Like a year ago, after three days of racing, Mark Cavendish proved once again he was the master of bunched sprints. In Mesaieed like in Al Gharafa last year, the Manx Missile powered to stage victory beating Markus and Kruopis to the line. After a day controlled by the sprinters' teams, decision was made on the final straight. The Golden Jersey remains on the shoulders of USA's Brent Bookwalter.
Stage 3: Al Wakra - Mesaieed, 143 km
140 riders at the start (Xu (CSS) non starter). Sunny with slightly less wind
After yesterday's team time-trial, it was back to a normal stage in the Tour of Qatar for the 140 remaining riders. The pack took off in slightly less windy conditions from Al Wakra for a 143km stage on a circuit around Mesaieed. After 14 kilometres, a crash occurred in the pack with the likes of White Pearl jersey, Taylor Phinney (BMC) and French champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) hitting the ground. All, but injured Karsten Kroon (TST), were able to hop back on their bikes and return to the bunch. The first bonus sprint (km 20) at the first crossing of the line in Mesaieed, was only just won by Blythe (BMC) ahead of Cavendish (OPQ) and Boasson Hagen (SKY).
Eventually at km 21, seven riders managed to break away: Hayman (SKY), Gruzdev (AST), Lang (IAM), Berard (ALM), Marcato (VCD), Jang (CSS) and Di Corrado (BAR). Their lead grew rapidly from 35” at km 24 to 2'35 at km 36. After covering 48.7 km during the first hour, the advantage of the front group reached a maximum 2'50 at the second intermediate sprint (km 81.5) won by Hayman in front of Jang and Gruzdev.
From then on, under the influence of the crosswind, the gap started dropping as the sprinters' teams took on the chase. Despite a final solo effort from Gruzdev, the front seven were finally caught at km 107. The pack remained bunched all the way to the final straight. Well led out by his new Omega Pharma-Quickstep team mates, Mark Cavendish powered to his first victory of this 12th edition. After capturing a stage win in Argentina at the Tour of San Luis, “Cav” delivers again in the Middle East (5th stage success in Qatar). The Brit beat Markus (VCD) and Kruopis (OGE) to the line.
Brent Bookwalter (BMC) who finished in the pack, keeps control of his overall leader's Golden Jersey with a 6” lead over Phinney and 7” over his other team mate Blythe. Meanwhile, Cavendish, now fourth overall, takes command of the points' classification and the Qatar Airways Excellency jersey standings. Despite his fall Taylor Phinney remains best young rider of the event.