Mark Cavendish launched an instinctive early sprint to win his second stage of the week in Qatar.
A five-man group formed the day’s break on the race’s penultimate stage and enjoyed an advantage of two minutes, 40 seconds but the escapees were reeled in with 10km of the 160km stage remaining.
That set up a frantic finale, with a strong tailwind blowing and no team’s sprint train able to dominate. Bernhard Eisel and Juan Antonio Flecha moved Cavendish to the front and, jumping from train to train, the Manx Missile launched a wind-assisted sprint with 300m to go, beating Daniel Oss and Peter Sagan (both Liquigas-Cannondale) to the line.
“The wind was a real factor at the end and was changing direction a lot so you couldn’t really do a big leadout train,” said Cavendish, who earned a 10 second win bonus to move up to seventh overall, one minute and five seconds behind race leader Tom Boonen.
“It was a scrap and everyone was pretty fresh. With the tailwind I could go from around 250-300 metres out and I just carried it to the line.
“It’s nice to get two wins. I won two stages here in 2009 and that was one of my most successful seasons so it’s good to get off to a great start with Team Sky and in the world champion’s jersey.”
Boonen could only finish 13th, the Belgian’s worst finish of the week, but the two-time world champion retains his 31-second advantage over Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda).
“Everybody was very fresh in the final so it made for a very hectic finish,” said Boonen. “This finish line has been good to me and it has been bad to me in the past. There are seven kinks [in the road], and you have to be in the correct position. I was almost getting to the front but got blocked on the left side.
“But the most important thing for today was to consolidate the golden jersey for tomorrow and preserve the good work we have done this week.”
Tour of Qatar stage five
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky – 3:30.30
2) Daniel Oss (Ita) – Liquigas-Cannondale – same time
3) Peter Sagan (Svk) – Liquigas-Cannondale
4) John Degenkolb (Ger) – Project 1t4i
5) Rudiger Selig (Ger) – Katusha
6) Allan Davis (Aus) – GreenEdge
7) Arnaud Demare (Fra) – FDJ-BigMat
8) Andrea Guardini (Ita) – Farnese Vini
9) Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) – Katusha
10) Greg Henderson (NZ) – Lotto-Belisol
1) Tom Boonen (Bel) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
2) Tyler Farrar (USA) – Garmin-Barracuda +31″
3) Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) – Team Sky +34″