Sagan comes up short on stage 4
Peter Sagan came up short again in the Tour of Qatar on stage 4, won by Katusha's Alexander Kristoff. The Slovakian champion came off the Norwegian's wheel late into the headwind finish, but could not match the speed of last year's Milan-San Remo winner.
The day wasn't a total failure for Tinkoff-Saxo, who positioned Maciej Bodnar in the front group, five seconds ahead of race leader Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quickstep). The Pole already in second place after the time trial, is now six seconds off the overall classification lead with two stages remaining.
“It was a great day. Of course, it would have been even better if Bodnar had taken seven additional seconds and if Sagan had finished 50cm further ahead. But we can only be satisfied," director Tristan Hoffman said. "Peter showed that he has the speed and Bodnar took 5 seconds, which gives us confidence in the all-important stage tomorrow."
The Tinkoff-Saxo team focussed their efforts in the stage on the final kilometers, where a series of roundabouts and changes in direction in the wind were expected to split the field.
“We fought hard in the finale to position ourselves in the peloton and I was able to gain 5 seconds in a race that will be decided by small time differences," Bodnar said. "There have been splits in the peloton on all stages, so we knew that we had to stay focused – especially in the last tricky part. Tomorrow will be the most important day of the entire race and we have to grasp the opportunities that arise."
Sky loses ground in finale
Although Team Sky missed the front split on stage 4 of the Tour of Qatar, Ian Stannard remained in third overall at 12 seconds, with Luke Rowe keeping the best young rider's jersey.
With multiple crashes on the stage, director Servais Knaven was happy to get the team through the finish unscathed. "Our riders didn't have any significant problems today - Bradley suffered a flat tyre but was easily able to make his way back in the bunch. After that fast start we turned into a headwind which meant the stage was easier to control," Knaven said on TeamSky.com.
"It was unfortunate a gap opened up right in front of Ian at the line as it meant he lost five seconds on Bodnar and Kristoff was able to move within nine seconds of him. Sagan also moved within four seconds of Luke in the white jersey classification. With bonus seconds awarded at the line, it means there's plenty for us to take into account heading into stage five.
"There's chances of crosswinds tomorrow so it's vital we keep them both well positioned. I'm predicting an exciting day of racing."
Venter initiates stage 4 breakaway enroute to Mesaieed
MTN-Qhubeka’s Jaco Venter initiated the three-man breakaway that spent most of the race off the front of the peloton during stage 4 at the Tour of Qatar. Despite strong headwinds, Venter attacked the field in the opening kilometres of the 165.5km race, taking with him Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana) and Jarl Salomein (Topsport Vlaanderen).
“We went away after 10km,” Venter said. “I was hoping for a lot of crosswind but it was all headwind so maybe it wasn't the best decision to be in the break because it was a really tough day. At some stages we were really fighting to just ride at 30km/h. I suppose we can say it was a good day of training.
The men gained 3:45 minutes on the field that was led by Etixx-QuickStep with help from FDJ during the end of the race. After a spending most of the race out front, the trio were reeled back in with 18km to go. Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff won the bunch sprint.
Bardiani-CSF’s luck on the rise in Qatar
Bardiani-CSF sprinter Nicola Ruffoni finished the stage 4 sprint in a respectable fifth place, behind the day’s winner Kristoff, runner-up Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) in third and Adam Blythe (Orica-GreenEdge) in fourth.
”It was a demanding sprint after a stage where wind, especially headwind, was strong,” Ruffoni said. “My teammates supported me really well in the last decisive part, then arrived my turn to find the right position for the bunch sprint. I was good when I jumped out from [Andrea] Guardini’s wheel, but when I was coming close to Kristoff, I found ahead Blythe of Orica and no space to pass him. Anyway after tough days this is a first good result. Day by day I’m feeling my condition grow and so I’m really confident for the next two stages”.
The result was well received after the team’s Enrico Battaglin was forced to pull out of the race after crashing during stage 2. “A top five means a great boost for the morale of whole squad,” said the team’s manager Roberto Reverberi. “The race here in Qatar is not easy especially with such young riders as ours. But today, a first stage with normal development and without windstorms, we came out with a solid team performance with Ruffoni, who made a good sprint. Now we have to continue in this direction during the next two stages.”