It was day of drama and punctures at the 2016 Tour of Qatar today as race leader Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) lost his gold jersey after a late puncture, with team-mate Mark Cavendish regaining the overall top spot.
The race split on the final of four laps under the pressure of cross winds and an attack from LottoNL-Jumbo and, whilst Boasson Hagen made the front group, he punctured twice shortly after. By the time he was on a bike that worked, he was in a second bunch 40 seconds down.
The stage was won by Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), who sprinted to his second victory this week. Unable to sprint, Cavendish finished fifth, though he now leads the general classification by two seconds from BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet.
The stage, covering 189 km between Al Zubarah Fort and Madiant Al Shamal, began at at high speed, with 50 kilometres covered in the first hour. Though the road surface was generally good, the edges were littered with gravel and riders suffered an unusually high number of punctures.
After a number of early attacks were brought back a group of nine riders, including Briton Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), forced their way clear of the peloton.
The escape built a lead in excess of two minutes, though immediately after the first intermediate sprint, just before a section of cross winds, the gap began to tumble under the impetus of BMC.
The group were eventually caught at the feed station at the start of a large loop west of the finish town of Madinat Al Shamal. On this loop a further escape formed, again featuring McNally, who was joined by Preben van Hecke (Topsport-Vlaanderen) and Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r), both of whom had been in the earlier escape. With with Jesper Asselman (Roompot-Oranje Peloton) also present, the group, they were finally caught with only 11km to race.
Today’s drama sets up a thrilling final stage covering 114.5 km between Sealine Beach Resort and Doha Corniche. Stage winner Kristoff now sits in fourth place, just nine seconds behind Cavendish, who will need to be attentive with bonus seconds available on both intermediate sprints and at the finish.
Tour of Qatar 2016, stage four: Al Zubarah Fort to Madinat Al Shamal, 189km
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
3. Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Katusha
4. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18
5. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
6. Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing at same time
7. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha at 6 secs
8. Soren Kragh Andersen (Den) Giant-Alpecin at 8 secs
9. Moreno Hofland (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 9 secs
10. Michael Morkov (Den) Katusha at 9 secs
General classification after stage four
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 2 secs
3. Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing at 6 secs
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha at 9 secs
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data at 19 secs
6. Soren Kragh Andersen (Den) Giant-Alpecin at 30 secs
7. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18 at 41 secs
8. Sven Erik Bystrom (Nor) Katusha at 49 secs
9. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha at 50 secs
10. Michael Schar (Swi) BMC Racing at 58 secs
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.