In impressive fashion, World champion Mark Cavendish flew to his first victory with the Rainbow jersey on his shoulders on stage 3 of the Tour of Qatar. Part of a 39-man favourites’ group that managed to break away in the closing moments of the day’s race, the Brit outsprinted Tom Boonen to the line. The Belgian keeps the overall leader’s Golden Jersey.
Hundreds of young school pupils from Dukhan came to welcome the heroes of the Tour of Qatar and especially Team Sky and its World champion Mark Cavendish. A real moral booster before a demanding 146.5km stage for the 124 remaining riders (one non-starter: Avery - CSS).
After just a kilometre under the bright sunshine and wind of western Qatar, four men managed to break away from the pack: Ignatyev (KAT), Sohrabi (LTB), Ojavee (CSS) and Lemair (BGT). Their lead over the pack grew rapidly from 30" at km 2.5 to a maximum 5’25 at the first intermediate sprint (km 66) claimed by Sohrabi ahead of Ignatyev and Lemair.
From then on the gap started dropping. At the second bonus sprint (km 104.5) won again by Sohrabi in front of Ignatyev and Ojavee, the front men’s advantage had dropped down to 2’25 as several teams took command of the chase.
At km 112, as the wind blew sideways on the course, the pack broke up into several groups with most of the strong men breaking away. 35 riders including race leader Boonen (OPQ), title-holder Renshaw (RAB), World champion Cavendish (SKY), as well as Gilbert, Blythe (BMC), Cancellara (RNT) and Farrar (GRM) caught up with the four escapees at km 117.
The gap between the leading group and the chasing pack including the likes of Sagan (LIQ) grew from 35" to 55" with 20 kilometres to go. The race favourites remained together all the way to the final straight by the Al Gharafa Stadium, where a 39-man sprint was to take place. Well positionned in the wheel of stage 1 winner Tom Boonen, Mark Cavendish flew to his first success with the rainbow jersey. The British rider beat Boonen and Kruopis (GEC) to the line.
The overall leader’s Golden Jersey remains on the shoulders of Boonen who now has a 6" lead over Farrar (GRM) and 8" over Cavendish. The Belgian also keeps command of the points’ standings while Selig (KAT) becomes the best young rider of the event.