Stage 2 of the menâ€™s Tour of Qatar ended in a spectacular sprinting battle between the big guns of the race. Australiaâ€™s Heinrich Haussler proved to be the fastest, outsprinting Bennati and Galimzyanov. Tom Boonen keeps his overall leaderâ€™s golden jersey but is now seriously under the pressure of Haussler, only a second adrift.
After the strong wind witnessed yesterday, the conditions were a lot calmer for the dayâ€™s second stage. 124 riders took off this morning under a bright sunshine, from the Camel Race Track heading to the Doha Golf club on a 135.5km course.
After only seven kilometres, Ignatyev (KAT) and Italian champion, Visconti (FAR) broke away and were rapidly joined by three other escapees: Ghyselinck (THR), Quinziato (BMC) and Eeckhout (SKT). Not too concerned by this breakaway, the main pack let the gap grow: 55â€ť after km 9 and already 2â€™35 after 11.5 kilometres.
The front menâ€™s advantage reached a maximum 6â€™ at the 25kms mark. The first intermediate sprint (km 39) was claimed by Quinziato ahead of Ghyselinck and Eeckhout while the pack remained 5â€™30 adrift. As the FDJ and Garmin-Cervelo teams moved up to the front positions of the bunch, the gap carried on dropping.
At the second bonus sprint (km 97.5) won by Ghyselinck ahead of Quinziato and Visconti, the gap had dropped to 3â€™35. On a long highway portion, heading back to Doha, the escapees started struggling with a face wind. With 25 kilometres to go, they only had a 2â€™05 lead which dropped down to a minute, 5 kilometres later.
Twenty kilometres from the finish, while he was turning around to check where the chasing bunch was, Giovanni Visconti suffered a fall and left his four companions continue their efforts. The remaining escapees were eventually caught at kilometre 126. It was then time for the strong sprinting teams to take command of the pack. One after the other, teams Rabobank, Sky and finally Leopard Trek increased the pace, preventing any kind of solo attempt.
A bunched pack prepared for the final sprint by the Doha Golf Club. Well placed in the wheel of Bennati (LEO), Heinrich Haussler (GRM), made his effort and only just managed to claim the dayâ€™s win. Four times second and twice third, the Australian finally captured his first stage success in Qatar, beating Bennati and Galimzyanov (KAT).
In the overall classification, Tom Boonen (QST) keeps his Golden jersey but now only has a one second lead over Haussler and 4â€ť over Renshaw (THR). The Silver jersey for points, changes shoulders and goes to Haussler, while Maes (QST) keeps the best young riderâ€™s White jersey.