team Sky
108. Alex Coutts (Gbr) RTS Racing Team at 2-12
109. Matt Brammeier (Irl) Omega Pharma-Quick Step at 5-58
Final general classification
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 15-42-14
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda at 28secs
3. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Sky at 33secs
4. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 34secs
5. Tom Veelers (Ned) Project 1t4i at 1-00
6. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky at 1-05
7. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan at 1-06
8. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Barracuda at 1-09
9. Aidis Kruopis (Ltu) GreenEdge at 1-10
10. Adam Blythe (Gbr) BMC Racing Team at 1-14
Arnaud Demare celebrates the stage win
Tom Boonen celebrates the overall win
A bruised Cavendish after finishing the stage
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Tour of Qatar 2012: Stage reports
All stage reports by Andy McGrath
Stage six: Cavendish crashes in Qatar as Demaure takes first pro victory
Stage five: Cavendish wins again in Qatar
Stage four: Boonen wins as crosswinds dramatically split race
Stage three: Cavendish takes first win in rainbow jersey
Stage two: Garmin-Barracuda claim Qatar TTT
Stage one: Boonen denies Blythe in Qatar
Tour of Qatar 2012: Photo galleries
All galleries by Graham Watson
Tour of Qatar 2012 stage six photo gallery
Tour of Qatar 2012 stage five photo gallery
Tour of Qatar 2012 stage four photo gallery
Tour of Qatar 2012 stage three photo gallery
Tour of Qatar 2012 stage two photo gallery
Tour of Qatar 2012 stage one photo gallery
Tour of Qatar 2012: Coverage index – links to all Qatar news, race reports and galleries