By Shane Stokes in Doha
Finishing the Tour of Qatar in fine style, Tom Boonen thundered down the Doha Corniche to nab his third individual stage win of the week, the fourteenth individual stage of his career and his second overall classification victory in three years.
The 27 year-old beat stage four victor Alberto Loddo (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Brazilian sprinter Luciano Pagliarini (Saunier Duval) and 37 others to the line, with the rest of the field finishing further back in dribs and drabs, fatigued from a very windy day and also a very quick six days of competition.
Those closest to him in the general classification, namely Quick Step team-mate Steven De Jongh and Greg Van Avermaet (Silence Lotto) were sixth and 21st respectively. Once Boonen's ten-second time bonus was factored into the GC time, the 2005 world road race champion ended the 2.1-ranked race 27" ahead of De Jongh and 46" up on Van Avermaet.
Australian rider Chris Sutton (Slipstream Chipotle-H3O) was fourth overall, 46" back, while Jurgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto) and Alexandre Pichot (Bouygues Telecom) were fifth and sixth.
Boonen dominated the points classification as well and his Quick Step squad were clear winners in the team competition. "It is good that we are this strong early in the season," he stated. "We did a good job, because after winning a lot of stages in recent years, it becomes a habit to win here. If it doesn't happen, you might start to worry."
Boonen has taken 14 stage wins in all, Quick Step have landed two team time trial victories and the team have won the past three editions. The Tour of Qatar suits the riders' abilities from the point of view of the high speeds, flat terrain and strong winds, and it's clearly a race they like to do well in.
"It is good to compete here," continued Boonen. "It is good training, it is not too hard. There are strong teams here and that creates good competition. The race has teams that are have a lot of experience in the wind like Lotto, Liquigas and Lampre. As you can see in these stages, our team is going really well and these kind of races are our specialty. We show it here every year."
See the full results, race report and photos from stage 6 of the Tour of Qatar here.