Â© A.S.O. / J-M. Pochat
Tom Boonen continued his impressive run in Qatar by clinching the event for the second time after 2006 and adding another stage success to his already impressive record. The overall leader ever since stage 2, the master of sprinting kept hold of his golden jersey and this time beat Loddo and Pagliarini to the line on Doha’s Corniche.
The wind, already well present since the start of the week turned to a sand storm for the final stage of the Tour of Qatar. The organisers therefore decided to change the course and get rid of the part going from the start at Al Wakra down south, however adding an extra three laps on Dohaâ€™s Corniche. 125 riders therefore took off for a 104 km stage. At the start of the final day, Tom Boonen (QST), event leader could enjoy a 17â€™â€™ lead over team mate Steven De Jongh and 30â€™â€™ over Greg Van Avermaet (SIL). The Belgian also had a 31 point advantage over Italian Napolitano in the silver jersey standing.
The pack first had to deal with a strong face wind all the way to the Doha Corniche. Once on the final circuit, at kilometre 14,5, Qatarâ€™s Tarek Esmaeili (DOT) managed to break away. The local rider saw his lead grow from 50â€™â€™ at kilometre 16 to 1â€™38 at the first passage on line (km 21). Under the influence of the wind, 29,100 km are covered during the first hour of racing. AT the first intermediate sprint (km 30), the front man had a 5â€™40 lead over a pack led by Rooijakkers (SKS) and Tjallinghi (SIL). This advantage increased and reached 7â€™35 at the third passage on the line (km 39).
While the gap reached a maximum 8â€™, two riders broke away from the pack: Tolleson (BMC) and Morton (DPC). At the fourth passage on the line (km 48), Esmaeili could enjoy a 6â€™30 advantage over the counter-attackers and 6â€™40 over the pack. A few moments later, Iranian Askari (IRI) took off from the main field and tried on his own to close in on the leading men. A vain effort! The dayâ€™s first escapee made it first at the second bonus sprint, beating Tolleson and Morton, still 2â€™20 behind while the pack remained at 3â€™35.
The leading man was eventually caught by his two closest chasers at kilometre 72. At a very fast pace, the front trio was caught by the main field led by all the sprinterâ€™s teams with less than 20 kilometres to go. Twelve kilometres from the finish line, three riders took off: Vanheule (TSV), Stewart (BMC) and Askari (IRI). After enjoying a 12â€™â€™ lead, the pack bunched up together again at kilometre 99.
The final sprint could eventually be prepared for all the strong men of the pack. Already victorious of stages 2 and 3, Tom Boonen (QST) conquered his third stage success of the event. The Belgian beat Italian Alberto Loddo and Brazilian Luciano Pagliarini (SDV) to the line. Overall, Boonen wins the Tour of Qatar for the second time after 2006, with a 27â€™â€™ lead over his team mate Steven De Jongh (QST). He also claims the pointsâ€™ silver jersey. Greg Van Avermaet (SIL), third overall, finishes best young rider of the 2008 edition.
Â© A.S.O. / J-M. Pochat
"The sprint was really fast. We had to stay on the outside because the wind was coming from the left side. For the last three kilometres, I had to go at least 15 times on the outside so I lost a lot of energy. The last kilometre was so fast and the guys were leading me out perfectly. Wouter (Weylandt) started sprinting for me, he did an incredible 100m and it was really hard to keep up the speed. I waited for as long as possible and made my effort just in time.
The last few years, we were always good here. If you do a good job one year and a bad job the next year, you can be a little bit worried. Winning is something we have to do. It’s a habit now".