Mark Cavendish (Sky) took his first win as world champion at the Tour of Qatar on Tuesday. The British sprinter came round an in-form Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) in the final metres after the bunch had split in crosswinds.
Cavendish's stage three win comes after a virus, picked up on the flight to the Middle East, put him out of contention on the first stage. Today he beat Boonen, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) and his old lead-out man Mark Renshaw (Rabobank).
The lead group of around 40 riders formed as the crosswinds split the peloton in the featureless Qatari desert.
Cavendish had just Juan Antonio Flecha and Bernhard Eisel for company, whereas Farrar and Boonen both had more team mates. Young Britain Adam Blythe (BMC Racing) also made it in to the lead group as he stayed close to team mate Philippe Gilbert.
Garmin-Barracuda raised the speed in the final kilometres, but it was Boonen who took the sprint on. The Belgian, building his form for the spring classics, jumped clear but Cavendish went with him. The Brit comfortably came round him in the final metres.
"I had to start, I knew Mark was there. I will try to beat him in the upcoming stages, everything is going good, I feel strong," Boonen told CW at the finish.
This is Cavendish's first win in the rainbow jersey of world champion. "It's incredibly special, I said I wanted to do the jersey proud," he said.
"You can never really get the season going till you get that first win under your belt. Hopefully I can get on a roll now."
Overall victory for Cav?
Cavendish now sits third overall, eight seconds behind Boonen. Can he win the race? "Yeah, if I get two more stage wins, I win the overall. You just don't know, you can't come through with ambitions over overall in this race," he told CW.
Cavendish looked to be back in rude form and health, but claimed to still be lacking power from his bout of illness on the eve of the race.
"I'm not at 100% power. I put 1560 watts out in that sprint, which is high for racing. I'm not on full cylinders yet - I only won by half a bike length," he said with a smile. "I thought I'd just jump past Tom quite easy, but he's going really good."
This was also the third win in three days for British riders after Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Andy Fenn took the first two days of racing in the Trofeo Majorca events.
Tour of Qatar 2012, stage three: Dukhan to Al Gharafa Stadium, 146.5km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky in 3-23-48
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
3. Aidis Kruopis (Ltu) GreenEdge
4. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank
5. John Degenkolb (Ger) Project 1t4i
6. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda
7. Rudiger Selig (Ger) Katusha
8. David Boucher (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
9. Robert Wagner (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan
10. Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr) Katusha all same time
11. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing at same time
Overall classification after stage three
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 6-47-49
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda at 6 secs
3. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky at 8 secs
4. Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Barracuda at 12 secs
5. Thomas Dekker (Ned) Garmin-Barracuda at 12 secs
6. Robert Hunter (RSA) Garmin-Barracuda at 12 secs
7. Mikhail Ignatyev (Rus) Katusha at 17 secs
8. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Sky at 18 secs
9. Rudiger Selig (Ger) Katusha at 18 secs
10. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing at 19 secs
Thomas Dekker leads the bunch
Race leader Tom Boonen at the head of the escape
Mark Cavendish takes his first victory in the rainbow jersey and for Sky
Mark Cavendish's stage win moves him up to third overall
Tom Boonen maintains the overall lead
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