Jeremy Hunt (Sky) and Roger Hammond (Garmin-Cervélo) made big inroads into the overall classification of the Tour of Qatar after taking part in the 18-rider day-long echelon/break that decided the stage.
For Hammond, the Al-Khor peninsula finish brought back good memories – it was here he won a stage of Qatar back in 2009 – and Britain’s top cobbled Classics rider was satisfied with his efforts, which saw him take eighth on the stage and move to 13th place overall, up from 72nd.
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“It wasn’t easy, the group behind us never gave up. We had to work hard and it was really fast, there were times when we doing 32 or 33 kmh into a block head wind,” Hammond said.
“There were so many people from so many teams, that even though there were five of us from my team that made it difficult to try anything at the end.”
“When it came down to 50 seconds it was a bit of a wake-up call and we all started working. But the whole break had a collective interest in staying away, it worked out and that’s what matters.”
Hunt also moved into ninth overall and twelfth on the stage, and finished stiff and sore but pleased
“It was really fast, there was a tail-cross wind early on. We went down a hill, doing 73kmh and it just went away.”
“The first 20 minutes I thought I was going to blow, but after that my legs relaxed a bit and did okay. Everyone was giving their bit, which made a difference.”
“When I went to sprint, Roger [Hammond] led out [Cervelo-Garmin rider Heinrich] Haussler really well and I followed them, but then I had a bit of a bump with someone and that was it. I’m not that strong yet to do that and then sprint.”
World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek), also in the front group, seemed to be exhausted as he slumped on the boot of a team car swigging a chocolate energy drink.
“I got lucky, otherwise I’d have been out the back from the start. It’s the first time I’ve ever been in an echelon, all-out, right from the start of a stage.”
“That was really hard, to be honest I haven’t seen anything like this in my life. There wasn’t any attacking at the end, everybody was kaput. Three hours full on for my first road stage in my first race of the year isn’t bad.”
Cancellara had words about the ongoing race radio controversy, saying it was “pretty rough without the communication with the team cars. You could see that today. I’m pro-radio.”
Boonen on the other hand was over the moon about the 18th Tour of Qatar stage win of his career, as well as taking the lead and the points jersey. “This win has been a long time coming, and I needed it,” he said afterwards.
“It was a very hard stage but a victory here proves I’m back where I want to be.”
Whilst Alex Dowsett (Sky) lost the best young rider’s jersey he’d taken in the prologue after losing contact with the front group, around 25 kilometres into the stage when a rider ahead of him in the front echelon sat up, exhausted, Dan Lloyd (Garmin-Cervelo) had a bad fall mid-way through. He managed to finish, but had a nasty series of cuts, bruises and road rashes all the way down his left side.