In perfect weather conditions despite ever present wind, stage 1 of the Tour of Qatar ended in a bunched sprint. Belgian Tom Boonen once again proved he was the man to beat on a race he’s already won three times. The Omega Pharma-Quickstep rider captured his 19th stage success here and will carry the first overall leader’s Golden jersey of this 2012 edition.
After a very windy Ladies’ Tour of Qatar, the conditions were a lot milder for the men’s event as the World’s best riders gathered at the start of stage 1 under a bright sun and far less wind than on the previous days. For this 11th edition, 127 riders (Clarke (CSS) failed to start) took off from the Barzan Towers including World champion Mark Cavendish (SKY), World number one Philippe Gilbert (BMC), title holder Mark Renshaw (RAB), three-time Tour of Qatar winner Tom Boonen (OPQ), as well as the likes of Hushovd (BMC), Cancellara (RNT), Farrar (GRM) and Pozzato (FAR).
As soon as kilometre 3, Adam Hansen took off on his own. His lead grew rapidly from 25" at km 5 to a maximum 6’40 at the first bonus sprint (km 28.5) he captured ahead of Hallen (KAT) and Renshaw. From that point on the gap dropped down.
Just after the feeding zone (km 69), as the leader headed back south and the wind blew sideways, the pack broke up into several parts with a group of 29 pulling away. That pack, including Boonen, Cancellara, Sagan and Farrar caught up with Hansen and could enjoy a 20" lead. They reached the second intermediate sprint (km 82), won by Farrar ahead of Appolonio (SKY) and Maes (OPQ), with a 14" lead. But all the riders eventually gathered together again at km 83, enjoying a tailwind all the way to the finish.
Decision was to be made in a bunched sprint. Well helped out by his team mates, Tom Boonen flew to victory, his 19th on Qatari soil. The Belgian beat Blythe (BMC) and Sagan (LIQ) to the line. Boonen will therefore be wearing the overall leader’s Golden Jersey for tomorrow’s team time-trial. He also leads the points’ standings while Blythe is the best young rider (White jersey).