In Madinat Al Shamal, the city where he had won his very first stage on the Tour of Qatar, back in 2009, Mark Cavendish conquered yet another success on this year's edition. After an eventful day with several breakaway attempts, the Manx Missile was beautifully led out by his Omega Pharma team mates on the final straight, where he outsprinted Hutarovich and Kruopis for his third win of the event. Cavendish therefore comforts his overall leadership and can now enjoy a 15» advantage on Bookwalter before the final stage tomorrow on the Doha Corniche.
Stage 5: Al Zubarah â€“ Madinat Al Shamal, 160kms
136 riders at the start; 3 non-starters: Hayman (SKY), De Kort (ARG). Shimizu (JPN) Sunny, light wind
By the splendid castle of Al Zubarah on the western coast of Qatar, the 136 remaining riders of the Tour took off for the penultimate stage of this 12th edition: a 154km ride, ending by two laps of a circuit around Madinat Al Shamal. After a very fast start, Edvald Boasson Hagen (SKY) was the first to break away after 21 kilometres. He was rapidly caught by Haller (KAT) and their lead reached a maximum 1'20 at km 28 before both were finally caught at km 45. After having covered an impressive distance of 49.2 kms during the first hour, it was then Eisel (SKY) and Phinney's (BMC) turn to give it a go but their attacking effort was vain.
At kilometre 64, five men managed to pull away from the pack: Elmiger (IAM), Lagutin (VCD), Jiao (CSS), Di Corrado (BAR) and Uchima (JPN). At the first intermediate sprint (km 88.5) won by Elmiger, ahead of Di Corrado and Lagutin, the front men could enjoy a maximum 2'50 lead. The pace remained extremely fast, 49.85 km/h after two hours, as the peloton moved closer to the escapees. After heading north to the final circuit, the pack broke up into several groups with Cavendish (OPQ), Bookwalter and Phinney (BMC) in a first bunch of 52 men and Boasson Hagen, Guardini (AST) and Markus (VCD) in a chasing group. After the front riders were finally caught by the Golden jersey group at km 105, the pack bunched up together again five kilometres later.
At the second bonus sprint at the first crossing of the line on the final circuit (km 127.5), Cavendish conquered more precious seconds beating Eisel and Phinney to the line. Shortly after, Phinney, EIsel and Terpstra (OPQ) powered away from the pack. With the Omega Pharma Quickstep riders chasing, they were to be caught at km 137 after having had a 30â€ť lead.
Under the control of the sprinters' teams, the pack remained bunched all the way to the finish. Perfectly led out by Terpstra, Mark Cavendish claimed yet another success, his third of the race, only just beating Yauheni Hutarovich (ALM) while Aidis Kruopis (OGE) had to settle for third spot.
In the new overall standings and with one stage to go, Cavendish now has a 15â€ť lead over Bookwalter and 20â€ť over Phinney. Enough to really consider a first Tour of Qatar title. The Brit also leads the points' and excellency classifications. Phinney remains best young rider of the event.