Kristoff wins stage 2 at the Tour of Qatar

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

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha3:49:51
2Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 1 - Cell 2
3Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 2 - Cell 2
4Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 3 - Cell 2
5Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 4 - Cell 2
6Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM CyclingRow 5 - Cell 2
7Adam Blythe (GBr) Orica GreenEdgeRow 6 - Cell 2
8Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing TeamRow 7 - Cell 2
9Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory RacingRow 8 - Cell 2
10Ian Stannard (GBr) Team SkyRow 9 - Cell 2
11Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 10 - Cell 2
12Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 11 - Cell 2
13Luke Rowe (GBr) Team SkyRow 12 - Cell 2
14Nikolas Maes (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:06
15Ruslan Tleubayev (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 14 - Cell 2
16Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha0:00:15
17Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ.frRow 16 - Cell 2
18Sven Erik Bystrom (Nor) Team KatushaRow 17 - Cell 2
19Jarl Salomein (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 18 - Cell 2
20Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 19 - Cell 2
21Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 20 - Cell 2
22Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 21 - Cell 2
23Luca Paolini (Ita) Team KatushaRow 22 - Cell 2
24Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro TeamRow 23 - Cell 2
25Tom Veelers (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 24 - Cell 2
26Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 25 - Cell 2
27Tim Declercq (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 26 - Cell 2
28Daniel Schorn (Aut) Bora-Argon 18Row 27 - Cell 2
29Roger Kluge (Ger) IAM CyclingRow 28 - Cell 2
30Andrew Fenn (GBr) Team SkyRow 29 - Cell 2
31Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 30 - Cell 2
32Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ.frRow 31 - Cell 2
33Ralf Matzka (Ger) Bora-Argon 18Row 32 - Cell 2
34Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin0:00:30
35Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdge0:00:50
36Dominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:03:08
37Vicente Reynes (Spa) IAM CyclingRow 36 - Cell 2
38Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 37 - Cell 2
39Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 38 - Cell 2
40Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18Row 39 - Cell 2
41Scott Thwaites (GBr) Bora-Argon 18Row 40 - Cell 2
42Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 41 - Cell 2
43Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 42 - Cell 2
44Nelson Oliveira (Por) Lampre-MeridaRow 43 - Cell 2
45Jonas Ahlstrand (Swe) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 44 - Cell 2
46Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 45 - Cell 2
47Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 46 - Cell 2
48Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 47 - Cell 2
49Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 48 - Cell 2
50Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 49 - Cell 2
51Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 50 - Cell 2
52Michael Mørkøv (Den) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 51 - Cell 2
53Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) FDJ.frRow 52 - Cell 2
54Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro TeamRow 53 - Cell 2
55Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ.frRow 54 - Cell 2
56Pieter Van Speybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 55 - Cell 2
57Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Trek Factory RacingRow 56 - Cell 2
58Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing TeamRow 57 - Cell 2
59Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rus) Team KatushaRow 58 - Cell 2
60Théo Bos (Ned) MTN-Qhubeka0:06:55
61Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.frRow 60 - Cell 2
62William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ.frRow 61 - Cell 2
63Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek Factory RacingRow 62 - Cell 2
64Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 63 - Cell 2
65Pavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 64 - Cell 2
66Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 65 - Cell 2
67Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 66 - Cell 2
68Marcel Aregger (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 67 - Cell 2
69Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 68 - Cell 2
70Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 69 - Cell 2
71Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 70 - Cell 2
72Enrique Sanz Unzue (Spa) MovistarRow 71 - Cell 2
73Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 72 - Cell 2
74Gatis Smukulis (Lat) Team KatushaRow 73 - Cell 2
75Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Lampre-MeridaRow 74 - Cell 2
76Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Bora-Argon 18Row 75 - Cell 2
77Marco Haller (Aut) Team KatushaRow 76 - Cell 2
78Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Team KatushaRow 77 - Cell 2
79Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 78 - Cell 2
80Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:09:18
81Christian Knees (Ger) Team SkyRow 80 - Cell 2
82Rick Zabel (Ger) BMC Racing TeamRow 81 - Cell 2
83Christopher Sutton (Aus) Team SkyRow 82 - Cell 2
84Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN - QhubekaRow 83 - Cell 2
85Youcef Reguigui (Alg) MTN - QhubekaRow 84 - Cell 2
86Nicola Ruffoni (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 85 - Cell 2
87Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM CyclingRow 86 - Cell 2
88Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 87 - Cell 2
89Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar TeamRow 88 - Cell 2
90Mario Costa (Por) Lampre-MeridaRow 89 - Cell 2
91Martin Velits (Svk) Etixx - Quick-Step