Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won stage 2 of the Tour of Qatar and moved into the overall lead at the end of a high-speed day of racing that saw the peloton shattered by crosswinds on the long road to Al Khor Corniche.
“It was a very long sprint,” Kristoff said. “I bridged up to [Niki] Terpstra and [Andrea] Guardini who had a little gap and with 500 meters to go I went full gas. I felt I had it under control but Guardini is a fast guy, I was only sure when I crossed the finish line. I am really happy today with this victory. Finally I managed to win here in Qatar!"
Kristoff was part of a 15-man front group that contested the stage win, and he held off Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) in the sprint finish to claim his first victory of the season. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) were also in the elite first group but they had to settle for fourth and fifth respectively.
With overnight leader José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) among those left behind, Boonen was in line to move into the gold jersey but his failure to pick up a time bonus at the finish means that he now lies second overall, one second behind Kristoff, despite picking up three points and three seconds at the second intermediate sprint of the day.
“It was a really hard day, but my legs were ok," Kristoff said. "I felt good during the whole stage and my team supported me. The guys really did excellent work today as well as yesterday, too. They kept me safe all day and I could save some energy for the final. Of course, in the final I was a little bit tired, but I think everyone in the group was in the same condition, because the last part of the stage was hard. But I was able to win the sprint and this is great. This is my earliest victory ever in my career and I am happy. The windy conditions today suited me very well. In Norway, I live at the coast. We even have more wind there.”
Photo: Tim De Waele
A rapid start split the bunch and the average speed was 54kph after two hours of racing and the pace barely let up thereafter, as the winning group averaged an eye-watering 48kph over the 194km stage, which finished almost an hour up on the fastest predicted schedule.
Etixx-QuickStep set the tone for the day splitting the peloton into three groups on the first crosswind section shortly after the start, with Rojas, Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) and Lars Boom (Astana) among those left behind early on.
The seeds were already sown for the rest of the stage. The brutal pace had seen Etixx launch a full campaign of their own form of desert warfare and the casualties were high.
The leading group, however, only managed to open up a gap of 30 seconds, and when the road changed direction and the wind softened, the chase, led by BMC and MTN-Qhubeka saw the peloton regroup.
The armistice was brief and through the dust and dirt, Van Avermaet, teeth gritted and eyes wincing, broke clear from the field. He was joined by Matthew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge), Michael Morkov (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jelly Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Johan Van Zyl (MTN).
It was the BMC man who picked up three perhaps vital uncontested seconds at the first sprint but despite a one-minute buffer the leaders were never out of Etixx’s range.
The impetus returned to the chase when Boonen himself hit the front and split the peloton once more at the next change in direction, and Van Avermaet and company were caught by the reduced bunch after 123 kilometres.
While Wiggins, Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Kittel had all been dropped by that point, Rojas was still part of the dwindling front group but Etixx-QuickStep’s continued forcing in the finale eventually saw him shaken loose, along with Arnaud Démare (FDJ).
There was a brief rally from MTN and Giant-Alpecin but the leading 15 even had time to sit up and watch each other as they approached the last few kilometres.
By the final run-in to Al Khor Corniche, the leading group was 15 riders, with Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) prominent at the front. The final sprint is a notoriously difficult one to gauge – the road curves almost imperceptibly to the left while the wind gusts with force from the bay on the right – but Kristoff’s judgement was impeccable as he took the win ahead of Guardini.
The Katusha leader, who had to survive without a teammate in the finale, made use of his excellent positioning skills to hit the front in the final 100 meters. Guardini ran him close but was forced to settle for second.
Kristoff carries the gold jersey into Tuesday’s short time trial although last year’s overall winner Terpstra lies just eight seconds off the lead in fifth. The Dutchman is in theory the strongest time triallist of those at the business end of the general classification and seems well-placed to defend his title this time around.
Photo: Tim De Waele
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha||3:49:51|
|2||Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro Team||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Adam Blythe (GBr) Orica GreenEdge||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||0:00:06|
|15||Ruslan Tleubayev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha||0:00:15|
|17||Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Sven Erik Bystrom (Nor) Team Katusha||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Jarl Salomein (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica GreenEdge||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Luca Paolini (Ita) Team Katusha||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Tom Veelers (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica GreenEdge||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Tim Declercq (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Daniel Schorn (Aut) Bora-Argon 18||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Roger Kluge (Ger) IAM Cycling||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Andrew Fenn (GBr) Team Sky||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 30 - Cell 2|
|32||Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Ralf Matzka (Ger) Bora-Argon 18||Row 32 - Cell 2|
|34||Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin||0:00:30|
|35||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdge||0:00:50|
|36||Dominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:03:08|
|37||Vicente Reynes (Spa) IAM Cycling||Row 36 - Cell 2|
|38||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 37 - Cell 2|
|39||Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Scott Thwaites (GBr) Bora-Argon 18||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Nelson Oliveira (Por) Lampre-Merida||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Jonas Ahlstrand (Swe) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 47 - Cell 2|
|49||Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 48 - Cell 2|
|50||Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 49 - Cell 2|
|51||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||Row 50 - Cell 2|
|52||Michael Mørkøv (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|53||Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) FDJ.fr||Row 52 - Cell 2|
|54||Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team||Row 53 - Cell 2|
|55||Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 54 - Cell 2|
|56||Pieter Van Speybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 55 - Cell 2|
|57||Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Trek Factory Racing||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|58||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team||Row 57 - Cell 2|
|59||Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rus) Team Katusha||Row 58 - Cell 2|
|60||Théo Bos (Ned) MTN-Qhubeka||0:06:55|
|61||Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 60 - Cell 2|
|62||William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 61 - Cell 2|
|63||Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek Factory Racing||Row 62 - Cell 2|
|64||Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica GreenEdge||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Pavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|67||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||Row 66 - Cell 2|
|68||Marcel Aregger (Swi) IAM Cycling||Row 67 - Cell 2|
|69||Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|70||Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 69 - Cell 2|
|71||Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 70 - Cell 2|
|72||Enrique Sanz Unzue (Spa) Movistar||Row 71 - Cell 2|
|73||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM Cycling||Row 72 - Cell 2|
|74||Gatis Smukulis (Lat) Team Katusha||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|75||Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Lampre-Merida||Row 74 - Cell 2|
|76||Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Bora-Argon 18||Row 75 - Cell 2|
|77||Marco Haller (Aut) Team Katusha||Row 76 - Cell 2|
|78||Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Team Katusha||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|79||Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 78 - Cell 2|
|80||Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:09:18|
|81||Christian Knees (Ger) Team Sky||Row 80 - Cell 2|
|82||Rick Zabel (Ger) BMC Racing Team||Row 81 - Cell 2|
|83||Christopher Sutton (Aus) Team Sky||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|84||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN - Qhubeka||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|85||Youcef Reguigui (Alg) MTN - Qhubeka||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|86||Nicola Ruffoni (Ita) Bardiani CSF||Row 85 - Cell 2|
|87||Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling||Row 86 - Cell 2|
|88||Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre-Merida||Row 87 - Cell 2|
|89||Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team||Row 88 - Cell 2|
|90||Mario Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida||Row 89 - Cell 2|
|91||Martin Velits (Svk) Etixx - Quick-Step|