Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) may have come into the Tour of Qatar with few expectations but with one stage remaining he remains in the hunt for the overall after winning stage 5 of the race to Madinat ash-Shamal.
With a 10-second bonus for the win, Kristoff has moved back up to third overall, 11 seconds down on race leader Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep). If Kristoff wins his fourth stage of the race on Friday, and picks up a single second in the intermediate sprints, he will claim the overall – assuming Terpstra fails to respond the intermediates and finishes outside the top three in the final sprint.
"If there's no one in a break then I will try [for the bonus seconds - ed.] but I know that it will be difficult to win overall because I must win a stage as well. I don't expect to do but you don't win if you don't try," Kristoff told Cyclingnews after pulling on the points jersey and stepping off the podium.
"My form is really big surprise because I came here with no ambitions but I'm good in the overall and have three stage wins. It's great and it's way above my expectations."
Katusha's third win in the race was almost faultless and had Etixx, who had looked comfortable throughout the first few days, scrambling for survival. Inside the final six kilometres the Russian team, allied with BMC, split the field with two of Terpstra's teammates making the cut. However, the race leader was caught out and it looked as though the race would slip through his fingers, especially with Maciej Bodnar Tinkoff-Saxo) also in the first group.
"The plan was to try and take the lead [at the front] because it was hard with the crosswind. We just wanted to take the lead so that we weren't dropped. We didn't plan to drop anyone and we just planned to stay in a good position."
Terptra was able to regain contact with the leaders in the closing kilometres but he could only watch on as Kristoff claimed his third stage of the race ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff Saxo) and Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin).
While Kristoff collected the applause Katusha's directort sportif, Torsten Schmidt, watched on from the safety of the team car.
"Eleven seconds won't be easy and Terpstra is a very strong guy and has a really strong team but we're really pleased with stages we've won so far," he told Cyclingnews.
Asked if the team would aim for the GC on the final stage, the former professional rider was understandably non-committal: "It will be hard and we've put more effort on the stages. There was a chance when the race split in the final but anything can happen before the finish tomorrow.
"If it's there we'll go for it but Etixx are the leaders and the favourites to win the race."