With an official average speed of 56.816km per hour, the fourth stage of the 2014 Tour of Qatar could claim to be the fastest professional road race in history.
Won by Tom Boonen, a steady tailwind blew riders east from one side of the flat Gulf state to the other, and the big guns at Omega Pharma-Quickstep, Belkin and BMC revelled in the conditions.
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135km completed, they stopped the clock less than two and a half hours after they had begun.
There aren’t many Strava segments in Qatar (nor KOMs for that matter) but a fair few would have been shattered if there were.
The winner’s average speed was more than 8kmph faster than the average speed of the previous day’s winner, Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEdge), over a 10.9km time trial.
“That was one of the fastest stages I’ve ever been part of, both as a rider and a DS,” said Sky DS Servais Knaven on the team website.
“I have never seen a stage this fast,” added Trek Factory Racing DS Dirk Demol. “The fastest I ever saw was in the Tour of Spain, and that was 55kmh.
“Today was even faster – it was almost 57kmph. The first hour was more than 59kmph. That’s incredible! It was almost all day with a strong tailwind, and sometimes a tail crosswind, and from the gun it was full gas and echelons.”
The riders were so far ahead of schedule that the VIP buffet at the finish hadn’t even started serving by the time Tom Boonen roared across the line.
“That was fast!,” Boonen said after the stage. “I’m not 100% sure, but the fastest stage before, I won, in Paris Nice. It was 57.5kmph. “
The stage Boonen was referring to was the second stage of the 2005 edition of the ‘Race to the Sun,’ where ironically snow storms shortened the stage to just 46.5km.
Back then Boonen beat Kurt Asle Arevsen and Yaroslav Popvych with a wind assisted time of 53’31” and, according to our calculations, an average of 52.1kmph.
We’ll forgive Boonen for embellishing his previous record, but this one he can keep.