By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar
Tom Boonen is the king of Qatar thanks to his three overall wins and 15 stage wins in the history of the nation's stage race, the Tour of Qatar. However, Friday's classification victory was bittersweet for the Belgian Quick Step rider due to the death of Frederiek Nolf the day before.
"My goal was to win the overall classification, I won it. Today, we had to do it, but otherwise, it was difficult," said Boonen to Cyclingnews.
Nolf, 21, passed away early Thursday morning in Doha, Qatar, of a suspected heart attack. Organiser Amaury Sport Organisation annulled the day's stage out of respect for the rider.
Boonen considered returning home to Belgium along with Nolf's Team Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator.
"It was a pretty bad atmosphere, but today was already slightly better. We talked a little bit and we smiled a little bit, but it is not 100 percent.
"We had to continue because we have the leader's jersey. ... I dedicate this to Frederiek."
Boonen looks forward to his next race and the Spring Classics. He will face sprint rival Mark Cavendish again in the Tour of California, February 14 to 22.
"He is already a good sprinter, but we will see in the races to come. To win the sprints are good, but my first objectives are the Classics."
Boonen won stage two of the Tour of California in 2008. He finished 50th overall behind overall winner Levi Leipheimer.