Mark Cavendish claimed his first win in the rainbow jersey with victory on stage three of the Tour of Qatar.
Strong winds caused a split in the peloton which left Cavendish and team-mates Bernhard Eisel and Juan Antonio Flecha in a lead group of 30 riders with 30km of the 146.5km stage remaining.
And Cavendish turned on the afterburners to beat race leader Tom Boonen to the line, with the world champion moving up to third in the general classification with three stages remaining.
The Manx Missile did not contest the stage one finale having been struck down with illness en-route to the Middle East, before helping Sky to third in stage two’s team time trial.
“I’m very happy with that,” Cavendish told Team Sky’s website. “I’m still not 100% but we wanted to ride well as a team and if it came down to a sprint then it came down to a sprint. It split up which we weren’t really expecting but the wind picked up and I was looked after by the lads who got me to the front group.
“We didn’t really have to ride once we were in the group. I had Bernie Eisel and Flecha there in the final with me to just keep me in position. I wanted to come off Boonen’s wheel but then [Kruopis] from GreenEdge came over on the right and boxed me in. I had to swing out and I wanted to wait for the headwind finish so left it late and came past Boonen.
“It’s incredible to win [in the rainbow jersey]. I said I wanted to make the jersey proud. You never really get the season going until you get that first win under your belt. So now it’s there I can hopefully get on a roll now and we can win some things.”
Cavendish’s victory continues a superb week for British riders, with Adam Blythe (BMC Racing) finishing second behind Boonen on the opening stage in Qatar, while neo-pro Andy Fenn (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) claimed back-t0-back Challenge Majorca wins.
Tour of Qatar stage three
1) Mark Cavendish – Team -Sky – 3:23.48
2) Tom Boonen – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – same time
3) Aidis Kruopis – GreenEdge
4) Mark Renshaw – Rabobank
5) John Degenkolb – Project 1t4i
6) Tyler Farrar – Garmin-Barracuda
7) Rudiger Selig – Katusha
8) David Boucher – FDJ-BigMat
9) Robert Wagner – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
10) Alexander Kuchynski – Katusha
1) Tom Boonen – Omega Pharma-QuickStep) – 6:47.49
2) Tyler Farrar – Team Garmin-Barracuda +6″
3) Mark Cavendish – Team Sky +8″