Tom Boonen took the 15th stage of his career in the Tour of Qatar on Tuesday, ousting Briton Roger Hammond from the overall lead. Mark Cavendish punctured close to the finish, preventing him from taking part in the sprint.
For Boonen a bunch sprint victory was the second high point of the day, after his team told him mid-stage that the court case against him in Belgium over alleged cocaine use had been dropped.
?My season starts now,? Boonen told reporters in the finish outside Doha Golf Club when asked about what it meant to have the case close.
?It was a very tough sprint with strong winds again for the whole stage, but my morale is good and I had two team-mates, not one, for me in the final rush for the line.?
Just like in the previous stage, strong winds split the bunch apart in the final 50 kilometres, with Cervélo managing to place all eight of their riders in the front group , amongst them British race leader Roger Hammond. Quick Step had three and Columbia, including Mark Cavendish, another trio.
Cervelo tried similar moves to yesterday, breaking away in the last kilometres, but after Monday's mass attack Quick Step were able to keep them more under control.
Finally Boonen went for a long sprint for the line, comfortably outstripping Danilo Napolitano for his first victory of 2009.
?There was a block tailwind and a break went but then the bunch came back together,? Cervélo?s Dan Lloyd told Cycling Weekly.
?It split again, though but we had the whole team in the front group of about 25, doing 65 kilometres or 70 kilometres as we came towards the finish.?
?[Team-mate] Jeremy [Hunt] had a go, then another two but it was clear to be a bunch sprint and I tried to sit in the wind for Roger, but it was a bit tricky.?
?It was really good, we got the whole team up there, which is a great result,? Hammond added.
?We had a go, fired some guys up the road. We profited yesterday [Monday] with seven guys in the move but paid a little bit today 'cos everyone from Cervélo?s a bit more tired than the guys who sat in the 20 minute group on Monday. So no complaints.?
For the second day running, bad luck left Cavendish out of the running despite making it into the front group of some 25 riders.
On Monday he was caught out when a rider sat up just ahead of him in the front echelon and a gap opening in the gale-force winds and on Tuesday he punctured two kilometres from the line. But on Wednesday's stage, as flat as ever in Qatar, Cavendish will surely have another chance.
Tour of Qatar stage three, Al Zubarah ? Doha Golf Club, 140.5km
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step in 2-34-53
2. Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Katusha
3. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto
4. Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervélo
5. Angelo Furlan (Ita) Lampre
6. Roger Hammond (GB) Cervélo
7. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
8. Markus Zberg (Swi) BMC
9. Robert Wagner (Ger) Skil-Shimano
10. Martin Reimer (Ger) Cervélo
13. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervélo all same time
25. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervélo at 28sec
26. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad (awarded same time as winner, after puncture in last three kilometres)
69. Ben Swift (GB) Katusha at 7-36
104. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin at 12-14
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 6-14-16
2. Roger Hammond (GB) Cervélo at 6sec
3. Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervélo at 14sec
4. Andreas Klier (Ger) Cervélo at 18sec
5. Steven De Jongh (Bel) Quick Step same time
6. Angelo Furlan (Ita) Lampre at 21sec
7. Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervélo
8. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervélo all same time
9. Vicente Reynes (Spa) Columbia-Highroad at 48sec
10. Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre at 1-01
14. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 2-27
21. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervélo at 2-56
82. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin at 19-03
112. Ben Swift (GB) Katusha at 28-57
Tom Boonen will not face cocaine trial
Stage two: Hammond takes first win in three years
Wiggins leads Qatar after Garmin take opening team time trial
Tour of Qatar 2009 preview
Cycling Weekly's list of all-time British pro winners
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