More motivated than ever after his 16th stage win in the Tour of Qatar on Tuesday, Quick Step’s Tom Boonen remains adamant that overall victory is still very much a possibility.
“I’m just waiting for the wind to get stronger again, just like it was on the first two stages,” Boonen, now 1-55 back, said after his win. “As soon as it does, we’ll be on the attack.”
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“Today it wasn’t really possible, but my time will come.”
Three times a winner in Qatar, Boonen said that victory in the Middle East’s premier race is not a special target for him, “it’s just that I’ve had a good winter’s training, I’ve got a good team, and it’s flat. I’m not going to get in the wrong echelon, either.”
Alex Dowsett (Trek-Livestrong) showed he’s quickly getting used to racing in top races like Qatar by getting into an early break of three.
Dowsett and two others, Sebastian Hinault (Ag2R) and Klaas Lodewijk (Topsport Vlaanderen) went up the road after just two kilometres, and although at one point their lead reached 55 seconds they were finally reeled in.
“It was a bit like stage two when that two-man break went, but this time the group held us at 10 or 15 seconds for what seemed like ages,” Dowsett told Cycling Weekly.
“I thought it was going to stick but there were cross-winds forecast and they weren’t going to let us get away.”
Team Sky came through the stage with no major misfortunes, although Russ Downing had a nasty encounter with a very large Qatar pothole early on.
“I went into a hole just when it was splitting a bit and we were lined out, I smashed my back wheel, it stopped me dead it was that bad and I thought I was going down but I stayed upright,” Downing said.
On a stage featuring some very rough road surfaces, Qatar policemen stood waving their arms to warn the bunch for some of the larger holes – but not, as Downing found out, all of them.
“It’s just as well I didn’t go down it, I’d have needed a ladder to get out,” Downing joked.
Later on, Downing was due to start a lead-out for team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen, but the Sky riders following Downing lost his wheel in the final kilometres.
“Edvald’s keen to see how it goes with the sprints, and it was a good try-out,” said team manager Scott Sunderland, “I’m happy, took, everybody got through unscathed, and they’ll all healthy and safe.”
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