Heinrich Haussler’s second straight win in the Tour of Qatar has earned him the overall lead, his first in three years, but with times tight at the top overall victory is far from guaranteed for the Australian.
“It’s a great result, but the general classification is not sorted by any means,” Roger Hammond, Haussler’s team-mate at Garmin-Cérvelo, said.
“Look at what happened to Tom Boonen (Quick Step) with that puncture. Qatar’s never a predictable race and [Mark] Renshaw [HTC-Highroad] is very close behind. Everybody thought it was over yesterday and then today proved them wrong. It’s not over until the finish line in Doha.”
“Today it was splitting and coming back together all day long. On a three-sided circuit like that, one side was tail-cross, one side was head-cross, and one was block headwind. So nobody wants to ride in the block headwind and it kept splitting on the crosswinds and then coming back together again.”
“I didn’t realise that Boonen had gone about 20 kilometres from the end. I did notice something a bit strange because when Boonen’s in the front group, he never misses a turn. Before that, he’d never missed a turn all week, and I thought ‘that’s a bit odd’, and then somebody told me he punctured.”
“There was a really nasty bit of unpaved road just before the crosswinds, too. You just had to give it full gas and hope you didn’t hit the hole.”
“The great news is that we’re doing well as a team, performing well, and I’m doing well, too. I was sick last week, just a cold, but I’m getting better and this is a good sign.”
Reacting to the news about Ricardo Ricco’s illness related to a bad blood transfusion, Hammond added “I really, really hope it sends out a very big signal to managers. It’s not Ricco, he’s an idiot, he always will be an idiot, but people with teams are the ones with the brains.”
“Cycling is learning, it’s evolving and what everybody has to do is take the lessons from what’s happened and move on.”
Great Britain had four riders present in the front move for most of the final part of the stage – Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad), Jeremy Hunt (Sky), Ian Stannard (Sky), who punctured, and Hammond. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) also rode strongly, but broke his front wheel in a bad rut.
“It split when we went right, there were 25 of us and I got blown out,” Hunt said, “then we worked hard to get back, got back, then we came into the right hander again, I kept going.”
“I was really tired by the finish, but I was happy. I’ve been up there twice now on the two stages where there were echelons, so that’s good.”
Cavendish was pleased that he was still in good shape, and worked his way back to the front group from the second group to work for Renshaw. But Cavendish was also annoyed that being squeezed out late on from the front echelon through no fault of his own meant that Renshaw only had one team-mate with him – Bernhard Eisel – to lead him out.
As for the overall classification, with Boonen gone, Renshaw added, “It’s one less guy in front of me.”
“Obviously I’m really disappointed I couldn’t win the stage, Eisel set me up perfectly, but Haussler timed it well, I went too early and gave him the perfect run.”
“I think it’ll go down to the bonus seconds, I picked three up today, so I’d love to try and beat Haussler.”
Russ Downing (Sky) made it into an early break along with Britain’s Andrew Fenn (An Post), which was only caught after 72 kilometres, around 100 kilometres into the stage.
“I got in the second breakaway as well when it went away again and then it split behind and the front group came past us and I was in it” Downing said. “Then a guy let the wheel go and that was it, game over, I went back to Tom Boonen’s group then.”
“It would have been nice to be in two breaks and then get in the front group, but in any case it was an epic day.”
“It was hard on the front, but fun, riding through the little tornadoes of sand. I’ve just taken my shoes off and it was like I’d been on Cleethorpes beach!”
Tour of Qatar 2011 stage three: Haussler takes control