Despite losing the sprint for the final stage by the smallest of margins in Doha today, Mark Cavendish won the overall at the Tour of Qatar. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) secured second place on general classification, taking his third stage win by less than a tyre’s width from the Briton.
Cavendish’s stage one victory coupled with his performance in Wednesday’s time trial, was sufficient to secure overall victory for the second time, after winning in 2013 with Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
The Manxman had tipped team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen to win the general classification and that was on the cards until his untimely double puncture in yesterday’s stage. Though pleased with his win, Cavendish clearly felt his team mate deserved the victory.
“Of course the gold jersey should really be on the shoulders of Edvald,” he told reporters. “But Dimension Data’s got it anyway.
“It was a good week racing as a team,” the 30-year-old continued. “We put our team in the front and controlled the race, which was great for the new sponsors and it’s incredible to highlight the Quebeka charity.”
Cavendish wore the leader’s jersey for all but one day, wearing it after his stage one win which saw him blitz Kristoff in the sprint finish. From then on, however, it was the Katusha rider who dominated the sprints, though Cavendish was close on all but Thursday’s stage, when the Russian-registered Katusha team outnumbered Dimension Data four to one in the final.
Kristoff, who won last year’s Tour of Flanders, began today’s final stage just nine seconds down on Cavendish and, with bonus seconds available, some thought Kristoff may have tried to gain time on the gold jersey.
He was, however, riding for second place, telling us: “Yesterday you see everything can happen. But I did not think it was realistic because if we took seconds he would also take seconds. He’s usually even faster than me in these flat stages, so I was thinking it would be impossible unless he had some trouble.”
The finish-line photo showed just how little there was between the two sprinters, and as they finished it appeared as though neither knew who had won. “It was one of the closest [sprints] I have been in,” continued Kristoff. “I think Mark was a bit further in front of me, but maybe I have longer arms to throw the bike, so then I just beat him.”
Cavendish was typically more analytical: “We knew it was going to be fast and we wanted Edvald to go long for us, but Katusha had the same idea, so we got a bit mixed up. I knew they would leave a gap on the right for him to go, and I followed, though that was costly because I had to leave it a little bit late.
“He’s won three stages, it’s not like he’s going bad, it’s not like I’ve lost to anyone who’s not strong. We’re just happy to have the gold jersey.”
Cavendish has not yet finalised his programme, and told reporters he had not made a decision whether to make himself available for the the Track World Championships next month.
Tour of Qatar 2016, stage five: Sealine Beach Resort to Doha Corniche, 114km
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
3. Jans Roy (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
4. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
5. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18
7. Moreno Hofland (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
8. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
9. Andre Looij (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
10. Marco Canola (Ita) UnitedHealthcare all same time
Final general classification
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha at 5 secs
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 8 secs
4. Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing at 12 secs
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data at 25 secs
6. Soren Kragh Andersen (Den) Giant-Alpecin at 36 secs
7. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18 at 47 secs
8. Sven Erik Bystom (Nor) Katusha at 55 secs
9. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha at 56 secs
10. Michael Schar (Swi) BMC Racing at 1-04