On an extremely eventful day due to the strong wind blowing over Qatar, Heinrich Haussler made it two in a row. Added to stage victory, the Australian also captured the overall leader’s Golden jersey of the Tour of Qatar, after Tom Boonen suffered a puncture in the last 50 kilometres.
After rather calm conditions on the previous day, the wind was again blowing strongly over the Qatar peninsula, as the 123 riders gathered by the seaside for the start at Al Wakra. And the day’s 150.5 km stage, all the way to Messaieed after 2 laps of a 65km circuit, would prove to be very eventful.
Straight from the start, making the best of a tailwind, the pack broke up into several groups, with the main favourites up front. But after a right turn, the pack bunched up together again as the wind stopped being favourable. At kilometre 36, as the pack was progressing at around 15km/h, six riders managed to break away: Van Zandbeek (SKS), Downing (SKY), Neirynck (TSV), Kristoff (BMC), Kangert (AST) and Fenn (SKT). The front 6 saw their advantage grow rapidly: from 3’15 at km 38 to a maximum 12’15 at km 43. The first intermediate sprint (km 52) was claimed by Downing ahead of Kristoff and Van Zandbeek, while the pack remained 10’ adrift and again started breaking up because of the side wind. While all three leaders’ jerseys were seen in the front group, the likes of Cancellara (LEO), Cavendish (THR) and Bos (RAB) were left trapped in faraway groups.
Meanwhile the front men carried on struggling. They were eventually caught at km 100, shortly before the Cavendish group caught up with leaders pack. However Cancellara and a group of 50 riders never managed to catch up. At kilometre 105, ten men took off, including 10th rider overall, Rollin (FDJ). But after enjoying a 50” lead, they too were soon to be caught. Just after a long face wind portion, a tremendous final battle started as the pack took a sharp right bend. Race leader Tom Boonen (QST) was hit by a puncture and was forced to leave a group of 30 riders take off, including his main rival, Silver jersey Heinrich Haussler (GRM), as well as team mate and White jersey holder, Nikolas Maes (QST).
The second bonus sprint (km 115) was captured by Renshaw (THR) ahead of Eisel (THR) and Hondo (LAM), while Boonen was some 55” adrift. The gap carried on growing on the golden jersey (1’40 with 15kms to go), and the pace carried on increasing up front, as Cavendish failed to keep up and was dropped with 13kms to go.
Under five kilometres from the line, Australia’s Simon Clarke (AST) gave it ago. A courageous effort that wasn’t to pay off. He was finally caught with one kilometre to go. On the long final straight at Messaieed, Haussler again powered to victory. The Garmin-Cervelo sprinter beat Renshaw and Bennati (LEO) to the line.
After capturing the Silver jersey yesterday, Haussler now takes command of the Golden jersey as he leads the overall with a slim 4” advantage over Renshaw and 15” over Bennati. The best young rider remains Nikolas Maes.