By Gregor Brown in Al Khor, Qatar
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was impressed with what the Cervélo Test Team did to produce the win and overall lead for Roger Hammond in stage two of the Tour of Qatar Monday in Al Khor.
"It is a really strong team," said Boonen. "They were not afraid to race into their hands, they earned it."
Hammond and Boonen made the winning move of 14 men in Monday's 134-kilometre stage from Doha's Khalifa Stadium to Al Khor's Corniche. Boonen had two teammates - Steven De Jongh and Kevin Hulsmans - but Cervélo managed to put a total of six of its eight men in the escape.
The Swiss team had to take control of the finale since it had the numbers and faced arguably stronger sprint finishers in Boonen, Angelo Furlan (Lampre-NGC) and Danilo Napolitano (Katusha). Boonen has won 14 Tour of Qatar stages in the race's eight-year history.
"They had six guys and it was only me and Steven [De Jongh] left. Everyone was watching us; no one is going to give me a free ride to the finish line. It was really difficult."
Cervélo's Daniel Lloyd and then Gabriel Rasch attacked. Hammond countered their moves with his own at 2.8 km out from the finish line. Boonen chased the Briton to try for the win but also to limit the time difference in the overall standings.
Boonen won the race in 2006 and 2008, and he would like to add an historic third overall victory.
"I tried to catch Roger for the victory; he gave it his all. He was only five or six seconds ahead. I knew it was too soon to win the sprint, but now we are at least in the race."
Italy's Napolitano of Team Katusha won the sprint for second. Hammond's teammate Heinrich Haussler took third over Boonen's fourth. They were all one second back from the day's winner Hammond.
Hammond claimed the overall leader's gold jersey with six seconds over Boonen thanks to the bonus seconds awarded for the win.