Team Sky took another small but significant step forwards on Thursday’s stage five of the Tour of Qatar, working hard to pull back a dangerous front echelon in the fast-moving final kilometres.
Cervelo’s Roger Hammond had an equally impressive day, getting in the front move and keeping in the action throughout.
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However, Cervélo failed to finish off the good work in a tricky final bunch sprint, with their top fastman Heinrich Haussler lacking a clear lead-out.
“We messed things up,” Cervelo’s Jeremy Hunt told Cycling Weekly afterwards.
“I was in the first group, but I dropped back, waiting for Heinrich, who was in the second and then we blew it in the sprint, we were all over the place.”
“I’m really annoyed,” Haussler added, “but it was my own fault.”
“[Cervelo team-mate] Theo [Bos] went from one side but I thought it would be better to go from the other and that was a real mistake.”
The echelon of around 15 riders almost stayed away but according to Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), there was a lack of real collaboration – with sprinter Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) in there, it was perhaps understandable.
Then Sky took a hand, with Bradley Wiggins part of the line of riders at the front of the second echelon working hard to try and pull the front group back.
“It was good to get involved and stuck in,” Wiggins said as he towelled himself down. “It’s taken us a few days to find our legs as a team but today went really well.”
“We were right on it when the race went into the corner [where the bunch split] and pulling right to the death.”
“We had to use everyone up to close that gap, inching and inching our way back and finally getting it.”
“There was me on the front there, [Sky team-mates] Russell [Downing], G [Geraint Thomas] and [Juan Antonio] Flecha plus a guy from Saxo Bank.”
“I was feeling good, and it was a good day for the team, but it takes a lot to be up there with guys like Boonen who are made for these kinds of races.”
Taking risks so early in the year would be futile for Wiggins, though, as he puts it “I’m erring on the side of caution because I don’t want to end my season here.”
“So I’m either right at the back or right at the front like when I decided to go for it today.”
“There was really good communication between the guys today,” added Sky team manager Scott Sunderland. “They all contributed to getting that break back today.”
“Edvald got a little bit caught on the gutter here for the sprint where the road narrowed and he was blocked in, but overall he’s doing well.”
Amongst those impressed by Sky’s work was Quick Step’s Tom Boonen, the stage winner.
“I thought it was over because the group went so fast, I thought there was no chance we would get them back. But we did.”
Boonen said, though, there was no way he would now win Qatar overall, given tomorrow is almost certain to come down to a bunch sprint.
“I’ll just have to congratulate Wouter [Mol, overall leader] for a fine victory. He got in the right break on that first road stage and he’s going to be a deserving winner.”
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Tour of Qatar 2010: Photo galleries
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2009 Tour of Qatar photo gallery
2010 UCI World Calendar: ProTour and Historic races
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